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The Fifth Annual Memorial Hermann Supportive Medicine Symposium – Improving the Quality of Life

The Fifth Annual Memorial Hermann Supportive Medicine Symposium – Improving the Quality of Life serves an educational opportunity for our community. Through engaging, in-depth presentations and a discussion panel, the speakers will enlighten attendees about emerging techniques in chronic illness care and end-of-life planning.

Supportive medicine is an interdisciplinary care team focused on improving the quality of life for patients and their families by reducing the physical and emotional burdens of people living with serious illness. In addition, supportive medicine helps address the psychosocial and spiritual needs of patients and their family members.

The symposium’s topics will engage individuals in numerous backgrounds, focusing on those specializing in cardiology, critical care, internal medicine, neurology, primary care, pulmonology and supportive medicine (palliative care) as well as advanced practice registered nurses, chaplains, pharmacists, registered nurses and social workers.

Learn more about Supportive Medicine at Memorial Hermann.




  • Cardiology
  • Critical care
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Palliative care
  • Primary care
  • Pulmonology
  • Oncology
  • Supportive medicine


  • Advanced practice registered nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Pharmacists
  • Physicians
  • Registered nurses
  • Social workers

Learning Objectives

After attending this conference, participants should be able to:

  • Navigate difficult, high acuity patient cases through effective communication strategies
  • Identify compassion fatigue and the need for resilience in order to prevent secondary stress
  • Manage cases in need of advance care planning or goals of care conversation


CNE Accreditation Information

  • This activity will provide 6.50 Contact Hours for Nursing
  • Memorial Hermann Health System is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the Texas Nurses Association – Approver, an accredited approver with distinction by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

CME/Ethics Accreditation Information

  • Memorial Hermann Health System is accredited by the Texas Medical Association to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
  • Memorial Hermann Health System designates this live activity for a maximum of 6.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.™ Physicians should claim only credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
  • This conference has been designated by Memorial Hermann Health System for 6.50 credits of education in medical ethics and/or professional responsibility.


8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Registration & Light Breakfast
9:00 – 9:30 a.m.Matthew Harbison, MDThe Role of Supportive Medicine through Transition of Care
9:30 – 10:30 a.m.Mary Lynn McPherson, PharmD, MA, MDE, BCPS, CPECommon Pharmacomistakes in Advanced Illness Opioid Conversion MISCalculations! Achieving Pain Relief Quickly AND Safely
10:30 – 10:45 a.m.
10:45 – 11:45 a.m.Rodney Tucker, MDCan We Talk? Emphasizing Good Communication Around Serious Illness
11:45 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.
Break/Lunch Retrieval
12:05 – 1:05 p.m.Rodney Tucker, MD;
Sandra Gomez, MD, FAAHPM;
Dominic Glorioso Jr., DO;
Ahsan Azhar, MD;
Rev. Mike Johnston, DMin
Can We Talk? Breakout Sessions
1:05 – 1:15 p.m.
1:15 – 2:15 p.m.BJ Hightower, BCC, DMin, Senior ChaplainThe Role of the Chaplain in Palliative Care
2:15 – 3:15 p.m.Scharlotte Spencer, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, ACHPNEthical Issues Related to Palliative Care
3:15 – 3:30 p.m.
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.Catherine Giegerich, MS, BSN, RNCaring Overload: Compassion Fatigue and Nursing Burn Out
4:30 – 5:00 p.m.Sandra Gomez, MD, FAAHPMClosing Remarks


Sandra Gomez, MD, FAAHPM  | Dominic Glorioso, DO, FACOI | Ahsan Azhar, MD | Rev. Mike Johnston, DMin


Matthew T. Harbison, MD | Mary Lynn McPherson, Pharm.D., MA, MDE, BCPS, CPE | Rodney O. Tucker, MD, MMM | Rev. BJ Hightower, DMin  |

Catherine Giegerich, DNP, RN, MS, FACHE | Scharlotte Spencer, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, ACHPN 



Matthew T. Harbison, MD

Matthew T. Harbison, MD, serves as the Vice President of Care Coordination and Hospital Medicine for Memorial Hermann Health System. He also serves as the Medical Director of the Memorial Hermann Physician Network (MHMD) Hospitalist Program. MHMD is Memorial Hermann Health System’s clinically integrated physician organization comprised of approximately 4,000 physicians throughout the Greater Houston area.

Dr. Harbison specializes in the provision, education and administration of hospitalist care, and has extensive experience in the field of case management. Dr. Harbison’s leadership was instrumental in the creation and development of the MHMD Hospitalist Program, including his foundational work on the System-wide Hospitalist Dashboard. As a practicing hospitalist, Dr. Harbison understands the current challenges and the unique opportunities facing hospital-based physicians and is working to remedy many areas of opportunity. Furthermore, he leads System-wide initiatives including addressing optimal solutions for bundled payments with a comprehensive case management approach to patient care extending beyond the acute care episode, sepsis workshops, COPD workshops and efforts to streamline care under the Clinical Care Redesign initiative.

