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Dr. Stephen Weller, Chair

February 2012

Dr. Stephen Weller, a long-time Mission Hospice & Home Care advocate and one of the original medical advisers helping set up the fledgling
organization, is the recipient of this year’s Lotus Award for outstanding support of Mission Hospice. Weller, a radiation oncologist, received the award during the 33rd anniversary celebration Jan. 15 at the Peninsula Golf & Country Club. The Mission Hospice Auxiliary also received a special recognition award.

“Dr. Weller was a unanimous choice for the award,” said Lotus Award committee chair Kate Breaux. “He was there at the beginning with Dr. Pierre Salmon (Mission Hospice’s first medical director) and founders Marguerite “Mac” Nash and Helen Lagen. Since then, he’s continued to support us by referring patients, giving financial support and attending our events.

“It’s hard to single out any one person for this honor, but each year, one name always seems to rise above the others and this year it was Dr. Weller. He’s not only an amazing and compassionate doctor, but he’s also straighttalking.”

Weller recalls that back when Nash was one of his cancer patients, he wasn’t knowledgeable about hospice care.

“At that time, I was focused on curing cancer,” he said during a recent interview. “I didn’t ignore the fact that people were dying, but it made more sense to me to turn them over to their primary physicians. Today, I’m responsible for sending patients for hospice services, and I often follow up with home visits.”

Weller said there are no hard and fast rules for determining when it’s time to stop trying to cure an illness and instead concentrate on controlling symptoms.

“Physicians try to critique one another,” he said. “I may feel a colleague stopped aggressive therapies too soon, or that he carried on too long with treatment. I believe you shouldn’t use potentially toxic treatments for cancer up to the moment of death, but we end up doing that all too often. We must weigh potential benefits of the treatment with the negative side effects. I try to tell people what I would wish done if I or someone from my family was sitting in the patient’s chair.”

Weller said that although the concept of hospice services and palliative care has taken hold over the past 30 years, it’s still a “hard sell” for some doctors.

“Many physicians find it difficult to talk about hospice with patients because the patient or family think it’s a death sentence; that you’re giving up on them,” he said. “!ere’s a point where you say we’re going to stop trying to cure you and pay attention to making every day comfortable.”

Over the years, Weller has continued to support Mission Hospice in addition to raising funds for the Dorothy Schneider Cancer Center at Mills Hospital in San Mateo. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, he did his residency and a fellowship at Stanford Hospital before joining what is now the Western Radiation Oncology practice in San Mateo in 1975.