Page 6 • November 2016 • Golden Gazette
The end of an era & a lasting legacy Retirement is the next chapter for pioneer of Covenant’s Palliative Medicine Program
In 2005, when Dr. Melanie Oblender started palliative care consultations at Covenant Health, she couldn’t have dreamed that more than 11 years later, the consultations would evolve into a dedicated 17-bed unit with two full-time physicians and three advanced-practice nurses and practitioners, as well as an outpatient clinic that have together seen more than 6,000 patients. Oblender, who has been with Covenant more than 20 years, retired Oct. 8. Dr. Jeremy L. Brown, incoming medical director for palliative medicine, worked side by side with her for the past seven years, and credits her with being willing to provide him on-the-job training when he joined the team in 2009. “Dr. O, as we all affectionately call her, is known throughout Covenant and the community as a ﬁerce
advocate for patients and managing their symptoms,” Brown said. “I’m forever grateful for the years of hard work and dedication she has put into the team, and I will work hard to ensure the same level of care continues in her absence.” The former military-veteran nurse observed a need for palliative care early in her career. Her passion has come full circle, as Covenant Medical Center’s Palliative Medicine unit recently received The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Palliative Care Certiﬁcation. The certiﬁcation demonstrates Covenant Health’s focus on achieving optimum care for patients with serious illnesses. The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal is a symbol of quality that reﬂects an organization’s commitment to providing safe and effective patient care.
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Dr. Melanie Oblender holds the Certificate of Distinction recently awarded to Covenant’s Palliative Care program. Pictured with Oblender are Susan Sayari, nurse manager of palliative medicine; Chris Shaver, regional vice president of human resources; Charley Wasson, executive director of Hospice of Lubbock; Oblender; Dr. Craig Rhyne, chief medical officer; and Karen Baggerly, chief nursing officer.
That ofﬁcial accreditation and recognition has been a long journey from Oblender’s early vision. “The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients and families facing life-threatening illness,” she said. “It differs
from hospice care in that palliative medicine does not require patients to give up curative or life-prolonging treatments. Palliative care staff focuses on relieving pain and suffering.” “We’re providing comprehensive care – spiritu-
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