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Highest Australia Day Honour awarded to Victorian palliative care leader

Professor David Kissane, Monash University’s Head of Psychiatry and an international leader in the fields of palliative medicine and psycho-oncology, was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in today’s Order of Australia awards.

“This award recognises Professor Kissane’s exceptional contributions in advancing the quality of life and care for people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses at both national and international levels over several decades,” said Dr Barbara Hayes, Chair of Palliative Care Victoria.

Professor Kissane led the establishment of the Centre for Palliative Care at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, as well as the development of education programs for palliative medicine that contributed to its recognition as a specialist medical discipline. For a decade, he also led the development at America’s largest comprehensive cancer centre of their psycho-oncology program, as well as related research and education programs that have informed best practice care in many countries.

His many contributions include the development of family-centred care to support families at risk of poor bereavement outcomes, strategies to identify and address demoralisation of people as they struggle to cope with the threat of death, and ways to communicate empathically with patients,” said Dr Barbara Hayes.

Professor Kissane developed training programs that have enabled thousands of clinicians to communicate supportively with patients who have a life-limiting illness so they maintain a sense of mastery over their lives and sustain hope in the face of adversity.

Professor Kissane said “there is a great need to reduce fear and harness courage in dealing with life-limiting illness. We need to support people to take stock of their lives, to recognise what they have accomplished, to work out what they want to say to their loved ones and to feel fulfilled by the life they have lived. It can also be an important time for reconciliation and healing.”

Professor Kissane’s numerous current contributions include membership of the Management of Eastern Palliative Care, the largest provider of home-based palliative care in Victoria.

Volunteers contribute to the exemplary work of this service to enrich and support quality of life – such as by recording the life stories of patients and supporting bereaved family members,” he said.

This award recognises the importance of high quality palliative care and end of life care. Unfortunately, there is a substantial funding shortfall in Victoria for mental health services and we need to provide psychiatric outpatient clinics that are integrated with public hospitals and are an integral part of chronic disease management and holistic care,” Professor Kissane said.

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