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Dr. Leah Norgrove receives humanitarian award for her work to support palliative patients

Dr. Leah Norgrove

Island Health is proud to announce that Dr. Leah Norgrove has received the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians’ 2018 Humanitarian Award in recognition of her work to ensure culturally safe support for palliative care patients.

“We are so pleased to congratulate Dr. Norgrove on this honour,” said Island Health President and CEO Kathy MacNeil. “Her work in support of palliative patients comes from the heart, and she makes a tremendous difference every day for patients and their families.”

The award honours Dr. Norgrove – Island Health’s Palliative Care Physician Consultant at Saanich Peninsula Hospital (SPH) – for innovative projects to enhance the patient experience. These include the SPH-based program W̱SÁNEĆ Journey Home: Working towards Cultural Safety in Palliative Care Services for Four First Nation Communities, as well as a palliative care and cervical cancer screening program Dr. Norgrove and her husband, Dr. Ambrose Marsh, have developed at the Bombo Regional Referral Hospital in Tanzania.

By bringing people together to listen and learn from each other, W̱SÁNEĆ Journey Home has helped improve palliative care capacity within the four First Nation communities on the Saanich Peninsula and increase cultural safety in the services non-Indigenous health care partners provide.

“It’s been a very meaningful and enduring process for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants. And really, it is just the beginning in terms of the relationship-based ‘circle of care’ we are building,” Dr. Norgrove says. “It’s about learning Indigenous ways and working to rebuild trust. I have learned so much.”

The Humanitarian Award also recognizes Dr. Norgrove for the palliative care program she and Dr. Marsh started 10 years ago in Tanzania, after seeing a need to tailor a  program to support palliative care in a resource-limited setting. Patients in hospital and at home in the community receive end-of-life care and support through the program, based at Bombo Care and Treatment (HIV) clinic. The care providers who work with the program share their skills and act as champions to train others to provide this support to patients and families.

As part of this work, Drs. Norgrove and Marsh have also incorporated a cervical cancer screening program focusing on HIV positive women who are particularly at risk. It is hoped that the screening program will result in fewer women dying from cervical cancer.

“One year I just sat down and hand-tallied the number [of women diagnosed with cervical cancer] and it represented half of all of the cancer diagnoses in women on our palliative program,” Dr. Norgrove explained. “It is an entirely preventable cancer, so this is an area where we can have a really big impact.”

To support their work in Tanzania, Drs. Norgrove and Marsh have formed the Bombo Palliative Care Project Society here in Canada. Through the Society, they raise money to build capacity and self-sufficiency, and to help fill gaps in the programs that are not funded by government in Tanzania.

Dr. Norgrove was honoured at the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians awards & social evening on June 1 in Toronto. More information about Dr. Norgrove’s work is available in the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians award profile.