From trainee Oncologist to Professor of Palliative Care – a profile of Dr Daniela Mosoiu by Graham Perolls (Hospices of Hope founder)
In 1994, during the early days of pioneering hospice care in Brasov, I heard about an Orthodox priest called Nicolae, who had a vision to provide spiritual care within the hospitals in Brasov. Each time he set up a little portable “altar” in the Neurology Hospital, so I was told, he found it had been removed. But he didn’t give up, as he knew that the acutely sick and anxious patients in this overcrowded and depressing hospital, desperately needed someone they could pour their heart out to and find comfort in the traditions of their religion. I was intrigued by this story and one morning, I managed to track him down. Nicolae (or Nicu as he is known) immediately struck me as a deeply spiritual, open-hearted, caring and humble man. I told him about starting the hospice in Brasov and invited him to a conference we were about to hold in the city. He replied by saying that he would come but also try to bring along his wife, Daniela, who at the time was training as an oncologist and “would be interested to hear about palliative care”. I was so thankful that he was true to his word, for as soon as I met Daniela, I knew immediately that she was someone special.
The rest is history… In 1995, Daniela agreed to take a job as a doctor in the fledgling hospice home-care team in Brasov. At that stage it comprised of one other doctor, 4 Romanian nurses, a nurse from the UK, and an administrator. Very soon, she was working flat out, visiting very sick cancer patients at home from morning to evening and learning fast about palliative care. Her leadership abilities were clear from the very beginning and she was soon appointed as Hospice Casa Sperantei’s medical director. Daniela is one of those people who always “lights up the room”! Her warm smile, her boundless energy, her positive attitude and determination marked her out from the start as someone who could open doors when others couldn’t. In those early days of the hospice movement in Romania, when frequent visits had to be made to the Ministry of Health and various other authorities, I was always struck by how people took notice when Daniela spoke. Whether it was persuading the medical authorities to allow terminally ill patients to receive morphine for their pain, pressing for the speciality of palliative care to be recognised in the Romanian medical system or ensuring that standards were written and upheld for patients needing care at the end of life, Daniela was crucial to achieving a positive outcome. In those days, with hospice care being a completely new concept, there was a huge need to raise awareness of the needs of the terminally ill and educate health care professionals in all aspects of palliative care.
In 1998, we opened the Princess Diana Palliative Medicine Training Centre in Brasov and again, Daniela took a lead in heading up the educational programmes. Also around this time, she approached me about the need for establishing the first in-patient unit. I remember saying to her that if she found me some land, I would raise the money in the UK to build it!
In 2002, the dream became a reality and the first in-patient hospice opened its doors to patients. This gave palliative care much higher visibility and people came from far and wide to visit the hospice. Since that time, thousands of doctors and nurses from across Romania, and from surrounding countries have attended courses at the Education Centre and received practical hands-on training at the hospice. By this time, Daniela had attended various national and international conferences and had become a sought after speaker and valued expert in the field of palliative care. She was asked to join various committees including the European Association of Palliative Care and the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance. She has also contributed numerous articles to medical books and journals. I particularly like the foreword to a chapter she wrote in a book entitled “Compassion – the essence of Palliative and End of life Care”, in which the author says: “In this chapter, Daniela talks about the place of the heart in the practice of compassion. In the case that she shares, the simplicity of reaching out in a spirit of tenderness and love frames the compassionate response to a child seeking comfort. The idea of a simple act of kindness as a precursor to the deeper compassionate response is evoked in the care shown and learning shared across parts of Eastern Europe.”
In more recent years, Daniela has spearheaded the drive to make palliative care available in the whole of Romania. She is currently involved in a project funded by the EU which aims to design a programme to do just that. She has also been appointed Associate Professor of the Medical Faculty of the University of Brasov and President of the Palliative Care Advisory Commission of the Romanian Ministry of Health. The fact that so many more patients receive palliative care in Romania today is in no small measure due to the tireless efforts of Daniela and her team. And all across Romania and South East Europe, thousands of other health care professionals have been inspired by her example and teaching. Personally, I have loved working with Daniela over the past 26 years and I am still very thankful to God that my curiosity about the priest who had a vision to bring spiritual care to hospital patients in Brasov all those years back led me to a lady who has literally changed the face of dying in Romania.
Graham Perolls, July 2021