The Ellen and Peter O. Johnson Chair in Palliative Care: A legacy dedicated to compassion

Ellen Johnson, Toby Campbell, MD, and Peter O. Johnson

Pictured above, L to R: Ellen Johnson; Toby Campbell, MD; and Peter O. Johnson.

The word “palliative” is derived from the Latin root palliare meaning “to cloak”—as in protecting patients from suffering and pain. It’s a concept that consumes Toby Campbell, MD, MS, professor (CHS), Hematology, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care. Now, thanks to a generous gift from Ellen and Peter O. Johnson, the legacy of palliative care medicine at UW-Madison will take a significant step forward with the creation of the Ellen and Peter O. Johnson Chair in Palliative Care, which is held by Dr. Campbell.

Both Peter and Ellen Johnson are UW-Madison alumni, Peter having received his bachelor’s degree in business and Ellen holding a bachelor’s degree in social studies and master’s in medical microbiology from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Peter is the founder of two Madison-based companies. Hy Cite is a high-end cookware and consumer finance company and Tetrionics is a contract manufacturer of high-potency drug compounds for human consumption. Ellen was formerly the director of the art department at the healthcare design-and-build firm Marshall Erdman and Associates.

Now retired, the couple were major donors to a 2006 expansion of inpatient facilities at Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care in Madison. Their support for palliative care is based upon their deep respect for its principals of focusing on providing relief and support from symptoms that accompany serious illness. “In a time of an aging population, it is rapidly becoming an important area of medicine,” wrote the Johnsons.

As UW Health Director of Palliative Care, Dr. Campbell’s longstanding work in this area has included launching communication training workshops for healthcare professionals called WeTalk and PalliTalk, leading the UW-Madison Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program, and conducting research on how important communication strategies are in affecting patient care.

“We are aware of Dr. Campbell’s wonderful work, his extraordinary communication skills, teaching abilities and his rapid national rise among his peers in this area of medicine. We are delighted and proud to make this gift of an endowed chair in Palliative Care in Dr. Toby Campbell’s name. We are grateful for his past accomplishments, and look forward to following his work in the future,” wrote Ellen and Peter.

Joining the Johnsons in creation of the endowment is Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care, which provides hospice and palliative care services throughout south-central Wisconsin and northern Illinois. “Teaming up with Ellen and Peter Johnson, who have long supported Agrace’s mission, to create an endowed chair in palliative care is an honor,” said Lynne Myers, president and CEO.

“I’m so very grateful to Peter and Ellen and Agrace for their generosity in creating this endowed chair. These gifts are transformational for our palliative care program here at the University of Wisconsin. This chair provides resources and recognition to help us achieve our goals of being at the forefront of palliative care medicine, meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people and families facing a serious illness,” said Dr. Campbell.

“Endowed chairs are instrumental in supporting our mission to advance the health of the people of Wisconsin and beyond. This gift will help ensure that the legacy of compassionate palliative care remains strong here at UW for generations to come,” said Pete Schmeling, senior director of development, Department of Medicine.