Palliative Care

The Palliative Care Program at UCSF Medical Center provides specialized medical care for patients who are seriously ill. We do this by offering expert symptom management, ensuring patients' wishes for their medical care are both known and honored, and helping patients and their caregivers cope with serious illness. Our team-based method fosters a comprehensive, whole-person approach to our patients' care.

Palliative care can help people at any stage of a serious illness and may take place alongside medical treatment to cure the patient's disease. Examples of serious illness include, but are not limited to, cancer, liver disease, emphysema, heart failure, kidney failure and dementia. All patients can ask their doctors or nurses for a consultation with the Palliative Care Program.

In palliative care, our goal is simple: to help you feel as good as possible, for as long as possible.

Our Palliative Care Program:

  • Helps patients enjoy the best possible quality of life by managing symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and anxiety
  • Educates families about non-drug interventions for reducing symptoms
  • Helps patients and families make decisions consistent with what is most important to them
  • Provides counseling and spiritual support for patients and families
  • Facilitates communication about the illness process and options for care

Outpatient Services

The Palliative Care Program offers four outpatient services:

Palliative Care Clinic

The Palliative Care Clinic serves patients with serious illnesses other than cancer, such as heart failure, chronic lung disease, kidney disease, liver failure and neurologic disease. Our team includes a physician, nurse, social worker and chaplain. Based on your needs, one or several of these providers may see you. The Palliative Care Clinic team will partner closely with your other medical providers to help you feel more comfortable and supported.

Symptom Management Service (SMS)

SMS provides treatment and counseling for physical and emotional symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment. Assistance includes help with pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, advance-care planning and spiritual issues. Treatments integrate medical, psychological, social work and spiritual approaches with regular cancer care. SMS coordinates this care with scheduled cancer treatments and with the support of patients' doctors.

Pulmonary Quality of Life Clinic

This clinic is designed to improve symptoms and quality of life for patients with lung disease. Our nurse practitioner, pharmacist, social worker and chaplain work together with patients and their families to align their medical care with their personal values. The clinic also sponsors a free monthly Better Breathers education and support group for patients and caregivers on the second Thursday of each month. To join the Better Breathers email list, please contact

Bridges Program

UC Care at Home's Bridges Program provides home-based palliative consultations for seriously ill UCSF adult patients who are experiencing significant difficulty leaving their homes. The Bridges team includes physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains who specialize in symptom management, communication and safe transitions between health care teams and phases of medical care. We work closely with our patients' primary and specialty care providers, as well as with community agencies that offer home nursing and other services. To qualify for the Bridges Program, patients must live in San Francisco and have a UCSF primary care provider or specialist they see regularly.

When appropriate, we offer follow-up care by video telemedicine for all of our outpatient services.

Inpatient Services

If you are hospitalized at Parnassus or Mission Bay, or have a loved one there, your doctors may collaborate with the inpatient palliative care consult team. This team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and includes doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains.

At Parnassus, we also have a unit with two comfort care suites that provide a more homelike setting for patients receiving end-of-life care and their families.

Research and Scholarly Activities

The Palliative Care Program also:

  • Offers educational programs for resident physicians, medical students, fellows, professionals in fields related to palliative care, nursing students, faculty and staff
  • Conducts research and quality improvement initiatives

Pediatric Palliative Care

For pediatric palliative care, please visit the Integrated Pain and Palliative Care (IP3) program at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.


The American Hospital Association's Circle of Life Award, which recognizes innovation in palliative and end-of-life care, honored the UCSF Palliative Care Program in 2007. The award is co-sponsored by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, American Medical Association, and National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, with support by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To Contribute

To learn how you can contribute to the UCSF Palliative Care Program, please contact Allison White at or (415) 502-5868.

Related Information

How to Reach Us


The following services are available to patients who are NOT currently hospitalized:

Palliative Care Clinic (Non-Oncology Patients)

Phone: (415) 514-1966
Hours: Mon – Fri, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Download our brochure.

Symptom Management Service (Oncology Patients)

Phone: (415) 885-7671
Hours: Mon – Fri, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Pulmonary Quality of Life Clinic (Lung Disease Patients)

Phone: (415) 514-5582
Hours: Mon – Fri, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Bridges Program
(Housebound Patients)

Phone: (415) 514-3577
Hours: Mon – FrI, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
After-hours physician advice is available for established patients.


The following program provides palliative care to hospitalized UCSF patients at both the Mission Bay and Parnassus campuses:

Palliative Care Program
Phone: (415) 502-6861
Hours: Mon – Fri, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Parnassus Campus

Dr. Steven Pantilat, director and founder of the Palliative Care Program, heads the inpatient service at Parnassus.

The inpatient service providers at Parnassus include:

Dr. Giovanni Elia, Associate Director

Denah Joseph, Chaplain and Co-Director

Dr. Wendy Anderson

Susan Barbour, nurse specialist

Dr. Kara Bischoff

Dr. Yuika Goto

Dr. Kana McKee

Dr. Thomas Reid

Bridget Sumser, social worker

Laura Woods, social worker

Dr. Carly Zapata

Mission Bay Campus

Dr. Michael Rabow heads the inpatient service at Mission Bay.

The inpatient service providers at Mission Bay include:

Dr. Michael Rabow

Dr. Sarah Adkins

Nancy Shepard-Lopez, nurse practitioner

Daphne Stuart, social worker