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University of Maryland Medicine Establishes New Palliative Medicine Division

May 20, 2019

Raya Kheirbek, MD

Dr. Raya Kheirbek, Experienced Leader in Patient Quality and Clinical Services Management, Named to Head New Division

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean. E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, along with University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) President and CEO Mohan Suntha, MD, and Stephen Davis, MBBS, The Dr. Theodore E. Woodward Chair and Professor, Department of Medicine, announced that a new Division of Palliative Medicine has been established within UMSOM’s Department of Medicine.

Palliative Medicine is specialized patient care for those living with a serious illness. The care focuses on relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The program focuses on improving the quality of life for both patients and their family members.

The new Division is led by Raya Kheirbek, MD, Professor of Medicine, who is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Kheirbek came to UMSOM with more than 20 years of experience in patient care, as well in the management of clinical services and the building of infrastructure for performance improvement. Dr. Kheirbek previously served as an Attending Physician and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Georgetown University. Since 1998, she had been working at Washington DC VA Medical Center as an internist, geriatrician and palliative medicine physician.

“We are extremely enthusiastic about the creation of this new division and the appointment of Dr. Kheirbek,” said Dr. Davis. “We will be focused primarily on symptom management and providing a medical treatment plan addressing pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual problems associated with life-threatening illnesses. In addition, we look forward to creating a fellowship and robust research program to strengthen and improve health care delivery,” he said.

Mohan Suntha, MD, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Professor of Radiation Oncology at UMSOM and UMMC President, said, “Many of our patients struggle with maintaining their quality of life while undergoing aggressive therapies for serious and life-threatening illness. Palliative medicine affords them the specialized care they need to relieve their pain and manage their symptoms – and get on with their lives. We are delighted to have a faculty physician with Dr. Kheirbek’s expertise oversee this vitally important service to our patients and their families,” he said.

Dr. Kheirbek has also held the rank of Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University’s School of Medicine. She has extensive experience in quality improvement project development and implementation in older adults. The hospice and palliative medicine program at the Washington DC VA Medical Centers, which Dr. Kheirbek developed and implemented, is nationally recognized across the VA health system as a model for integrated care.

Dr. Kheirbek received her MD Degree and Master’s in Public Health Degree from the Damascus University Medical School, Syria. She completed residency training in internal medicine at the Washington Hospital Center, followed by a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at the George Washington University.

The Palliative Medicine Division is comprised of an interdisciplinary team. Bonnie Marr, MD, Assistant Professor with a primary appointment in Emergency Medicine, and Ila Mulasi, MD, Assistant Professor, with a primary appointment in Family and Community Medicine, moved from the General Medicine Division to this new division. The clinical care team includes a pharmacist, a social worker and a pastoral care expert. Jennifer Goldborough, NRNP, Marguerite Russo, CRNP and Steve Eveland, RN, are also part of the team.

“Palliative Medicine services are in increasing demand nationwide.” said Dean Reece, who is also the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “As the nation faces a rising population of terminally ill and older patients with declining health, there is a need to place a greater emphasis on palliative care to ensure a high quality life for both patients and their families”

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. The School has over 2,500 students, residents, and fellows, and more than $530 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total workforce of nearly 7,000 individuals. The combined School and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine faculty, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit


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