Meet Dr. Joe Rotella, AAHPM’s Chief Medical Officer
Joseph “Joe” D. Rotella, MD MBA HMDC FAAHPM, became the chief medical officer (CMO) for AAHPM in March 2015. Learn more about Rotella in the Q&A below.
What led you to the specialty of hospice and palliative medicine?
During my internal medicine training in Cincinnati and 12 years practicing primary care in a small New Hampshire town, I witnessed a lot of unaddressed suffering in my patients and their families. I hated to see the dehumanizing way that we treated people near the end of life, despite our best intentions, and wanted to do something about it. I was drawn to spend more time with my sickest patients not just as a doctor but also as a fellow human being. I learned there was another way called hospice, a holistic and patient-centered team of professionals working together to help patients and families experience the best quality of life possible. Like so many of us who found our way into hospice and palliative medicine, I felt like I had come home. This is my tribe, the place where I can be my best self and make the most difference.
How did your background prepare you to be CMO for AAHPM?
After attending a hospice seminar in London and meeting Dr. Cicely Saunders, I was hooked. I joined what was then called the Academy of Hospice Physicians, read the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine cover-to-cover, served as medical director for two small hospices, became an Education in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (EPEC) trainer, and obtained my board certification in the as-yet-unrecognized new specialty. In 1999 I moved my family to Louisville to take a dream job as the medical director for Hospice of Louisville. I directed hospice medical care in two states—including urban, suburban, and rural settings—and expanded grief counseling and pediatric palliative care services. During the following 15 years, I helped launch hospice inpatient units, hospital palliative care services, and a palliative medicine fellowship.