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ACGME: 540512124

NRMP#: 1761540F0

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Dr Don CourtneyThank you for taking a few moments to look at our program in palliative medicine. We hope to spark your interest in our program and look forward to having a dialogue with physicians interested in our fellowship program.

Our program is based at Grand Strand Medical Center (GSMC) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Myrtle Beach area is a coastal area experiencing rapid growth as a golfing mecca, retirement hot-spot, and tourist haven. There are active, accredited residency programs in Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery, and a Transitional Year program. Our fellowship program will be a one-year fellowship with two fellows per year; the fellows will be part of a teaching program with over 130 residents in training.

I trained in internal medicine and geriatric medicine in the 80s. In the late 1990s, I participated in the Medicaring project, trying to design programs to improve end-of-life care for patients with advanced heart failure and/or severe pulmonary disease. The work done in that project was incredibly satisfying as we adapted the cancer/AIDS model of hospice of that time to include other life-limiting diseases.

As we start our program in 2021, we have two other board-certified palliative care physicians and a fellowship-trained physician taking the initial board exam in 2020. Dr. Lisa Smaldone and Dr. Henry Saunders both took the initial subspecialty exam in 2010, and bring years of experience in the home hospice and long-term care setting. Dr. Stephen Meyer completed his fellowship in palliative medicine last year and directs the inpatient consult service at Grand Strand Medical Center.

Program Director
Don Courtney, MD, FACP


Mission statement

Grand Strand Medical Center's Hospice & Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program’s mission is to develop the next generation of physicians and physician leaders. As a part of HCA Healthcare, we are driven by a single mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life. This program is designed to offer residents a rewarding, educational environment where residents are provided individualized learning opportunities by faculty and staff who support and sustain one another throughout quality care delivery. Our faculty are committed to ensuring the residents' clinical experience and educational needs are fulfilled while expanding residents’ perspectives to be inclusive of cultures, values, and ideals.

List of leadership and faculty

Fellowship Program Director

Dr Don CourtneyDon Courtney, MD, FACP

Medical School: Univ. of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, KS

Residency: Eastern Virginia Grad. School of Medicine Fellowship (Geriatrics): Univ. of Tenn.-Memphis

Dr. Courtney enjoys having interesting patients in front of him and interested trainees beside him. He’s been involved in research of health care delivery and outcomes research almost every year of practice, in addition to patient care and teaching responsibilities. He was part of the Medicaring project in 1999-2001 that demonstrated innovative palliative care programs for patients with advanced heart disease or advanced lung disease could have major impacts on quality of life. He’s also interested in improving care at the end-of-life for patients with degenerative neurological diseases.

Core Faculty

Dr Stephen MeyerStephen Meyer, MD

Medical School: Windsor University School of Medicine, Basseterre, St. Kitts

Residency: Mt Sinai Hospital, Chicago, IL Fellowship: Hospice and Palliative Medicine – Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, WI

Dr. Meyer has a keen interest in both undergraduate as well as graduate medical education in the realms of primary and specialty level palliative medicine with particular emphasis on communication skills and supportive oncology to alleviate the multiple layers of physical and non-physical suffering in the seriously ill.

Dr Lisa SmaldoneLisa Smaldone, MD

Medical School: Northeastern Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, OH

Residency: Summa Health Systems, Akron, OH IM/PEDS

Dr. Tarbert-Smaldone has practiced medicine on The Grand Strand for over 16 years, as a Pediatrician, a Hospitalist and in Hospice and Palliative Care. She currently serves as Medical Director and Rehabilitation Physician at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital/Encompass Health Affiliate in both the Murrells Inlet and Little River locations. She has served as Geriatric/Internal Medicine Teaching Attending at Grand Strand Medical Center since 2017. Dr. Tarbert- Smaldone is board certified in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Hospice and Palliative Care. She is dedicated to a high level of care for her patients, with dignity and honest, caring communication being a primary focus.

Dr. Tarbert-Smaldone enjoys serving the community in many ways, especially through her local church with her husband and 3 children.

Dr Henry SaundersHenry Saunders, MD

Medical School: Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, VA

Residency: Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, HI, Internal Medicine

Dr. Saunders received his MD degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and completed Internal Medicine Internship and Residency at Tripler Army Medical Center. Most of his professional career was in Conway, SC doing primary care Internal Medicine, much of it as a solo practitioner.

