Last October, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Palliative Care Research Center’s “Kathleen M. Foley Research Retreat” as one of AAHPM’s Research Scholars. The annual Foley Retreat brings together the country’s leading experts in palliative and hospice care research to discuss the state of the science, set priorities for future research, and allow for the creation of new friendships and collaborations among colleagues. It is a remarkable experience.

As a non-clinician health services researcher whose work is clinically-focused, it can sometimes be a little bit daunting to find where you belong. Does a non-clinician fit in at a clinical society meeting (like AAHPM’s Annual Assembly)? Sure. But often, the annual meetings of clinical societies predominately cater their offerings towards practitioners – and rightly so. Well, what about more methods-focused organizations? Sure, those are phenomenal meetings, too, but let’s be honest – sometimes those meetings tend to “geek out” over the minutiae of research methods at the expense of real-life applicability. The sweet spot for someone like me can be hard to find.

But enough with my Goldilocks-meets-Little Orphan Annie soliloquy. I can confidently say that after last fall’s NPCRC Foley Retreat, I have found a community where I believe that I belong. The Foley Retreat is one of the most inspiring meetings I’ve attended, and the passion of its attendees is readily apparent. These individuals are the true leaders and innovators in palliative care research. They are the ones actively working to build the evidence base for the care of those with serious illness, the ones who have paved the way for junior palliative care researchers, and the ones who we ultimately aspire to emulate in our careers. Aside from seeing exciting research presented by both junior and senior colleagues funded by NPCRC and ACS, there is another aspect of this retreat worth highlighting. The relaxed atmosphere of the retreat allows for friendly and supportive interactions amongst attendees. Indeed, I have never felt so welcomed during another professional meeting – mid-level and senior researchers were genuinely interested in my work, freely providing their suggestions, perspectives, and general career mentorship. The Foley Retreat makes the nurturing of junior attendees a priority – something that as an early stage investigator myself, I truly appreciate.

I can’t adequately thank AAHPM for its ongoing commitment to my career development. The Research Scholars Program is but one example of how AAHPM is dedicated to supporting and advancing the careers of junior palliative care researchers. Thank you for affording me the opportunity to participate in such a phenomenal experience. I’m already excitedly looking forward to next year’s retreat!

Dio Kavalieratos, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill