Dr. Maria Gesualdo has joined Hospice & Palliative Care as associate medical director. Hospice & Palliative Care provides quality, compassionate and end-of-life care to those in the Mohawk Valley.
By Barbara Pierce
Q.: What led you to take the position of associate medical director of Hospice & Palliative Care?
A.: For the past eight years, I had the opportunity to work as both a clinician caring for pulmonary and critical care patients while at the same time growing and developing my administrative skills both at Slocum Dickson Medical Group in New Hartford and the Mohawk Valley Health System.
Recently, my administrative responsibilities were coming to an end. When I learned of the position at Hospice & Palliative Care, I was immediately interested. I saw this as a great opportunity to incorporate my clinical and administrative skills with my vast experience dealing with the sensitive matters associated with critically ill patients and their families.
I always admired and appreciated the wonderful services and dedication provided to my patients by Hospice & Palliative Care and saw this as an opportunity to be part of that team. I just knew that I would feel very comfortable in this role.
Q.: What is the mission of Hospice & Palliative Care?
A.: For hospice, the mission is to provide quality, compassionate end-of-life care.
For the Advanced Illness Management: Palliative Care program, the mission is to help alleviate patient and family suffering and to promote patient quality of life for chronically and seriously ill patients.
Q.: How do the two programs differ?
A.: Hospice patients require a physician’s prognosis of six months or less to live.
For these patients, care is aimed at managing distressing symptoms, especially pain and anxiety, and improving quality of life. These patients are no longer seeking life-prolonging treatments. In other words, the patient wishes to allow a natural death.
Our A.I.M: Palliative Care program focuses on managing distressing symptoms and improving quality of life. Unlike hospice, it does not require a prognosis of six months or less to live. Patients may continue life-prolonging or curative treatments.
Like hospice patients, palliative care patients can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive guidance and support from a registered nurse.
Q.: How do you carry out your mission?
A.: It’s carried out through a dedicated and caring interdisciplinary group including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified home health aides, social workers, a spiritual care coordinator, bereavement counselors, and support staff along with administrators who work closely with myself and our medical director, Dr. Deborah Lang, to assure patient needs are met.
We are also fortunate to have trained volunteers who support our mission.
Q.: What is your role as associate medical director?
A.: I work closely with Dr. Lang to assure patient needs are met and to facilitate a smooth transition to hospice. Once a hospice referral is made, I assure that the patient meets hospice criteria and has a comfort care plan in place.
Once a patient is admitted, I provide documentation for his or her admission and medication coverage. I make recommendations to their primary care provider to comply with standards of care. If the PCP cannot be reached, I am available to prescribe any medications necessary.
Additionally, I oversee interdisciplinary group meetings to discuss every patient and the services they are receiving.
Q.: Do you feel the community is aware of Hospice & Palliative Care and the important role it plays in the lives of many?
A.: We certainly strive to get the word out, but there is always room for improvement. Hospice & Palliative Care does a great job with education. Fundraisers throughout the year are helpful in raising funds to support patient care and getting community members more engaged.
I would like to see our community view Hospice & Palliative Care as an extension of the excellent health care being delivered to patients by their providers. Excellent care shouldn’t end as the patient deals with an advanced illness or faces end-of-life decisions.
Patients should feel reassured that there are services available through Hospice & Palliative Care to better assist them and their families with improving quality of life or coping with terminal illness.
Birth year: 1969
Birthplace: Livingston, New Jersey
Current residence: New Hartford
Education: Doctor of Osteopathic medicine degree, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Old Westbury; internship and residency, St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; fellowship in pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine, Penn State Health System, Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Affiliations: Mohawk Valley Health System, St. Luke’s, St. Elizabeth’s, Rome Memorial Hospital
Personal: Married, three teenagers
Hobbies: Baking, traveling, reading mystery novels, watching scary movies, enjoying quality time with family, friends and my dog Buddy