Professor devotes his life to helping those close to death

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Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov has recently received the 2012 CMA Frederic Newton Gisborned (FNG) Starr Award. Chochinov is a University of Manitoba psychiatrist, director of the Manitoban Palliative Care Research Unit at CancerCare Manitoba, and currently the only Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care. He is also responsible for changing the way healthcare workers treat those who are terminally ill.

Chochinov was the first to study the issue of dignity in the terminally ill, which has resulted in a new model for the care of patients, and he has published much on the topic. His newest book, Digital Therapy: Final Words for Final Days, is receiving great reviews. This book introduces digital therapy, a form of psychological intervention, that helps address the needs of patients in palliative care and their families.

“Dr. Chochinov has facilitated tremendous improvements in palliative care on a local and international scale. These changes have made a real difference for individuals as they face the end of their lives,” says Digvir Jayas, distinguished professor and vice-president at the U of M (research and international).

The U of M professor has also found time to head a group of palliative care leaders in creating the Canadian Virtual Hospice, a website that allows for knowledge exchange, education, support, and much more for those who have life-limiting illnesses.

The website also includes a unique “Ask a Professional” feature which will provide support for those people dealing with these illnesses and those who are caring for them.

 The Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr Award is awarded by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). The prestigious award is the highest honor that the Canadian Medical Association can present to one of its members. The website reads, “Such achievement should be so outstanding as to serve as an inspiration and a challenge to the medical profession in Canada.”

The FNG Starr Award was initiated in 1936 in honor of Frederick Newton Gisborne Starr who was a founding fellow of the CMA and served as both President and Vice-President and Secretary-General for the association. At the age of 26, Starr helped to save the CMA when it was under threat of disbanding. Starr died in 1933.

The last U of M recipient of the award was Dr. Henry Friesen, a professor at the university and an endocrinologist. Friesen received this award in 2006 for his work in discovering Prolactin, a pituitary hormone that was determined to be a significant cause of infertility. His discovery helped treat thousands of people worldwide.

The U of M is beginning a large fundraising campaign with the goal of establishing an endowed research chair in Palliative Care. The university believes that this will improve the well-being and care of those who are terminally ill.