5 VITAS Healthcare Physicians Earn Fellow Status from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Miami, FL, Feb. 28, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Five hospice physicians employed as medical directors with VITAS® Healthcare have earned the designation Fellows of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, or FAAHPM:

  • Christine Koniaris, MD, medical director for VITAS in East Bay, CA
  • Michael Nisco, MD, medical director for VITAS in San Francisco Bay, CA
  • Lillian Pliner, MD, medical director for VITAS in Livingston, NJ
  • Debra Vermette, MD, medical director for VITAS in Philadelphia, PA
  • Kenneth Vermette, MD, medical director for VITAS’ national medical claims

These five VITAS physicians have demonstrated a significant commitment to the field of hospice and palliative medicine. They will receive the designation during the closing plenary session of the Annual Assembly of Hospice and Palliative Care in Orlando, FL, on Saturday, March 16, 2019, joined by 3,300 hospice and palliative care colleagues.

“Like the AAHPM, VITAS recognizes and appreciates the work these five exemplary physicians have put into their hospice work and achieving this designation,” says Joseph Shega, MD, VITAS senior vice president and chief medical officer. “The real beneficiaries are the patients and families whose lives and deaths are improved every day by VITAS physicians of this caliber.”

The Academy, or AAHPM, is the professional organization for physicians who care for patients with serious illness. Fellow status is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a physician member, indicating dedication to and scholarship in the field of hospice and palliative medicine. Just over 400 physicians have achieved fellow status.

Throughout the week, VITAS staff will be at booth #201 demonstrating virtual reality goggles that are being tested to help reduce chronic pain or anxiety for hospice patients. VITAS will participate in the annual AAHPM job fair on Thursday, March 14, from 5-7 p.m. in the Assembly Exhibit Hall.

VITAS Physicians

Dr. Koniaris joined VITAS in 2007. She completed medical school at Albany Medical College in Albany, NY, residency in internal medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and a palliative care and pain management fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY.

Dr. Nisco joined VITAS in 2017. He earned his medical degree at the University of California (UC) Irvine, California School of Medicine. About 15 years ago, he established the only accredited fellowship training program in Central California for physicians to specialize in hospice and palliative medicine, located at UC San Francisco, CA.

Dr. Pliner joined VITAS in 2016. She earned a medical degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Medicine. She completed her hematology/oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. 

Dr. Debra Vermette joined VITAS in 2004 and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Vermette, joined her in 2009. Both received their medical degrees from the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School and completed UT residencies at Houston Memorial Hermann Hospital System.


VITAS Healthcare – 40 Years Strong

Established in 1978, VITAS® Healthcare is a pioneer and leader in the American hospice movement. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, VITAS (pronounced VEE-tahs) operates 47 hospice programs in 14 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia. VITAS employs 12,176 professionals who care for terminally ill patients daily, primarily in the patients’ homes, and also in the company’s 27 inpatient hospice units as well as in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities/residential care facilities for the elderly. At the conclusion of the fourth quarter of 2018, VITAS reported an average daily census of 18,136. Visit VITAS.com.


About the AAHPM

The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) is the only national medical specialty society for hospice and palliative medicine. Since 1988, AAHPM has supported hospice and palliative medicine through professional education and training, development of a specialist workforce, support for clinical practice standards, research and advocacy. AAHPM’s membership includes more than 5,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals committed to improving the care of patients with serious illness. Learn more at aahpm.org or visit the patient website, PalliativeDoctors.org. Follow AAHPM on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.




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