In addition, Dr. Harbison currently serves as chairman of the Hospitalist Clinical Programs Committee (CPC), Section Chief of the Hospitalist Division at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Physician Leader of the Hospital Medicine Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Service Line Projects at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, and as an advisor on several CPCs. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in Microbiology and a Government Concentration in International Relations. He earned his Doctorate of Medicine from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and completed his postgraduate training at Duke University Medical Center in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine. Dr. Harbison is double board certified in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine.


Mary Lynn McPherson, Pharm.D., MA, MDE, BCPS, CPE

Mary Lynn McPherson, Pharm.D., MA, MDE, BCPS, CPE, is Professor and Executive Director, Advanced Post-Graduate Education in Palliative Care in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore. Dr. McPherson has a master’s degree in Instructional Systems Development, and a master’s in Distance Education and e-Learning. Dr. McPherson has maintained a practice in both hospice (local and national) and ambulatory care her entire career.

Dr. McPherson teaches extensively in the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum on pain management and end of life care, including didactic and experiential content. She is the Program Director of the Online Master of Science and Graduate Certificates in Palliative Care at the University of Maryland - Baltimore. She also developed one of the first and few palliative care pharmacy residencies in the U.S. Dr. McPherson has won numerous awards for teaching and her innovative practice in end of life care. She has published numerous articles, chapters and four books including the second edition of the best-selling “Demystifying Opioid Conversion Calculations: A Guide for Effective Dosing.”


Rodney O. Tucker, MD, MMM

Rodney O. Tucker, MD, MMM, is a native Alabamian who graduated from medical school at UAB in 1989 and is now board certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. After a career in private practice, home care and hospice services, Dr. Tucker returned to his alma mater in 2002. Since that time, he has been active at UAB in the development of a comprehensive clinical, educational and research program in palliative care, including the Southeast Institute for Innovation in Palliative and Supportive Care at UAB.

Serving currently as the Director of the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care, Dr. Tucker also completed his master’s in Medical Management at the University of Southern California in 2009. At UAB, Dr. Tucker has provided leadership in the opening of a 12-bed inpatient palliative care unit in 2006 and in the development of an ambulatory HIV palliative care clinic. The UAB Center provides care for more than 3,000 new patients annually and is currently a CAPC designated Palliative Care Leadership CenterTM.

Dr. Tucker has been an active member of AAHPM and CAPC for over a decade, having served in several leadership roles in the Academy including serving on the board of directors since 2014. He has participated in the education and mentorship of over 300 fellow learners and health care systems over the past decade and currently holds the Ritchie Endowed Chair in Palliative Care Leadership at UAB. From 2013-2018, Dr. Tucker also served in the role of Chief Experience Officer for UAB Medicine. In that role, Dr. Tucker worked with Alabama’s largest employer in the practice of evidence-based leadership and communication to enhance the patient experience in the setting of a changing healthcare environment.


Rev. BJ Hightower, DMin

Rev. BJ Hightower, DMin, draws on her nursing, local church, and chaplaincy experiences, to focus on "whole patient care" as it relates to caring for Palliative Care patients in a supportive, caring, patient and family centered team approach. Patients and families come with their own stories, dreams, hopes and expectations.

All members of the team work together as a cohesive, integrated system to provide the best “whole patient care” from curative, controlled and palliative approaches to care, never abandoning care for the patient, family or staff. They do all of this, giving careful attention to stories, dreams, hopes and expectations of the patient and family as they experience change in the health condition of the patient. Hightower will focus on the role of the chaplain in this team approach.


Catherine Giegerich, DNP, RN, MS, FACHE

Catherine Giegerich, DNP, RN, MS, FACHE, is Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President for Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. As CNO, Giegerich oversees all nursing functions and patient care practices within the 397-bed Magnet®-designated, Level II trauma facility within the Memorial Hermann Health System. She serves on multiple system committees, including the Finance Committee of the board.

In a healthcare leadership career spanning many years, Giegerich has worked in numerous roles in operations, academics, and clinical practice, including inaugural Administrator of the Houston Methodist Hospital Neurological Institute. Giegerich also holds the position of Assistant Dean-Academic Partnership with The University of Texas Cizik School of Nursing, where she combines her passion for education with onboarding new nurses into the profession.

Giegerich’s work in the community includes Board positions at the San Jose Clinic and Yes-to-Youth Montgomery County Youth Services. She serves in an advisory capacity to Interfaith Community Clinic, Montgomery County Meals-On-Wheels, and UT Cizik School of Nursing. Giegerich is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and holds a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Chamberlain College of Nursing, Master of Science in Health Systems Management from Texas Woman’s University and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Prairie View A&M University.


