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Dr. M.R. Rajagopal

Queen’s University and Pallium India Announce Partnership

Queen’s University and Pallium India have formalized their long-standing partnership to improve palliative care services in India through education, research, and policy initiatives.  

Over 96 per cent of people in India are unable to access palliative care. Pallium India is a registered charity that strives to alleviate the burden of health-related suffering by making palliative care more accessible and equitable. Its institute in Trivandrum is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre.

The partnership between Queen’s University and Pallium India began in 2016, when Queen’s oncologist, Dr. Christopher Booth, travelled to Kerala, India for a six-month sabbatical. After meeting the Founder and Chairman of Pallium India, Dr. M.R. Rajagopal, Dr. Booth was determined to foster a collaboration between Queen’s and Pallium. This partnership has continued to grow and expand, with support from the Pallium India team and members of the Global Oncology team within the School of Medicine’s Department of Oncology at Queen’s Health Sciences.  

When asked about the origin of this partnership and its significance today, Dr. Booth stated, “Dr. Raj represents the epitome of humanism in medicine. I have seen him interact with patients, his health care team, trainees, and senior policy-makers with the most incredible blend of vision, intellect, compassion, humility, and curiosity. Over the past five years, the Global Oncology team at Queen’s has had the privilege of building on our relationship with Pallium India. Our collaborative projects share the common goal of ensuring that all patients globally have access to high-quality palliative care.”

The significance of this relationship is echoed by Dr. Rajagopal, often referred to as ‘the father of palliative care in India’. He writes, "We have a choice. We can continue to create guidelines and pretend that we have done enough, or we can take pragmatic steps to alleviate the needless health-related suffering of millions in low and middle income countries. Thank you Queen’s University for caring enough to work with us, scooping that suffering away, one bit at a time.”

Pallium people in woods
Pallium India's health team led by Dr. M.R. Rajagopal (Pallium India)

An event on campus on Wednesday, July 6 officially recognized Dr. Rajagopal’s appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Oncology and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Pallium and Queen’s to further solidify this strong partnership.

Dr. Scott Berry, Head of the Department of Oncology and Executive Director of the Queen’s Global Oncology Program commented: “I’ve been fortunate to witness first hand the profound impact Dr. Rajagopal and the Pallium India team have and we’re very privileged to have the opportunity to work with this amazing organization. The MOU is an important step forward to formalize our partnership and facilitate future collaboration that is based on strong friendships and our steadfast commitment to working and learning together to achieve our shared goals. I’m very proud we can have an inspiring figure like Dr. Rajagopal as our first Adjunct Professor of Global Oncology.”

Currently, there are over seven active projects that Queen’s and Pallium India are collaborating on. One of these projects is education-oriented, with the goal of advancing much needed palliative care education for healthcare workers in India. Dr. Berry and the Queen’s Global Oncology team partnered with members of the Pallium team on a project to adapt and modify palliative care modules developed by the Centre to Advance Palliative Care (with their kind permission) for the Indian context. These adaptations include the incorporation of country-specific terminology, protocols, and recommendations aligned to the Indian healthcare setting. By implementing these adaptations, the Queen’s and Pallium teams hope to make the content more accessible, relevant, and effective for physicians in India to help build the palliative care workforce. 

While the partnership began with a focus on oncology, palliative care services are required for many medical conditions beyond cancer. Team members from other departments are making contributions with their expertise. Dr. Shaila Merchant (Department of Surgery) is partnering on a project examining pain relief during recovery for patients who have undergone surgery. Dr. Ramana Appireddy (Department of Medicine, Neurology) is the Queen’s lead for a project exploring palliative care interventions for stroke patients. These projects seek to reduce global disparities in access to palliative care, aligning with Queen’s Health Sciences strategic priority of interdisciplinary research. 

This diverse team of Queen’s physicians is passionate about working alongside their colleagues in India, to amplify their excellent work.  This partnership and the affiliated projects will contribute significantly to Queen’s University’s commitment towards progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Pallium and Queen’s University look forward to the tangible benefits of their partnership for patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers, and to the permanent impact on the Indian approach to palliative care.  

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