In Memoriam: Dr. Carlos F. Gomez

June 17, 2010 — Dr. Carlos F. Gomez, who was medical director of the University of Virginia Health System's Center for Hospice and Palliative Care from when it opened in 1995 until 2003, died June 12 in Washington, D.C.

A past member of the American Hospice Foundation, Gomez was most recently medical director of the District of Columbia Pediatric Palliative Care Collaboration, a newly founded organization that provides end-of-life services for children in Washington with life-threatening illness. He was also clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and an adjunct scholar at the Center for Clinical Bioethics. Gomez also held the Samueli-Rockefeller Chair in Palliative Medicine at the Lombardi Cancer Center.

"He was a pioneer in the early days of hospice and palliative care," said Karen Boyle, a nurse who worked with him at U.Va. At that time, care for dying patients was not well-developed or a standard part of medical training for doctors.

Still a nurse here in palliative care, Boyle said Gomez was an incredibly gifted teacher and a brilliant physician. He appeared in a segment of Bill Moyers' PBS special on dying in America, "On Our Own Terms," in 2000.

With nurse practitioner Jane Griffith, Gomez and Boyle also started a consulting service in the U.Va. Medical Center and an outpatient clinic to work with patients who were terminally ill.

"What he started has blossomed, and it's a very busy place," Boyle said of the hospice center. "Palliative care is well-integrated into patient care all over the hospital. We get involved much earlier to help patients deal with their symptoms."

Palliative care is now part of the curriculum for medical students and all residents, thanks to Gomez's efforts, Boyle said.

"What he did in his career was amazing. This is a huge loss," she said.

Gomez received his medical degree from the U.Va. School of Medicine in 1991 and completed his residency at U.Va. in internal medicine in 1994.

In addition to his medical training, he also had a background in medical ethics and earned a doctorate in public policy studies from the University of Chicago.

Gomez is survived by his mother, three brothers, one sister and four children.