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Hospice of Lubbock Doctor Earns Regional Award

03/01/2016
Hospice of Lubbock Doctor Earns Regional Award

Founder of Palliative Medicine program works her passion.

A local physician associated with Hospice of Lubbock has earned a 2016 Texas New Mexico Hospice Organization (TNMHO) Advocate award. The organization annually recognizes exemplary performance among its membership.

Melanie Oblender, M.D. has been named as one of four recipients for the award. Oblender has served in numerous roles at Hospice of Lubbock and is the founder of the Covenant Health Palliative Medicine program. She and her fellow recipients were recognized Friday (Feb. 26) at the TNMHO Annual Conference in Santa Fe, NM.

The award recognizes and rewards outstanding hospice agencies, professionals and volunteers. The Hospice Advocate Award identifies individuals who have served as either a hospice professional or volunteer. They have demonstrated a commitment to the core values of hospice, a unique approach to providing and extending hospice services, and exhibit professional and personal development during their service to the hospice mission.

“It is natural that a talented, compassionate physician would be held in high respect by her colleagues; and she is,” said Charley Wasson, executive director of Hospice of Lubbock.

Oblender’s first exposure to hospice was in the early 1990’s in Galveston. If one of her patients were to go on hospice, she remained the attending physician. As a pediatric oncologist, she made a practice of remaining as the attending physician for the children, supporting the child and family while on hospice. When she moved to Lubbock, and as a veteran of the Army and Air Force, she had an opportunity to help her fellow servicemen and women. Often when the VA would send them back from Amarillo, they needed a physician at the end of their life. It was an opportunity to thank those who had served. She would take over as their attending and work with the hospice until their death.

In September 1999, Oblender accepted an offer to serve as an associate medical director for Hospice of Lubbock. She had a busy practice as a pediatric oncologist/hematologist, but had a passion for providing end-of-life care. She was the medical director from 2005-2010, before stepping down to return to her service as associate medical director. In 2005 she approached the leadership at Covenant Health to advocate starting a palliative medicine program and saw the first palliative medicine consult in November of that year. Since then she has seen more than 5,600 patients, building one of the largest programs between Dallas and Albuquerque.

Oblender is board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. She has served as a mentor to students of all professions, but has been heavily involved in serving as faculty and a mentor for the Texas Tech School of Medicine’s Hospice & Palliative Medicine Fellowship, and frequently delivers lectures as the Texas Tech School of Medicine or at one of the area’s schools of nursing. She has presented numerous times at the Ryburn Hospice and Palliative Medicine Symposium, discussion building a palliative medicine program to working with pediatric hospice. She has advocated for hospice care for the disenfranchised and vulnerable in life.

She has been the chair for the Covenant Health Ethics Committee for the last eight years and during that time has helped with conversations in human dignity, supporting families and patients, and broadening the understanding of what care is and how professionals provide it.

Oblender has an enduring philosophy that strong teams are necessary to support patients and their families. Wasson said she picked up her philosophy from the Kaiser Cement Trucks.

“The trucks used to say ‘Find a hole and fill it,’” Wasson said. “Dr. Oblender works hard to meet the needs of our patients and families. She looks for the holes and how we can fill them. She is dedicated, humble, funny, empathic and pushes everyone to be the best they can be.”

Oblender joins Bonnie Hunt (2012-Volunteer), Amber Maul, RN (2012 – Nurse), Frank Ryburn, Jr., M.D. (2013 – Lifetime Achievement Award), Jo Beth Edards, RN (2014 – Nurse), Elizabeth Abraham MDiv (2014 - Hospice Advocate), and Charley Wassson, (2015 – Hospice Advocate). Hospice of Lubbock was awarded the first Program of Excellence Award in 2014.

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