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Geriatrician embraces end-of-life transitions

Rochester Business Journal
March 22, 2013

James Mossgraber, vice president and general manager for T&T Materials Inc., will never forget his interactions with James Wood M.D., medical director for Lifetime Care Hospice in Monroe, Wayne and Seneca counties.
Mossgraber's 92-year-old mother was terminally ill, and she wished to receive hospice care at her nursing home in Sodus.
Together as a team, the patient, her family and Wood worked to create the best possible end-of-life care plan. Mossgraber says Wood offered tremendous support and compassion throughout the experience.
"It is our assessment that the abilities and talents brought to bear by Dr. Wood for the benefit of his patients and their loved ones were not learned in medical school," Mossgraber says. "The unfaltering dedication, the genuine kindness and ever-present understanding and empathy demonstrated by Dr. Wood can neither be taught nor learned. They are products of his character, his dedication and his compassion for his fellow human beings."
Wood joined Lifetime Care in 2008. He previously was medical director for long-term care at the Highlands Living Center as well as director of the geriatric assessment clinic at Monroe Community Hospital.
"Working in the hospice field is tremendously rewarding, and it's almost like a calling to me," says Wood, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "Hospice work is one of the last forms of medicine in which the physician is actually encouraged to spend time with his or her patients."
Like Mossgraber, Barbara Giehl, vice president of palliative care services for Lifetime Care, also lauds Wood's professionalism and dedication.
"As a well-established and respected geriatrician, (Wood) understands the importance of comfort and dignity for patients and assistance for their families in their time of need," Giehl says. "As a hands-on physician, he spends long hours at the bedside and helps to ease the family's suffering after the loss of their loved one."
Moreover, she notes, Wood has taken a leadership role among health-care providers in the community by educating them on the benefits of hospice and palliative care.
Wood hopes to alter the statistic that Rochester as a community falls behind the rest of the nation in using hospice services. Through his work, he has observed that urban and rural residents tend to be more comfortable with the concept of a circle of life, in contrast with their suburban counterparts.
His goal is to help all individuals recognize that death is a natural part of life and that hospice and palliative care can ease a suffering patient's passage through life's final stage.
"Working in this field has helped reduce my own anxiety about end-of-life issues," he says. "It is so important that we all come to accept the concept of the circle of life. The present moment is all that we have."

Debbie Waltzer is a Rochester-area freelance writer.3/22/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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