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Calm Instead of Crisis: A Conversation with A Hospice Doctor

January 25, 2017


Dr. Joseph Shega, MD, senior vice president and national medical director for VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care joins eHealth Radio and the Health Care & Health News Channels.


Listen to interview with host Eric Michaels and guest Dr. Joseph Shega discuss the following:

  • Hospice is a scary concept. Why shouldn’t people put it off for as long as possible?
  • How does someone know when it’s time for hospice? Who makes that decision?
  • What does the hospice admission process involve?
  • Describe the four levels of hospice care in laymen’s terms.
  • What is the role of the physician in hospice care?
  • What can someone expect once they become a hospice patient?


Joseph Shega, MD, is senior vice president and national medical director for VITAS Healthcare. Dr. Shega oversees the regional medical directors and the director of physician services. He joined VITAS in 2013 as a regional medical director and in 2016 was promoted to national medical director.

Dr. Shega has devoted his career to improving the care of older adults at the end of life. Prior to joining VITAS, he was an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago in geriatrics and palliative medicine. In this role, he helped expand the palliative medicine program, including accreditation of a fellowship program in hospice and palliative medicine, integration of palliative care into oncology, and furthering the understanding of pain assessment and management in persons with dementia.  

“The best hospice doctor,” he believes, “is an advocate, someone who appreciates and respects individuality, values personhood and matches each care plan to that personhood.”

In conjunction with his work at VITAS, Dr. Shega serves as the chair of the ethics committee for the American Geriatrics Society, as co-editor of the Pain and Aging section of Pain Medicine, and as an editorial board member for the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. He serves on the National Academy of Medicine’s roundtable on quality care for people with serious illness. Dr. Shega is a key contributor to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s UNIPAC education series and serves as managing editor of the upcoming 5th edition.

Dr. Shega earned his bachelor’s degree from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, and his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a fellowship in geriatric medicine at the University of Chicago.



VITAS® Healthcare has more than 35 years of experience caring for fragile patients and managing care transitions: from hospital to home, from curative to palliative, from chronic to end-stage. VITAS operates 44 hospice programs in 15 states and the District of Columbia, employing 12,051 professionals who care for seriously ill patients daily, primarily in the patients’ homes but also in the company’s 32 inpatient hospice units as well as in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities. In the third quarter of 2016, VITAS reported an average daily census of 16,341 patients.

Learn more at or call 800.93.VITAS.

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