Holli Martinez, Park City resident and director of the Palliative Care Program at the University of Utah Hospital, received a $50,000 Sojourn Award from
Holli Martinez, Park City resident and director of the Palliative Care Program at the University of Utah Hospital, received a $50,000 Sojourn Award from the Cambia Health Foundation on Oct. 24. Martinez will use the funds to advance palliative care. (Photo courtesy of Justin Martinez)

Park City resident and nurse practitioner Holli Martinez received a $50,000 award last Thursday for her work in providing palliative care to patients at the University of Utah Hospital.

The award, called the Sojourn Award, was granted to Martinez by the Cambia Health Foundation. Martinez is the director of the Palliative Care Program at the University of Utah Hospital.

The Cambia Health Foundation looks at leaders and innovators in the palliative care field in Idaho, Washington, Utah and Oregon in granting the $50,000 award. The grant money is meant to provide increased access to a specialty area of care.

Palliative care, which is specialized medical care that focuses on relieving symptoms of serious illnesses by improving quality of life, is a priority for Martinez at the hospital, who said it is "patient and family-centered care."

"[Palliative care] is bringing that shared medical decision-making model where we have a discussion with the patient and say, 'These are your diagnoses and this is what you can do for these things,'" Martinez said. "But let's talk about your quality of life, what brings you joy and what matters to you."

Patricia Berry, the Associate Director of Education and Practice at the University of Utah's Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing, received the award last year and nominated Martinez this year.

"Holli brings a unique perspective as director of the Palliative Care Program," Berry said. "She understands the outpatient and hospice care side, plus the palliative care side."

Berry said palliative care "helps people clarify what the goals of their care are" and is not always related to end-of-life care.

"It's a chance for patients and families to sit down and say what's important," Berry said. "Palliative care is not about limiting treatment or withdrawing treatment. It's assuring people get the care that they want based on information and support."

Martinez said she has developed multiple policies and procedures in regard to pain and symptom management that only a palliative physician would have the expertise to work with. She also teaches end-of-life and palliative classes at the University of Utah's College of Nursing, where she is an adjunct faculty member.

Martinez said the Palliative Care Program is working with the University of Utah health plan to improve patient care pathways and palliative care consultation 'trigger criteria,' which help to determine when to begin palliative care. She added that she is unsure what she will do with the grant money at this time.

"Whatever we do with the [grant money], I'm very committed to making sure it improves access to what we do that it helps educate our residents and that it's something that can be sustained through the years," Martinez said.

Berry said Martinez received the award because of her program's great reputation. Although Berry has been in the field longer, she hopes more awards go to up-and-coming care providers who are "innovators in their field."

"Holli is the best of the best. She really deserves this award," Berry said.

"To have the conversation with that patient in one of the biggest crises of their lives [is so important]," Martinez said. "It's just a wonderful honor to be recognized for something that I truly love and am passionate about."