Heroes Work Here: Dr. Marianne Holler, Palliative Medicine Physician

Marianne Holler, DO, FAAHPM, Palliative Medicine Physician, specializes in guiding patients and families through difficult conversations. For the safety of patients, their loved ones, and health care workers, these meetings have gone virtual.

Members of the Community Medical Center team in Toms River have been tirelessly caring for patients, and one another, as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout it all, they have responded with strength, skill, and compassion, and shown who they truly are – heroes.


The super power that palliative brings to the bedside is that we can sit down, see the patient eye-to-eye or the family, hold their hand, walk them through the options for their care. Taking that away has been a real challenge because I am calling them at probably the worst point in their life. They’re facing their loved ones’ very, very serious illness. I have to be able to establish a relationship and trust with them, so that we can have an honest conversation because when you ask somebody ‘what’s the goal?’ of course if it’s your mom or your spouse or your child – your goal is to make sure they live as long as they can. Stepping further into the conversation and saying, ‘what if things don’t go as you hope – what would be your thought process? What would you want for him or her?’ And that’s been very difficult because I usually call people in, want to sit around the table, and have a human conversation, not so much, ‘Hey, I’m the doctor, this is what’s going on, what do you think?’ But, ‘Tell me about your mom. Tell me about before this happened. What did she look like? What did she value? What types of things were important to her? And if those things didn’t exist for her anymore, what would she value at this point?’ And having those conversations either virtually through Zoom technology or FaceTime versus face-to-face and really making a connection has been a challenge.