Professor David Kissane, the Parade College Captain in the Bundoora Campus’ inaugural year of 1968, is one of six eminent Victorians to have received the AC in the 2018 Australia Day awards.
Prof. Kissane, the Head of Psychiatry for Monash University, has been
so acknowledged for his work in psycho-oncology and palliative medicine
as an educator,
researcher, author and clinician, and through executive roles with a
range of national and international professional medical bodies.
According to his personal profile at Monash, Prof. Kissane was until recently the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and previously the Foundation Chair of Palliative Medicine at the University of Melbourne.
His academic interests include group, couples and family psychotherapy trials, communication skills training, studies of existential distress, and the ethics of end-of-life care. He developed a cognitive-existential model of group therapy for women with early stage breast cancer, which ameliorated fear of recurrence, and his trial of supportive-expressive group therapy for advanced breast cancer showed the prevention of depression alongside improved quality of life. He is best known for his model of family therapy delivered to ‘at risk’ families during palliative care, which prevents complicated grief and depression in bereavement. His work on demoralization as a variation of depression in the medically ill has preceded interventions to promote meaning-based coping.
At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Prof. Kissane established a Communication Skills Training and Research Laboratory, which developed an applied curriculum for oncology, training over 700 clinicians. His books include the Handbook of Communication in Oncology and Palliative Care with Oxford University Press, Handbook of Psychotherapy in Cancer Care with Wiley-Blackwell, Cancer and Depression for the World Psychiatric Association and Family Focused Grief Therapy with Open University Press.
Prof. Kissane was awarded the Jimmie C. Holland Chair in Psycho-oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and was recognized by the International Psycho-Oncology Society in 2008 with their Arthur Sutherland Award for lifetime achievement.
Recently, Prof. Kissane publicly canvassed his view that Victoria required an independent overseer of doctor-assisted suicide to avoid the failed euthanasia model in the Northern Territory where safeguards were not followed and vulnerable people were put in danger.
Prof. Kissane told The Australian newspaper that legal, assisted suicide should be accompanied by an independent authority that delivered oversight, with the body to include an academic unit that studied each case and a tribunal that adjudicated on disputed assessments.
He said doctors who administered assisted suicide drugs and determined whether patients qualified for euthanasia should be separate from palliative care specialists, and required specialised training.
Prof. Kissane, who was unavailable for comment at the time of publication, has accepted an invitation to return to the Bundoora Campus to address students at Term 2 Assembly.