About Dr. Ira Byock

Ira-Byock-MDIra Byock, M.D., chief medical officer of the Providence Institute for Human Caring, is one of the nation’s foremost experts in palliative care. He is the author of the seminal books on the topic, “Dying Well”, “The Four Things that Matter Most” and “The Best Care Possible.”

Early in 2014, seeking to raise nationwide awareness of the potential for improving care through the end of life, Dr. Byock sought out Providence Health & Services as a partner in his vision for the institute. Dr. Byock has known and interacted with Providence through much of his career, and knew the organization shares his passion for whole-person and family care. Providence’s reputation for innovation and gumption – vital elements for leading a national revolution around whole-person care – also drew him.

Prior to joining Providence, Dr. Byock served as director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., from 2003 through June 2014.  He is a professor of medicine and of community and family medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Dr. Byock has been involved in hospice and palliative care since 1978, during his residency. At that time, he helped found a hospice home-care program for the indigent population served by the university hospital and county clinics of Fresno, Calif. He is a past president (1997) of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

During the 1990s, he was a co-founder and principal investigator for the Missoula Demonstration Project, a community-based organization in Montana dedicated to the research and transformation of end-of-life experience locally, as a demonstration of what is possible nationally.

From 1996 through 2006, he served as director for Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care, a national grant program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. Byock has written numerous articles on the ethics and practice of hospice, palliative and end-of-life care. His first book, “Dying Well,” (1997) has become a standard in the field. “The Four Things That Matter Most,” (2004, revised 2014) is used widely as a counseling tool by palliative care and hospice programs, as well as within pastoral care. “The Best Care Possible,” (2012) tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in American and his quest to transform care through the end of life. It has been praised by the Wall Street Journal and was recognized by the journalism organization Politico as a key issue book during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Dr. Byock has been a consistent advocate for the rights of dying patients and their families. His awards include:

  • National Hospice Organization’s Person of the Year (1995)
  • National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship’s Natalie Davis Spingarn Writers Award (2000)
  • American College of CHEST Physicians’ Roger Bone Memorial Lecture Award (2003)
  • National Association of Catholic Chaplains’ Outstanding Colleague Award (2008)
  • American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s Community Leadership Award (2011)
  • Books for a Better Life Award – Best Wellness Book: “The Best Care Possible”  (2013)
  • Visionary of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, as recognized by the voting membership of the Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (2014)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (2014)
  • Pioneer Medal for Outstanding Leadership in Health Care, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network (2014)

He has been a featured guest on numerous national television and radio programs, including NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Talk of the Nation” and “On Being”; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; Fox’s “Fox and Friends”; and PBS’ “The News Hour”.