Sojourns Award recognizes leadership in palliative care

SEATTLE - The Regence Foundation is honoring Anthony Back, MD, with a Sojourns Award for his leadership and innovation in advancing palliative care in Washington State.  The award includes a $50,000 grant to support continued advancements in palliative care. Dr. Back plans to designate the award to the University of Washington in support of a new project specifically aimed at disseminating the communication skills work he has developed through the Onco-Talk project, a training program for oncology fellows funded by the National Cancer Institute and based at the University of Washington that is dedicated to improving oncologists' communication skills.

A professor of oncology at University of Washington, Back is a medical oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) specializing in colorectal, liver, pancreatic and stomach cancer; and is director of the Program on Cancer Communication. He was the physician lead in establishing the palliative care program at SCCA.

Palliative care is a medical specialty that brings relief and comfort to seriously ill patients and their families. The award is part of The Regence Foundation’s Sojourns® program to expand access to hospital and community based palliative care services.

“Not only has Dr. Back been instrumental in bringing palliative care programs to Puget Sound area hospitals, but he is also a pioneer in doctor-patient communication,” said Peggy Maguire, Regence Foundation board chair. “His work teaching doctors how to talk with their patients about palliative care helps ensure patients and their families have the resources they need to make informed decisions about care at the end of life.”

Dr. Back is responsible for bringing palliative care programs to institutions throughout the Puget Sound area, including SCCA and the Veterans Administration hospital. Through his innovative Onco-Talk program, he has taught hundreds of doctors, medical students and clinicians how to have compassionate conversation about end-of-life care with patients and their families. He is also the author of numerous papers, articles and books about improving the doctor-patient conversation around palliative care for cancer patients and others with life-limiting illnesses.

“It is a tremendous honor for me to receive the Sojourns award,” said Dr. Back. “Palliative care is a critical need in our health care systems to address quality of life for patients living with serious illness and their families, and the skills that clinicians use to communicate with patients and families empowers them to make decisions that match their values, decreases unnecessary worry, and improves outcomes.”

Dr. Back will be honored for his accomplishments at a Sojourns Award ceremony in Portland on November 30. To attend or learn more, visit

About The Regence Foundation
The Regence Foundation is the corporate foundation of Regence, the largest health insurer in the Northwest/Intermountain region and a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. A 501(c)3 grantmaking organization, the Foundation partners with organizations driving significant change in health care delivery and accessibility in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Through its Sojourns® program, the Foundation also supports organizations advancing quality palliative and end-of-life care. For more information visit or