Dr. Kass has long lent his expertise to hospice effort

September 04, 2007|By JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Dr. Frederic H. Kass III

Age - 59.

Occupation - Physician in Internal Medicine specializing in Hematology and Medical Oncology.

Hometown - South Orange, N.J.

Where would you see Kass? - Besides being a partner in a busy medical practice at Robinwood Medical Center, Dr. "Rick" Kass is also the medical director for Hospice of Washington County and the John Marsh Cancer Center. He has served as HWC's part-time medical director since its inception in 1980, when everything was done on a volunteer basis.

As medical director, Kass is responsible for the quality of patient care. He serves as an adviser for the team of nurses, staff and volunteers who work with patients in their homes and nursing homes and confers with community physicians and other health care professionals on pain and symptom management.


Kass is also responsible for certifying and recertifying a patient's eligibility for hospice services. There are currently about 125 patients being cared for through HWC.

Hospice of Washington County has expanded the medical director's position to a full-time one. When someone is hired to fill that job, Kass will become the senior medical consultant.

His role will be to provide education and consultative support to the employees and volunteers at HWC, along with community physicians.

Kass moved to Hagerstown in 1979, following undergraduate studies at Colgate University in upstate New York, medical school at George Washington University School of Medicine, a residency in internal medicine at University of Virginia Hospital and a fellowship at George Washington University School of Medicine.

He is married, with two grown children.

With Kass' specialties of hematology, which is blood disorders, and oncology, the practice of cancer, his connection with hospice evolved naturally. Kass said in the early 1980s, 90 percent of hospice patients were cancer patients.

Now, 40 percent of hospice patients have chronic debilitating conditions - Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart and lung diseases - where aggressive care can change the quality of life, Kass said.

While most people recognize hospice care as end-of-life care, Kass said he and the HWC staff and volunteers would prefer to start working with patients for six months before they die. It allows more time to build a relationship with the patient and their family.

Kass said the comment he hears most from families who have a loved one in hospice care is "Why didn't we do this sooner?"

With families no longer living in close proximity to each other, HWC provides a "safety net" for people who don't have it, Kass said.

"Organizations like hospice provide an invaluable service. It provides a level of support for the family ... A good outcome with hospice is that the family feels they did everything they could for their family member," Kass said.

Hobbies - "I exercise, play some golf and started to fish with my son," Kass said. He and his son recently went tuna fishing in Delaware and hope to take a fishing trip to Alaska.

What does Kass like best about Washington County? - Kass said practicing medicine in a smaller community has its advantages.

With only one hospital in the community, he said he knows the hospital staff well, which enhances the continuity of care.

It's also easier to get to know patients and their families than in a larger community.

"All of us who practice internal medicine feel that's an advantage. We're not just treating patients. We get to know them," Kass said.

He also enjoys the support of the doctors he's in practice with and likes working closely with the John Marsh Cancer Center, which he describes as a "well organized cancer center."

Close proximity to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., means there are good referral institutions close by for patients who need additional services and treatments.

For more information about Hospice of Washington County, call 301-791-6360 or go to the Web site at

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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