Michelle Schultz, MD is the Advanced Illness Management (AIM) Program Clinical Physician at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA). She is experienced in oncology, hospice and palliative care, and she has delivered an incredible perspective to VNA’s care since joining the team last September.
Michelle is originally from Massachusetts where she also went to school, first at Brandeis University and then University of Massachusetts Medical School. She did a residency in internal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, followed by a fellowship in medical oncology at Yale University.
After her training in oncology, Michelle and her husband moved to St. Louis to live near his parents. She took a job at the medical oncology division of John Cochran VA hospital in St. Louis. While at John Cochran, she developed an interest in hospice and pain management, something she had first been exposed to while at Yale. She decided to advance her knowledge because she learned that not many oncologists had training in those concentrations. So, she attended training through the VA Faculty Leaders Project in End of Life Care along with several other palliative care professionals from around the country.
By building on her palliative care expertise, Michelle was later presented with an opportunity to transition into primarily working in palliative care in a new role at SSM St. Mary’s Hospital’s inpatient palliative care department. During her time at SSM, she joined VNA part-time as the advanced illness management medical director. However, her role at SSM grew, and she decided to leave her position with VNA. Eventually, she left SSM and joined Mercy Palliative Care to set up outpatient palliative clinics. It was a role she enjoyed, but she felt there was more left to do at VNA. So, she rejoined VNA as AIM medical director.
At VNA, her favorite part of her job is meeting people in their own environments. “The people that we see are people that really want our help so they can remain in their own homes,” says Michelle. “It’s really gratifying to go in and use our abilities to help them do so.”
Michelle also spends time managing the St. Louis Palliative Care Network, a group she started ten years ago. The group enables palliative care professionals to share their experiences and collaborate to launch palliative care programs. The Network has grown to almost 300 members.
“We get together all disciplines since palliative care is so interdisciplinary,” says Michelle. “We have members that are nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, chaplains and case managers. Everybody’s equal and has the opportunity to share their ideas and teach.”
Michelle is proud that her professional work is benefiting patients and organizations in need. “Working for a small organization has been delightful. When you have an idea, people listen. That is so refreshing. Everybody’s extremely welcoming and accommodating, and feeling like you’re a valuable part of the team is a huge contrast from large healthcare conglomerates.”
Michelle plans to build on AIM’s growth in recent years. She’s also focused on promoting palliative care education across the state. It’s her commitment to work with patients and other providers that ensures all needs are well-coordinated and met.
For more information about our AIM program, visit our webpage.