International Women’s Day is marked annually on 8th March. It’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. The campaign theme for this year is ‘Choose To Challenge’.  A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

The ‘Choose To Challenge’ theme sits very comfortably with palliative care as we know it today. Through her challenging mind, Dame Cicely Saunders, is recognised as the founder of the hospice movement in this country and beyond. Dame Cicely (1918 to 2005) was a nurse, social worker, physician and writer. She is noted for her research into terminal care and the important of palliative care in modern medicine. Through her work Dame Cicely met David Tasma, a young Polish Jew, who was dying of cancer. It was through this friendship that she decided to devote her life to improving the care of the dying, a most neglected group. In 1967 she opened St Christopher’s Hospice in London and for the first time in the world she brought together patients with a terminal illness and staff who were committed to discover and then teach the best way of caring for them. At the time, there was very little medical intervention as it was generally believed that the doctor’s role was to cure and, of course, in reality these patients were incurable. Dame Cicely and her colleagues revolutionised symptom control and management.

Dame Cicely embraced the ‘Choose To Challenge’ attitude and we will all be eternally grateful for that. Dame Cicely died in 2005 in the hospice she founded and her very special legacy lives on to this day