In February, Hospice by the Bay welcomed Dr. Kai Romero as our Chief Medical Officer. A graduate of Harvard University and UCSF Medical School, Dr. Romero now manages 10 staff physicians, acts as a strategic partner to our CEO and COO, and oversees the HBTB-UCSF Fellows Program – the same program in which she participated as a Fellow and achieved board-certification in Palliative Care.
Dr. Romero initially trained in Emergency Medicine and spent years in the ER, but became increasingly frustrated by the intense medical interventions and chaos that occurred in keeping end-of-life patients alive, “Emergency medicine is amazing work, but doesn’t always engage me spiritually or emotionally in a way that feels important to who I am. I found that balance in hospice and palliative care.”
Managing patient symptoms in a home environment requires daily, creative problem solving. Dr. Romero often finds that her training in Emergency Medicine informs her approach to home-based care.
“Our patients develop many of the conditions that patients present in the ER, but we treat them outside of a hospital – and that can be an advantage. We have time to know our patients, their medical histories and loved ones. We’re able to treat the whole person, not just a medical chart. Also, our clinicians are trained specifically in palliative and end-of-life care. We can recognize underlying symptoms early on, before a condition worsens, and treat patients effectively at home. This prevents unnecessary and often stressful trips to the ER.”
Dr. Romero’s passion for “whole patient” care began long before medical school. Her father, Dr. Pablo Romero, was a powerful role model. At age 11 he immigrated to the U.S. from Queretaro, Mexico to become a migrant farm worker, and overcame substantial odds to serve in the Vietnam War, enroll in college on the G.I. bill, and qualify for medical school. Once an established physician, Dr. Romero, Sr. paid it forward by opening a clinic for migrant farm workers in Salinas, CA, where he provided excellent medical care for 35 years to the under-served in his community.
“My father taught me to relate to patients as people,” says Dr. Romero. “He never embodied the physician ‘God complex’ or felt he was his patients’ savior. He believed it was a privilege to use his intelligence and compassion to serve others. For a man who began life thinking his only job option would involve physical labor, he built an incredible legacy of healing and community service. I’m proud to carry that spirit forward in the quality of care we provide through Hospice by the Bay.”