Physician Follows Passion for Palliative Care

Dr. Arvin Gill
Home-Based Palliative Care Physician

Continuing Education, Culture of Collaboration Make CPMG A Standout Workplace for Physicians

Dr. Arvin Gill has probably worn more hats than your typical physician — from stay-at-home dad to home remodeler to second grade teacher’s aide — and as a result, his life path has been quite rewarding. Dr. Gill’s unconventional approach to living has opened doors professionally, and contributed to his recent choice to transition to a palliative care specialty from primary care.

“Palliative care doctors are some of the most highly satisfied physicians with their jobs. It’s very fulfilling. It’s sacred work,” he says.

Having spent many exhaustive years as a primary care doctor, clinic chief and med school faculty member, Dr. Gill was able to take some time off when his wife, a psychiatrist, accepted a new job and the family moved to Denver from Michigan in 2008. For a few years, he stayed at home to raise their three young children. He also helped teach classes at his daughter’s elementary school, and took on a huge remodeling project in the old home his family had moved into. During this time period, Dr. Gill examined and reflected upon what meaningful work fulfilled him professionally.

“Some of the things that gave me the greatest amounts of satisfaction in my job as a primary care physician were the end-of-life discussions I had with patients. That was when I felt I was most helpful as a physician to patients — talking about very intense, personal, life-changing issues and providing guidance,” he says. “I was thinking about how I could focus on palliative care, but I had no training at that time.”

Career change helps patients live as fully as possible

In 2010, Dr. Gill returned to practicing medicine and was hired as a primary care physician at CPMG, but palliative care remained on his mind. At a leadership training course, Dr. Gill met another Kaiser Permanente home-based palliative care doctor, who inspired him to pursue the specialty. In 2012, he decided to follow his passion and left CPMG for a one-year fellowship at the University of Colorado.

“It was a life- and career-changing experience,” he says. “Palliative care, by definition, creates the space to sit down with the patients and their families for an hour or two and really get to know them. I can accomplish in one visit what would take a primary care doctor several visits: to come up with a comprehensive palliative care plan that specifies goals of care. I want to be sure my patients are getting the care they asked for.”

His patients — many of whom are suffering from advanced stage cancers, lung disease, heart disease, liver disease and ALS — are seen at home because they are too sick to leave. Dr. Gill likens himself to a painter, who paints a picture of what different choices look like, or a gardener, who plants seeds of knowledge for patients to think about. Ultimately, it’s about educating patients about their choices.

“Patients will often opt out of more suffering when they realize there are other alternatives. Sometimes, we’re a helpful transition to hospice care, which is all about maximizing the quality of life in the time you have left,” Dr. Gill says. “It’s not about dying — it’s about living as fully as you can.”

Improving and innovating along the way

Dr. Gill has been involved in many projects and collaborations that have helped improve physician efficiencies and communication, and enhance patient care. He also is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Colorado Medical School. Not only does he have a true passion for patient care, but he also has a passion for innovating and improving systems for physicians and other CPMG clinicians.

“At Kaiser Permanente, we get it — we are on the leading edge of palliative care,” he says. “I’m very excited about where we are now and where we have the potential to go.”

Learn more about why Dr. Gill enjoys working for CPMG.

Learn more about working for CPMG.