Early in his career he was one of the specialists in town and cared for patients in the office, the hospital, and the Intensive Care Unit. The practice changed as more sub-specialists moved to the area, but Dr. Saunders prided himself on continued personal care for his patients and they relied on him for their care.

This holistic approach and the importance of a caring relationship attracted him to the practice of hospice and palliative care medicine. This began in 2008 as medical director of a hospice team. Since then, he completed board certification in Hospice and Palliative Care. Dr. Saunders has worked exclusively in hospice practice since he partially retired in 2017, much of it as medical director of an inpatient hospice house, and more recently with an outpatient hospice team.

An experienced and knowledgeable physician, Dr. Saunders is ready to pass on not only the basics, but also some of the intangibles to a younger generation. He asks all to remember the words: “The secret of patient care is caring for the patient.

Renee BentleyRenee Bentley, MBA, Notary Fellowship Coordinator

Mrs. Bentley has been with Grand Strand Medical Center since July, 2016 in several roles in GME. She will be responsible for the Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship, in addition to her GME Finance role.

She is originally from a small town in Iowa, very close to where the American Picker’s TV show is filmed.

She and her husband are enjoying the beach lifestyle in sunny Myrtle Beach, SC much more than snow and 20 below weather in Iowa!

She looks forward to working with the new fellows and faculty!

Program overview

As a new program, I'm sure one of the appeals of our program will be the location. Myrtle Beach is a popular destination for beach-lovers and golfers. Dining options are outstanding; outdoor activities abound. There are over 130 residents at GSMC, and all have interests outside of work - let us know of your interests and well get you in contact with one of our "resident experts."

We are making a commitment to provide structured teaching in all areas of the palliative care board exam. We do not intend to teach only to pass the exam, but to provide additional training based on our practice patterns and your interests. To this end, we have assembled a large team of affiliate faculty.

The retirement communities around the area are thriving, making opportunities for starting your career in the area. Obviously, as a new program, we hope to have some of our graduates stick around and join us in teaching future fellows.

Training, education & research

As a new program in 2021, we have the excitement and enthusiasm of a large group of interested people, with years of varied experience. We are hoping to supply the next generation of palliative care providers with the tools they need for excellent bedside care. There are opportunities for health care delivery research and performance improvement projects, and we have a Ph.D. research coordinator in the GME Department who will support the fellow in design and data analysis of their research or performance improvement project.

We will be providing specific training in effective educational practices to provide fellows with frequent feedback in improving as educators of patients, families, health care providers, and advocacy groups. Members of our faculty are active leaders in the state's hospice organization.

We believe we have a solid program of experiences in the clinics, the homes, the hospitals, and nursing homes in our area. Collaborative options with teaching faculty in aligned disciplines can be created for the interested fellow, whether in a pain management clinic, or with a cardiologist managing heart failure, or hospice visits for pediatric patients.

Conference schedule

There is a weekly core conference, to include assigned readings and a discussion between the fellows and faculty, focused on topics in the ABIM Blueprint for Exam for Palliative Care. Participation in all conferences assures coverage of all subjects included in the specialty board exam.

There is a monthly journal club, focused on new information in the specialty. Fellows will be expected to present five of these sessions.

There are monthly workshops, involving multiple specialties, around subjects such as ethics, interdisciplinary team dynamics, and wound care. One session each quarter focuses on provider burnout and emotional health.

Palliative Medicine Grand Rounds will be six times/year, with state-of-the-art discussions of areas of interest to palliative care providers.

The rotations have weekly patient-based conferences; the consult services and clinic have daily huddles to discuss patient care issues.

Curriculum and rotation schedule

The academic year is divided into 2-week and 4-week blocks.

Inpatient Palliative Care Consult Service (GSMC) - The fellow will participate in the evaluation and management of inpatients at a regional medical center.

Inpatient Geriatric Medicine Consult Service (GSMC) - The fellow will participate on a geriatric teaching service, focusing on goals of care after life-changing injuries.

Home Hospice - The fellow will accompany hospice physicians and mid-levels on home visits in the area. A specific rotation focused on pediatric patients is part of our program.

Inpatient Hospice - A block rotation at a nearby 36-bed hospice facility, offering routine, GIP, and respite care.

