Dr Ivan Lichter, born 1918, is a retired thoracic surgeon who is regarded as one of the founding fathers of palliative care and the modern hospice movement in New Zealand. He has devoted his life to this branch of medicine, improving the standards of care for terminally ill patients and changing attitudes to death and dying. His work in developing palliative care in New Zealand is reflected by the general acceptance of the hospice philosophy and in the practice of holistic care, which is now offered to patients suffering any form of distress.
Dr Lichter began to apply the principles of palliative care when he was a Thoracic Surgeon at Dunedin Hospital and when he was an Associate Professor in Surgery at the University of Otago Medical School in the early 1970s, as it was during these times he recognised the inadequacy of care for the terminally ill.
In view of his experience in working with often terminally ill patients, he came out of retirement to become the Medical Director of the Te Omanga Hospice and remained in that position till 1993. He continues to contribute to the hospice as an Honorary Consultant and it is through his dedication, research, and teaching that Te Omanga has developed into an internationally recognised model of care, research, and education in the field of palliative care. Dr Lichter has also devoted himself to teaching palliative care to yearly intakes of medical student interns and hospital medical registrars on a one-to-one basis in a clinical setting, thus influencing the interactions medical students have with their patients.
Dr Lichter has written over 50 publications, including over 25 on aspects of palliative care. His most notable written work is Communication in Cancer Care, written in 1987, explaining the illness of cancer patients. The book promotes family support for the patient and encourages the understanding of the emotions attached to the sickness. His other works have covered subjects on transplants, post operative pain, and oesophageal reflux. He also played an internationally important role on the Advisory Board of Palliative Medicine and has contributed chapters to four books on the subject, including The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine.
Dr Lichter was an Examiner in cardio-thoracic surgery to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, and a Member of the International Committee on Lung Cancer of the American College of Chest Physicians. He was also a Member of the EDP National Review Committee, the Medical Advisory Sub-Committee of the National Electronic and Data Processing Committee (Health), the New Zealand Computer Society Committee on Unique Identification Systems in New Zealand, and has been involved with countless other hospital committees.
Dr Lichter has been a Member of the Advisory Council of the International School for Cancer Care, the International Advisory Board of Palliative Medicine, and the International Advisory Committee to The International Congress on the Care of the Terminally Ill. He is also a Founding Executive Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine and has spoken at national conferences and given numerous lectures at hospitals and universities overseas in Britain, the United States of America, Scandinavia, and South Africa.
Citation prepared 1997