Lumina’s Dr. Helen Kao honored as American Geriatrics Society’s 2022 Clinician of the Year

Categories: People & Places.

Photo: Dr. Helen Kao

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) named Helen S. Kao, MD, as its 2022 Clinician of the Year. Dr. Kao, who is Medical Director of Clinical Innovations at Lumina Hospice & Palliative Care (based in Corvallis, Oregon), and Adjunct Professor at UCSF School of Medicine, will be honored at the AGS 2022 Annual Scientific Meeting, May 12-14 in Orlando.

“Our 2022 Clinician of the Year, Dr. Helen Kao, is an exceptional physician who provides exemplary care through many different care settings with a holistic, patient-centered focus,” said AGS President Peter Hollmann, MD, AGSF.

Dr. Kao, a board-certified physician in internal medicine with certificates of added qualifications in geriatrics and hospice and palliative care, has created programs to serve older adults with advanced and terminal illnesses. In her current role at Lumina Hospice and Palliative Care in Corvallis, Oregon, Dr. Kao continues to develop and provide palliative and geriatrics services by overseeing a growing palliative case management program. Previously, she directed UCSF’s house calls program and was responsible for tripling its capacity to serve older adults.

“Providing care that is equitable, ethical, and socially aware is at the heart of Dr. Kao’s clinical practice,” says Elizabeth French, Lumina’s Executive Director. “Dr. Kao demonstrates a strong belief that aging, or life-limiting illness, should not strip someone of their rights, choices, and dignity, or their ability to live as full and healthy a life as possible,” says French. “Dr. Kao continually looks for ways to make care accessible to marginalized populations, often exploring new technologies and other innovations. Her commitment has a positive influence on her team and a ripple effect throughout the community.”

Promoting diversity in geriatrics is an essential aspect of Dr. Kao’s career. As Chair of the Residential Ombudsman and Public Guardian Advisory Board (ROPGAP), she advocates for Oregonians with disabilities and helps elevate the caregiver workforce which is predominantly made up of women and BIPOC individuals. In this role, Dr. Kao helps shape the advocacy priorities of the board, which focus on protecting the rights of people with dementia, mental health conditions and intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Invited to present to scores of regional and national meetings and symposia, Dr. Kao has authored or co-authored textbooks on topics in geriatrics, and her articles have been published in leading peer-reviewed medical journals.

An AGS member since 2007, Dr. Kao received her BA cum laude from Harvard and her MD from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, where she served her residency in the Program in Residency Investigation Methods and Epidemiology (PRIME) Internal Medicine and fellowship in Geriatrics. She has been honored for professional excellence by some 20 prestigious awards—including UCSF’s Council of Master Clinicians and, most recently, the Elizabeth Wessinger Award, recognizing people who make a difference for end-of-life care in Oregon and across the nation.


Founded as Benton Hospice Service in 1980, Lumina Hospice & Palliative Care is an independent, non-profit community resource providing clinically excellent responsive care for those nearing the end of life. Lumina ensures in-home comfort, compassion, and control for every patient throughout their remaining days—wherever home is.

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