Long-term care - Nursing Home rounds with a palliative care-certified physician, focusing on symptom management in the long-term care setting.

A four-week block focusing on research, performance improvement, and administrative issues is offered in the first quarter of the academic year.

Electives in pain management, chronic disease management, radiation oncology (and others based on the interest of the fellow) is included in the last half of the year.

Outpatient palliative care clinic is scheduled for one afternoon per week - during most rotations, the fellow is excused from their block activities to attend clinic.

Fellow wellness benefits

Our burnout prevention plan

Food

  • Access to food
  • Snacks in House Staff lounges 24/7
  • Monthly “Wacky Food Holiday” (ex: Cupcake day, Oreo Day, Potato Chip Day, etc.)
  • Several great options less than 2 miles of hospital

Exercise and self-care benefits

  • Discounted membership to YMCA (gym, pool, basketball courts, etc.)
  • Free access to physical therapy equipment
  • Time away for medical and dental appointments

Formal events

  • Orientation welcome party (Pelican’s baseball game)
  • Holiday party
  • Match Day outing
  • Graduation party
  • Retreats

 Tools for efficient rounding and time spent with patients

  • Laptop
  • Dictation devices
  • iPhone – patient records at your fingertips, secure text communication

Other features to decrease burnout

  • Participate in local sport leagues
  • “Need a Ride” provides Uber or Lyft when fatigued
  • Community outreach

Providing support

  • Intern advisory/ mentorship groups
  • House Staff wellness committee
  • Free Employee Assistance Program – available 24/7 to assist with things like:
    • Achieving personal goals
    • Resolving conflicts
    • Improving health – weight loss and stress management
    • Planning for life events
    • Financial concerns
    • Legal concerns

Burnout treatments

We recognize that our physicians may need help from time to time coping with the daily challenges of their professional development. In addition to the counseling services that are offered through the Office of Graduate Medical Education, HCA offers free access to mental health services and other confidential therapy treatments.

ACGME AWARE app

Download the ACGME’s new AWARE Well-Being app!

Designed for physicians, primarily junior residents, the AWARE app introduces concepts from cognitive behavior therapy to help people recognize common behaviors that can impact well-being. The app is designed to help individuals:

  • Reflect on how their own cognitive habits may impact their sense of well-being
  • Identify strategies for promoting resilience and well-being

To download, search the App Store or Google Play for "ACGME AWARE."

FAQs

Many of our residents live at SeaPath on 67th apartment complex. It is 2 miles from the medical center and has a discount for house staff. There are similar perks at other apartment complexes, contact us for a list.

Grand Strand Medical Center is a modern full-service hospital, providing Level 1 Trauma Care, state-of-the-art stroke and heart attack care, and integrated cancer care services.

Embrace Hospice provides all levels of inpatient hospice care, with a very high-functioning interdisciplinary team.

Our Home Health Agencies and Home Hospice programs that we work with are highly rated, with board-certified palliative care physicians that will work with the fellows.

The outpatient clinic is in a new building adjacent to the medical center.

Fellows and staff will participate in quarterly workshops on self-care and provider burnout. In addition to didactic discussions of self-care, hands-on experience with mindfulness and work-life balance are planned.

All applications must be submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and through the National Resident Matching Program. In considering applications, we review academic records, letters of recommendation from the Dean's office, national board scores, publications and honors, as well as the applicant's interest and goals.

ACGME #: 540512124

NRMP #: 1761540F0

As a new program, I'm sure one of the appeals of our program will be the location. Myrtle Beach is a popular destination for beach-lovers and golfers. Dining options are outstanding; outdoor activities abound. There are over 130 residents at GSMC, and all have interests outside of work - let us know of your interests and well get you in contact with one of our "resident experts."

We are making a commitment to provide structured teaching in all areas of the palliative care board exam. We do not intend to teach only to pass the exam, but to provide additional training based on our practice patterns and your interests. To this end, we have assembled a large team of affiliate faculty.

The retirement communities around the area are thriving, making opportunities for starting your career in the area. Obviously, as a new program, we hope to have some of our graduates stick around and join us in teaching future fellows.

Please contact Renee Bentley, MBA, GME Hospice & Palliative Care Fellowship Program Coordinator, at (843) 692-4759.

Our faculty is currently involved in several research projects. Additionally, there will be research support available at Grand Strand Medical Center.