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.