First Chair in Palliative Care established in Italy in Milan – at the National Cancer Institute and the Universita’ degli Studi di Milano

Augusto Caraceni, Professor of Palliative Medicine, Università degli Studi di Milano, Director of Palliative Care Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano and Chair of EAPC research network, and Gino Gobber, President, Italian Association for Palliative Care (SICP) and Director of Palliative Care Trento Autonomous Province, Italy.

A new chair in palliative care in Europe could be ‘old news’, but here in Italy it is a ‘first’. That is why we are so happy to share the good news with all of you, both within and beyond the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), as you also deserve the credit for contributing to this result.

Palliative care started in Italy in the 80s with Vittorio Ventafridda and the Floriani Foundation at the National Cancer Institute of Milan, soon followed by a number of local and national initiatives. Vittorio was among the founders of the EAPC, following the first European Congress of Palliative Care in Milan in 1988.

An historic moment: The National Cancer Institute team during the first European Congress of Palliative Care organised by the Floriani Foundation in 1988. The group are pictured in the beautiful, medieval courtyard of the University of Milan. Prof Vittorio Ventafridda and his vice-chair, Dr Franco De Conno, are in the centre with Mr Virgilio Floriani and Mrs Loredana Floriani to the left of the picture. Prof Augusto Caraceni is 5th from the right.

Two national laws (1999 and 2010) were steered by the development of palliative care in the country, hundreds of hospices were funded, and regional palliative care networks implemented. Franco De Conno, who succeeded Professor Ventafridda as Director of Palliative Care at the National Cancer Institute in Milan,  established the EAPC Research Network and centres in Milan, Genoa, Bologna, Forli’ and Palermo (at least!) have been steadily contributing to advancing palliative care knowledge and science.

Today, palliative care services are spread across the country at the community level and in hospitals, although we recognise that the presence of palliative care services in acute hospitals is yet largely insufficient. In these services hundreds, if not thousands, of professionals and volunteers are at work every day. The Italian Association for Palliative Care (SICP), a collective member of EAPC, counts today 2,357 members. Yet, Italian universities have not committed specific resources to palliative care and palliative medicine, with the exception of master’s courses. In the past few years, universities have been required to provide 25 hours of palliative care education to medical students. Moreover, in 2020 a revolutionary decision was taken by the parliament to implement medical specialisation for doctors, which will start in about one year’s time. However, there was no palliative care professorship, until the National Cancer Institute of Milan and the Università degli studi di Milano signed an agreement to establish the first chair of palliative care.

This initiative will certainly soon be followed by others, meanwhile we consider it a ‘flag of victory’ for all the international palliative care community – for the help, the support and the recognition that they have always contributed to Italian palliative care. We also acknowledge the importance of formal international academic collaboration, such as that with the Norwegian Universities of Trondheim and Oslo (Oslo University Hospital) and the European Palliative Care Research Center, coordinated by Stein Kaasa, and the importance that the continuity of the leadership in Milan – from Vittorio Ventafridda to Franco De Conno – has had in pursuing this goal. Moreover, the present Chair of the EAPC Research Network is, in fact, Professor Augusto Caraceni, and so once again collaboration with EAPC is back to Milan!

Now the time is right for change: the new specialty and chair, and increasing awareness about palliative care needs in medicine, urge Italian universities to fill the gap in the academic recognition of palliative care as a field of medicine and health care.

Further reading

EXPLORE NEW DIMENSIONS at #EAPC2021. The 17th EAPC World Congress Online offers interactive online sessions from 6 to 8 October 2021, including an entire day dedicated to Paediatric Palliative Care. And you will be able to enjoy lots of on-demand content before and after the congress dates.

  • Register for the congress here. (Special discount for EAPC members).
  • Enter the International Photo Competition here.  


This entry was posted in EAPC COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS, EAPC Research Network (RN), NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL REPORTS, RESEARCH. Bookmark the permalink.

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