Dr. Kelley Newcomer’s work as a medical missionary in Honduras particularly equipped her with the skills to be a hospice physician.
She’s now medical director for Compassus in the Dallas, Texas, area and medical director for Manchester Place Assisted Living, but she once ran a diabetes clinic in the middle of the Honduran jungle.
“In Honduras, I was used to not having a lot of things at my fingertips, (and) to really being practical with treatment and not ordering a lot of tests,” Dr. Newcomer says. “I had been practicing a very different type of medicine.”
That approach served her well.
“In hospice,” she says, “you have to be satisfied not knowing the perfect answer.”
The satisfaction comes, she says, in being helpful to patients and their loved ones.
“If you can come alongside a family in crisis and you can make that better for them — even just a little bit — they are so grateful and it’s so rewarding,” Dr. Newcomer says. “They’re so exhausted from constantly being on a treadmill, so to speak, and you can tell them, ‘It’s OK to stop.’”
“I have never had patients tell me to do everything I can so they can keep going. If they can’t do what they want — the things they enjoy — they say, ‘I’m done.’”
Working with hospice patients was a natural progression from her geriatrics practice, says Dr. Newcomer, who received her medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern.
“My patients are very elderly,” she says, “and the issues are the same.”
Dr. Newcomer, a Texas native who is board certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Care, chose to join Compassus because it allows her to do the hands-on hospice care she prefers.
“When I first went to Compassus, I said to them, ‘I’m not your regular hospice doctor; I want to go see patients,’” she says. “Others want you to show up, sign paperwork and be on the sideline.”
“Compassus’ big thing is, ‘We’re a physician-led company,’ and it’s true,” Dr. Newcomer says. “It’s wonderful to do something that you love with people who also love it. We have a really good team of nurses and chaplains.”
She and her husband Mark, an ear, nose and throat doctor at a nearby medical school, have three sons and parents with significant health issues, “so we’re dealing with this firsthand,” she says.