Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 23, 2014

Local physician in D.C. to serve on policy committee

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Phillip A. Peterson, M.D., a local family practice physician, whose medical practice has grown in terms of serving patients in need of Hospice and Palliative, will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to continue serving on the public policy committee of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care.

This will mark the second, one-year term that Peterson has served on the committee which provides federal lawmakers with insights into how new policies or legislation has a real world impact on patients as well as Hospice and Palliative care-givers, including nurses, doctors and others.

“The angels in this system are the Hospice nurses,” Peterson said. “I will get a call in the middle of the night sometimes from a Hospice nurse who is calling me from the back side of a mountain in McDowell County and trying to help a patient in pain crisis. Almost always, they will apologize for getting me out of bed. It’s no hardship for me, but here they are in a really remote area trying to help a patient, but they apologize for bothering me. They’re the angels here. It is inspiring.”

Peterson, a physician at Bluefield Regional Medical Center who is employed by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, has served as medical director of Westwood Health Care Center for 20 years. “With our aging demographics here in this area, I saw a need for more geriatric care,” he said. As a result, he earned certification in geriatric care in 2009, as well as Hospice and Palliative Care in 2012. He also earned re-certification in Family Medicine earlier this year.

“I sat for three sets of boards in five years,” Peterson said. “It was a challenge.”

Peterson, 57, is a native of Stanton, Iowa. “Stanton is the home of Virginia Christine who played the part of Mrs. Olson in the old Folgers Coffee commercials,” he said. After graduating from high school, he attended Faith Baptist Bible College,” understanding my faith,” worked two years, then earned his undergraduate degree in 1981, and his M.D. in 1985, both from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Peterson said that he wasn’t considering a career in medicine, but after Bible College, he worked in the nursing field and found his calling. He said that all of his education as well as the evolution of his medical practice has put him in a unique position to provide insights into rural healthcare to policy-makers in government. In April, he was selected as chair-elect of the Rural Special Interest Group of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care.

Peterson explained that Hospice care is used for patients in the final stages of a terminal illness who have about six months or less left to live. Palliative care addresses the much different needs of patients with serious or critical illnesses and seeks to provide ways for patients to improve their quality of life, reduce the number of hospital re-admissions and “improves their chances of dying at home with dignity,” he said. “They can make intelligent decisions concerning their health care.”

According to Peterson, physicians have not been provided with training concerning giving “the talk,” to terminally ill patients, to tell them that no matter what they do, it won’t prolong or improve their quality of their life. “We don’t want to fail our patients,” he said. However, he noted that the personal component of effective communications between physicians, patients and families can make a big difference in comfort and quality of life.

“Awareness is important,” he said. “A lot more can be accomplished, not by more laws and regulations, but by creating better awareness. Public education is also important.”

Peterson serves on both the Public Policy Committee and the State Health Policy Issues Policy Working Group, a sub-committee of the PPC.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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