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Q & A with Laura C. Hanson – UNC Palliative Care Program Medical Director

Photo of Laura Hanson hikingWhy did you decide to work in palliative care?

After training in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine, it was clear to me that I was drawn to “whole person” medicine for people facing serious illness.  Caring for older patients, I found it fascinating and intellectually challenging to think about best care for those facing frailty, multiple chronic conditions, or nearing the final phase of life.  At the same time, my research work focused on ethical decision-making – so as the field of Palliative Medicine emerged in the United States it was a natural fit.  And of course, the community I discovered – people who still teach me to be a better communicator and listener, who express depths of compassion I had forgotten was possible, and who remind me of my obligation deliver trustworthy healthcare.

What is your favorite part of your job?

First, my colleagues – I am so proud to be part of a team that inspires respect for intelligence and skills, while working collaboratively on some of the toughest issues in healthcare.

Second, the patients and families – we are privileged at UNC Medical Center to care for a diverse population in all the meanings of that term.  Because of our role as a leading public health system, we serve people of diverse financial means, educational attainment, race, ethnicity, and culture.  I’m grateful to learn from diversity, and also for the access we provide.Photo of Laura Hanson and her husband David

Third, innovation and scholarship – we serve patients in the context of a robust research and teaching Health Affairs campus, with excellent schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Social Work and additional health professions.  This means that we are valued for our contributions to clinical care, but also for our work in research, teaching, innovation in care delivery and strategies to improve the quality of care we provide.

What do you enjoy most about living in the Triangle area?

Though I work in Chapel Hill, I live down the road in Durham, which has larger African-American and LatinX populations, great parks, wonderful food, and a real and walkable downtown.  I very much enjoy getting out of the Triangle – for mountain or outer banks hiking, birding, and paddling.