Celebrating One Doctor's Legacy During Black History Month


The many VITAS physicians, nurses, aides and program staff members who interacted with Dr. Richard Payne over the past 15 years called him their mentor, a tireless advocate for compassionate pain relief, a world-renowned researcher, and a friend who cared as deeply about entire patient populations as he did about every single patient he treated.

Dr. Richard Payne speaks at a conference

During Black History Month, VITAS honors the legacy of Dr. Payne, who died after a brief illness on January 3, 2019, at age 67. Dr. Payne embodied the spirit of Black History Month, which was established to honor the achievements of African Americans in all aspects of American society.

Read about VITAS' commitment to diverse communities.

At the time of his death, Dr. Payne was the Esther Colliflower Professor of Medicine and Divinity at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Missouri.

Trained in internal medicine and neurology, he also became an internationally known expert on pain relief and palliative care while working at some of the major cancer treatment centers in the US.

VITAS takes particular pride in Dr. Payne’s support for initiatives that educated ministers and faith leaders about their important role in encouraging conversations within African American communities and families about their preferences for compassionate end-of-life care.

Most notably, Dr. Payne supported the Crossing Over Jordan advance care planning initiative at VITAS, and was a strong supporter of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference’s Covenant of Care statement promoting quality of life at the end of life for African Americans.

During Black History Month, we single out Dr. Payne’s efforts to make a difference in the lives of all patients as they struggle with serious and life-limiting illnesses.

Download a PDF of Dr. Payne's contributions to hospice care.


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