For a quick snapshot of the changing world of medicine, look no further than the career of Jason Meadows, MD, a 2011 graduate of Saba University School of Medicine and now a palliative care specialist at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City.
A host of new, non-curative treatment options (particularly for cancer, HIV, and cardiac diseases) have created new opportunities to enhance and prolong life, while also introducing new challenges for how patients with life-limiting illness are treated. Palliative medicine physicians are being called upon to bring a sophisticated understanding of these various disease-modifying approaches, helping patients and other clinicians to weigh the potential risks and benefits.
MSKCC, where Dr. Meadows is now in his third year, was the first cancer hospital in the United States to have an interdisciplinary palliative care service devoted specifically to pain and symptom management in cancer patients. Now many others are following its lead.
In 2012, The American Society of Clinical Oncology issued a provisional opinion recommending that palliative care be offered along with standard cancer treatment. Palliative medicine is now a recognized medical specialty or subspecialty in over 20 countries and is a growing focus of research.
Compared to many of his classmates at Saba, Dr. Meadows was late in launching his medical education. After graduating from Dalhousie University in Canada with a major in chemistry, he traveled to Japan for a three year stint teaching English. But his dream was always to have a career in medicine and upon coming home, he quickly headed to Saba and back to life as a student.
At Saba, Dr. Meadows was a prominent figure on campus. He was class president, then student government president and took a leadership role at the school. “I liked being student government president. It forced me to develop public speaking and leadership skills. It was great training.”
Dr. Meadows relished his clinicals and sought the experience of different environments. “I wanted diversity in my clinical experience. I really thought that was a great way to maximize visibility and also increase my chances of obtaining a strong residency position.
After his core clinicals, Dr. Meadows did an elective in critical care at the University of Hawaii and then pre-matched into an internal medicine residency position there where he earned an “Excellence in Research Award.”
In 2014, Dr. Meadows received one of the six one-year clinical fellowship positions in Hospice and Palliative Medicine that MSKCC awards each year.
After completing the fellowship he accepted a faculty position at MSKCC and currently practices as both an inpatient palliative medicine consultant and as a hospitalist. In his clinical role, he teaches and mentors fellows and residents in providing specialized palliative care. He also spends approximately half of his time on research and is currently working on a several retrospective studies examining the characteristics of cancer patients who receive high volumes of blood products near the end of life.
Dr. Meadows looks back with great respect and fondness on his time at Saba and the training he received.
“I want incoming Saba students to know that the curriculum at any North American medical school is the same curriculum that they will have at Saba. I was really struck by how capable my classmates at Saba were. They matched, and often exceeded our peers at other medical institutions.”