SA Mourns a Palliative Care Giant

Categories: Category, In The Media, Leadership, and People & Places.

The South African Palliative Care community mourns the recent passing of Dr. Sarah Fakroodeen, a medical doctor, esteemed colleague and champion of palliative care.  Dr. Sarah, as she was fondly known, passed away suddenly on 14th March 2021 at the age of 72.

Says colleague and friend, Dr. Mitchell Scott, “Sarah has been a palliative medicine pioneer in providing palliative care to hospice patients and families and advocating for palliative care services with public and private health care sectors-the government and hospitals. Dr Sarah, in championing her advocacy for Palliation, enjoyed imparting her knowledge and experience to others.”

Palliative care and hospice treatment, which comprises pain management, holistic palliative care, family and patient support as well as end of life care, plays a pivotal role in our country. Even before the appearance of Covid-19, South Africa had for many decades experienced a dramatic increase in the number of people requiring care and support due rising illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases such as cancer.

Dr. Sarah made outstanding contributions to the development of Palliative Care over the years, both locally and internationally.

At the time of her passing, Dr. Sarah was employed as the Medical Director, Head of Education and Deputy CEO of Highway Hospice. She also served as Chairperson of the Hospice Association of KwaZulu-Natal (HAKZN).    Dr. Sarah was also an active board member of the Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA) for many years, Dr Sarah was relentless in her quest to bring a strong understanding of hospice services and quality palliative care to benefit hospices across South Africa.

Born into a family of doctors, Dr. Sarah often stated that Medicine was an obvious career choice for her. She graduated at The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, after which she also qualified with a Diploma in Obstetrics and a Certificate in Family Planning.  She started her South African career in 1979 as a GP, Obstetrician and an assistant for gynaecology. She joined Highway Hospice in 1997 and qualified with a Diploma in Palliative Medicine from the University of Cardiff (Wales) followed by an M.Phil. in Palliative Medicine from the University of Cape Town (UCT). Throughout her career, she monitored developments relating to palliative medicine and found importance in keeping abreast with qualifications ensuring she was able to provide the best possible care for her patients. She pioneered the teaching of Palliative Medicine in the University of KwaZulu-Natal and was the lead in developing the Palliative Care program in Prisons which was piloted in KZN. Her expertise was highly regarded in that she authored sections of the HPCA treatment guidelines and was the External examiner for the Post Graduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine (UCT) exams from 2004 to 2010 and in 2015. Sarah engaged in palliative care research and developed strong relationships with the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas, USA. Her organisational and business skills were exemplary as evidenced by her being awarded the honour of KwaZulu-Natal Regional Businesswoman of the Year in 2014.

Says Ewa Skowronska, the CEO of the Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA): “Today we mourn the passing of a visionary in South African palliative care. Dr. Sarah can best be described as ‘the life that touched thousands of lives’ through her work. HPCA will honour her legacy by continuing our dedication to bringing quality palliative care to all South Africans.”

Tributes to Dr. Fakroodeen can be viewed at https://hpca.co.za/palliative-care/tribute-to-dr-sarah-fakroodeen/.