Scharlotte Spencer, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, ACHPN

Scharlotte Spencer DNP, APRN, FNP-C, ACHPN received her Doctor of Nursing Practice in Advance Practice Leadership from Chamberlain University and is currently working as a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner for Symptom Management Consultants in Humble, Texas. A strong advocate for Advance Care planning and palliative medicine, Spencer is involved in educations patients, families and medical professions in supportive medicine. She is also very passionate in health and wellness, behavioral changes and self-motivation.

Her professional interests include education, mentorship and public speaking. Spencer is an ELNEC (End of life Nursing Consortium) trainer and an advance care planning advocate. She also enjoys precepting and mentoring nursing students. In addition, she serves as a member of the Hospice and palliative Nurse Association and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.


Sandra Gomez, MD, FAAHPM

Sandra Gomez, MD, FAAHPM currently serves as the medical director for Supportive Medicine at Memorial Hermann Physician Network (MHMD). She is responsible for the growth and development of the Supportive Medicine service line, which provides palliative care outpatient and inpatient services for Memorial Hermann Health System. She currently supervises six hospital inpatient services, four clinics and a home palliative care services program. Her team and she were awarded $19 million in DSRIP funding to advance palliative care in the Greater Houston area. In addition, her team has been awarded the 2015 American Hospital Association Circle of Life Citation of Honor.

Dr. Gomez is also the owner of Symptom Management Consultants, PA (SMC), a private practice specializing in Palliative Medicine. SMC provides physician and nurse practitioner services for the Greater Houston area. These services include hospital consultations, home visits, hospice supervision and education for Palliative Medicine fellows. She is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and Palliative Care at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she teaches fellows specializing in Palliative Medicine. She received her medical degree from University of Washington School of Medicine, where she received the American Academy of Family Practice Award in Family Medicine. Additionally, she participated in the Palliative Care Education Program at Harvard Medical School, and was awarded the title of Faculty Scholar.

Dr. Gomez is double-boarded in Family Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Care. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and has authored chapters in several academic textbooks on the topics of pain management and the palliative management of heart failure. She and her husband John have five children ranging in age from seven months to 12 years.


Dominic Glorioso, DO, FACOI

Dominic Glorioso, DO, FACOI, is a Palliative Care Specialist, Physician Educator at York Hospital, and the interim Medical Director of Palliative Care. His program has a very active inpatient consultative service as well as a rapidly growing outpatient service. Dr. Glorioso also serves as the York hospice team physician for Hospice and Community Care. He attended medical school and completed his residency at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Glorioso is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Additionally, he is certified as a trainer in Education in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (EPEC) and completed a program in palliative care education and practice at Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care. In 2012 he became a fellow in the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine. Dr. Glorioso is a national and international speaker on palliative care topics and has been told that his presentations are “entertaining and informative.” He also enjoys doing community education presentations on end of life topics.


Rev. Mike Johnston, DMin

Rev. Mike Johnston, DMin, recently moved to Fort Worth to join his wife who is on faculty at TCU. Upon his relocation to Texas, he and his wife started an Advanced Care Planning consulting business. He most recently served as the Director of the Department of Spiritual Care at AnMed Health. Previously, Rev. Johnston served as Director of Spiritual Care at CaroMont Regional Hospital in North Carolina, as well as Director of Pastoral Care for two hospitals in Virginia. During his time in North Carolina, Rev. Johnston helped develop the Palliative Care program working primarily in critical care; created a hospital-wide bereavement program; worked with LifeShare of the Carolinas in making CRH a National Award winning organ donor hospital; was instrumental in designing a hospital memorial for organ/tissue donors; and helped develop a faith community nursing program.

Rev. Johnston is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and attended Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, graduating with dual master’s degrees of Divinity and Christian Education. He completed his doctoral work at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, with his dissertation focused on the Integration of Spirituality into Healthcare. His received his clinical training in chaplaincy from the MCV Hospitals in Richmond, VA.


Ahsan Azhar, MD

Ahsan Azhar, MD, is an Assistant Professor, currently also serving as the Associate Director of the Acute Palliative Care Unit in the Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He is board certified both in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Care by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Azhar’s ambition is to gain insight into evidence-based aspects of providing Palliative Care. His interests include symptom management in advanced cancer, providing supportive education and fostering a caring relationship to help relieve psychosocial, emotional and spiritual distress among cancer patients and families. He is also actively involved in Palliative Care research.


Reserve your seat, and register today.

Location Info

Located in the heart of west Houston, Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center has been providing high-quality, convenient healthcare to the residents of Greater and West Houston since 1971.

Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center

909 Frostwood Drive
Texas Conference Center
Houston, Texas 77024

The entrance of the 909 Frostwood building is at the corner of Frostwood Drive and Kingsride Lane. Visitors may park in the Visitors Parking Lot behind the building or on the roof of Garage 1.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about the symposium or need help with registration, please reach out to Shvon Lowe at