Don’t Wait Bike Tour

Don’t Wait Bike Tour

Don’t wait.

Those two little words summarize the approach of Ric Baxter, M.D. to hospice and palliative care.

Both hospice and palliative care “help you live the best life you can in your remaining time; if you wait until you’re actually dying, you lose many of its benefits.”

After all, Baxter should know -he’s the Chief of Palliative Care at St. Luke’s University Health Network. He’s worked in the field for decades and is regarded by many as a national expert.

Entering hospice care early helps to shape the bereavement process, he adds, because it provides people with an opportunity to die well. “While early use of palliative care allows the individual to live their life to the fullest while battling chronic illness, you can focus your time and energy on things that are important to you, while physicians manage your symptoms. For example, I had a patient with terminal pancreatic cancer,” Baxter recalled. “Christmas was his family’s most important holiday, so I worked with them to celebrate Christmas every day as long as he lived.”

Baxter is applying the same approach to raising public awareness of the benefits of hospice and palliative care and how they are two different things. Rather than waiting until his retirement to increase advocacy, he’s undertaken a month-long intra-state bicycle trip to several medical facilities in Pennsylvania.

Dubbed “The Don’t Wait Tour,” Baxter will pedal his way to more than a dozen healthcare locations throughout the commonwealth during the month of September.

“My plan is to break the trip up into doable legs of 40 to 70 miles, with a stop at night to recover,” he said.

Each stop along the journey will involve a local hospice program—hospice houses, hospitals, medical schools—where he can share the insights he’s gained during his experience in providing end-of-life treatment.

“I don’t have a fixed presentation for my visits,”

Baxter explained. “I plan to present a lecture during grand rounds in Stroudsburg and the Lansford/Coaldale area. At Hospice of Warren County, I will be a guest speaker for its 40th-anniversary program. In Clarion, I’ll conduct a day of end-of-life education for nurses and nurse-practitioner students. It will depend on what each facility wants to do.”

In particular, he hopes to address legislators in Harrisburg to increase public support for hospice and palliative care education in medical schools, seminaries, and other institutions.

Baxter intends to offer updates along his ride via a blog and other social media outlets. Follow St. Luke’s University Health Network. And consider making a donation to the St. Luke’s hospice care program at slhn.org/development/ways-to-give/dr-baxter-bike-tour-2019

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