U.Va. Faculty and Clinicians Prepare for Dalai Lama Visit Thursday

October 08, 2012

During his Charlottesville visit on Thursday, the Dalai Lama will lead a panel discussion at the Paramount Theater with five University of Virginia Health System clinicians who will discuss how they utilize compassionate care techniques to help patients and colleagues.

The panel, “Compassion in 21st-Century Medicine,” will be streamed live in the School of Nursing's McLeod Hall Auditorium starting at 10 a.m. No tickets are necessary, and seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors will open at 9 a.m.; paid parking is available on the Corner and at the 11th Street garage.

The live-streaming is open to U.Va. students, faculty, staff and the public.

Moderated by former Charlottesville Mayor David Brown, the panel discussion will feature:

  • Dr. George Beller, a U.Va. cardiologist;
  • Dr. Leslie Blackhall, director of the Palliative Care Center at U.Va.;
  • Dorrie Fontaine, dean of the School of Nursing, who launched a compassionate end-of-life care initiative at U.Va.;
  • Dr. Richard Guerrant, director of the U.Va. Center for Global Health; and
  • Dr. James Nataro, chair of the U.Va. Department of Pediatrics.

The participants will touch on topics such as palliative care and the School of Nursing’s Compassionate Care Initiative, as well as mindfulness and meditation, and how these strategies complement traditional medical treatments.

Blackhall developed her interest in palliative care – which focuses on helping patients cope with the pain and symptoms caused by an illness or condition – while in medical school at New York University at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

“I saw a lot of suffering,” she said. “I felt called to work with people who are dying. That’s part of good medical care: How can I be a good doctor to people I can’t cure?” 

Helping patients and families navigate through serious illnesses and death can take an immense toll on the dedicated nurses and other health care professionals who provide care on a daily basis. That’s why the School of Nursing, led by Fontaine, developed the Compassionate Care and Empathic Leadership Initiative.

“We’re trying to create resilient students who can withstand the stresses of helping patients and families at very challenging points in their lives,” Fontaine said.

Nataro said his department is continuing to examine how it can use mindfulness and other contemplative medicine techniques to help their patients and families and supplement traditional medical care. One example in use is yoga for pediatric patients with special needs.

Yoga can help patients with cerebral palsy and similar conditions with body control and body awareness, he said. It also has the potential to help patients become more calm and self-aware without the use of sedating medications.

Later on Thursday, Jeffrey Hopkins, emeritus professor of religious studies, will introduce the Dalai Lama before his public talk at 1:30 p.m. at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion. The theme of the Dalai Lama’s talk is “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World.”

Piedmont Virginia Community College is hosting several events surrounding the Dalai Lama’s visit. On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Karen C. Lang, professor of religious studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, will discuss the Dalai Lama tradition and life and teachings of the present Dalai Lama.

Kurtis Schaeffer, professor and chair of the U.Va. Department of Religious Studies, speaks on the history and culture of Tibet, on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.

Both talks will be in the Main Stage Theatre in the V. Earl Dickinson Building at PVCC.

The Dalai Lama's visit is sponsored by the Foundation for American Heritage Voices, the  Tibetan Association of Charlottesville, the UMA Institute for Tibetan Studies and the City of Charlottesville.

Media Contact

Eric Swensen

UVA Health System