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Meet Our Newest Palliative Medicine Physician, Dr. Louis Lux

January 03, 2022

Louis Lux, M.D., FAAHPM, palliative medicine physician, is now seeing patients at Texas Oncology–Austin Midtown. Dr. Lux discusses the historical and modern-day roles of palliative medicine.

What inspired you to specialize in palliative medicine?

Early in my medical training, I realized my greatest interest was in the relief of suffering for patients. In doing so I was connecting to them on a deeper level. When I started my career, palliative medicine careers were through the practice of hospice care, so that’s where I started my palliative practice. Then, when palliative medicine officially became a specialty in 2008, I was part of the first class of the new specialty.

Palliative medicine is the relief of suffering for patients with serious illness. Relief of suffering to me is “original medicine.” Since the beginning of human existence there was usually one individual in a group that would assist with the suffering of others. They were shaman, traditional healers, and later physicians and nurses. Relief of suffering is a primal instinct and motivator for many, if not all, individuals seeking a career in healthcare. As a palliative medicine physician, I am so thankful to be able to practice and connect to my passion and my calling.

What do you want more people to know or understand about palliative medicine?

Palliative medicine is a “new” field in terms of its official status in mainstream medicine (even though it was the “original medicine”). Many people, including clinicians, are not familiar with either the word or its meaning. The word palliative comes from the Latin word palliare , meaning “to cloak.” A cloak in ancient times was a garment that was used to protect or defend against adverse elements. Thus, the cloak was a shield against external suffering for the individual using it. In the same way, palliative medicine today is a cloak: a shield against suffering.

Another key point is to differentiate palliative medicine from hospice. Hospice is a program designed to take care of patients’ needs in the last months of a life-threatening illness. In palliative medicine, however, we ideally see patients early in their disease who need help managing symptoms as part of their journey to remission. Thus, we see patients that are in remission and have a curative intent or are disease-free and dealing with symptoms related to their illness. Additionally, palliative medicine physicians can also address goals of care – a philosophy of how the patient wants to be treated and what the intent of their treatment should be. Advance care planning is a part of this process.

In my experience, caring for patients with serious illness is energizing, as we do not attach ourselves to the end, to death; instead, we attach ourselves to the process and the journey of taking away suffering."

How has your career shaped who you are?

My medical practice has taught me about life and our expectations for it. We tend to take much for granted until something catastrophic enters our lives. It is then that we appreciate what we have and what we may have lost. Medicine is about experiencing humility, and it tends to inform us of this daily when caring for the seriously ill and their loved ones.

Many people do not understand how palliative medicine physicians do not become depressed or burned out caring for seriously ill patients, as we also help care for those near the end of their lives. In my experience, caring for patients with serious illness is energizing, as we do not attach ourselves to the end, to death; instead, we attach ourselves to the process and the journey of taking away suffering. It is very satisfying to help improve someone’s quality of life by relieving suffering. Yes, death will come for us all, but if we can help those who are suffering, an extremely meaningful experience will happen for both the patient and physician.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.