Jim Cleary, MD, founding medical director of the Palliative Medicine Service at UW Health, was named one of the 30 most influential leaders in hospice and palliative medicine, the medical specialty focused on relieving suffering and improving quality of life for people with serious illnesses.

In celebration of 30 years serving the profession, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) asked its 5,000 members to nominate leaders in the field. They then asked members to vote for the top 10 among the 142 nominated. 

Cleary, professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, is an international leader in palliative medicine. A native of Australia, he served as the 2004 president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

While continuing to practice medical oncology and palliative medicine at UW Health, he directs the Pain and Policy Studies Group (PPSG), the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Pain Policy and Palliative Care that has played an instrumental role in improving both palliative care and access to morphine for the treatment of cancer pain. WHO estimates that 80 percent of the world's population lack access to appropriate pain control.

Speaking from Rwanda, where he attended the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer, Cleary said, "I am extremely honored to be considered as an AAHPM visionary. But the greatest delight was to spend today with Dr. Nahla Gafer, an oncologist and former fellow of the PPSG's International Pain Policy Fellowship, who is introducing palliative care into the country of Sudan. My vision is that all cancer patients throughout the work have ready access to palliative care and to morphine for cancer pain relief."

Steve R. Smith, AAHPM CEO, says the award “recognizes key individuals who have been critical in building and shaping our field over the past 30 years.

“These individuals represent thousands of other health care professionals in this country who provide quality medical care and support for those living with serious illness - each and every day,” Smith adds.

More information on the visionaries project, including the list of 30 visionaries, can be found on the academy’s website.