PIKEVILLE – If he’s ever wished you a friendly “good morning,” just know that Bill Betz really meant it.
Diagnosed with small cell lung cancer when he was 48, Betz was facing a life-threatening illness that at the time had a 30 percent five-year survival rate.
The grim reality of his situation left him with a passion for the care and comfort of individuals going through the dying process. Betz’s understanding of making decisions about end-of-life care, for both patient and family, is deeply personal.
“One of my biggest fears at the time of my diagnosis was that my wife wouldn’t let me go. Out of feelings of guilt, helplessness and fear, she would want everything done to keep me alive,” said Betz. “I wanted to make sure she understood if I was going through the dying process she needed to let go, and not prolong the inevitability of my existence.”
Here is where the story takes a different turn.
Now in his 60s, Betz survived his illness and has spent a lifetime as an advocate for patients and families coping with the science, the culture, and the heartache of end-of-life care.
As a physician, William T. Betz, D.O., MBA, FACOFP, dist., shares his personal experience through continuing medical education presentations on hospice and palliative care for physicians. Early in his career, he was the medical director for a hospice and palliative care program in Kansas City. His son, a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, also serves as a chaplain for a hospice organization in Kentucky.
In his role as the senior associate dean for osteopathic education and chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM), Betz believes all medical students should have a background in hospice and palliative care to help them understand the options patients have during the last phase of their life.
He recently shared his story with first- and second-year KYCOM students when he was presented with the BB&T Hospice Heroes Award for his dedication, leadership and advocacy of Hospice of the Bluegrass. The award was established in 2013 in recognition of the founders and early leaders in the hospice organization. Betz has served on the Pike Advisory Board for Hospice of the Bluegrass for several years.
“It is really an honor to be recognized as a Hospice Hero,” Betz said. “Events like this bring awareness and give us an opportunity to provide input on how hospice can better serve the community in Eastern Kentucky.”