Funded through a contractual agreement with St. Joseph’s/Candler, our Steward Center for Palliative Care has four Serious Illness Specialists in the Emergency Departments of each hospital.

Reporting to Director Tonya Hillis, they meet with patients who present with CHF, COPD or Chronic Pneumonia, and one of five other hospital-identified triggers. The goal is to reduce frequent E.R. visits and keep patients from being admitted to the hospital. Instead, patients are connected to our outpatient Palliative Care (Serious Illness Management) clinic where we can actively help improve their symptoms. 

Melissa Gaule, MA, HEC-C, is the lead Serious Illness Specialist. She most recently worked as a bioethicist for SJCH and the Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion. She earned her Master’s in Bioethics from King’s College, London and is happy to be back in her hometown helping her underserved neighbors and community members.

Ivette Rains, MSW, previously worked as a Transcranial Magnetic Simulation Coordinator and Clinical Support Supervisor with Horizon Behavioral Health in Hinesville. She also served eight years as an Army Medic with the 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Infantry Division and at Walter Reed providing service members medical care and connecting them to resources. She met her husband while stationed at Fort Stewart and they have two beautiful daughters, ages seven and four.

Sharon Polite, MPH, has had a long and varied career which includes directing a Family Home Day Care Center on Yokota Air Base in Japan, secretary in a mental health clinic, and Victim Witness Advocate in the Newton County D.A.’s office.  After graduating with a Master’s in Public Health from Armstrong, she took a positon in Palliative Care at the Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion while earning another Master’s in Bioethics and Health Policy.

LuAnn Boulio-Lucier, NCC, LPC, works PRN while maintaining her full-time counseling positon in a private psychiatry practice, primarily working with Medicare patients.

We are excited with this new partnership which enables our Specialists to meet with patients and family members who have presented to the E.D. numerous times within 6 months or have been readmitted twice in 30 days. These patients will have the opportunity to have their symptoms managed by the outstanding team of palliative care professionals housed in the outpatient clinic on the first floor of the Nancy J. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion. Should the patients choose palliative care, hospice, home care services, or other resources, the Serious Illness Specialists are there to help, and hopefully, keep them of of the emergency room.