University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Michael W. Rabow, MD

Michael W. Rabow, MD

Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, UCSF
Helen Diller Family Chair in Palliative Care, UCSF

Cancer Center Program Memberships

Cancer Control

Research Summary

Michael W. Rabow, M.D., is a Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, at the University of California, San Francisco. Board-certified in internal medicine and hospice & palliative care, Dr. Rabow directs a leading outpatient palliative care consultation program-- the Symptom Management Service-- at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is a member of the UCSF Academy of Medical Educators.

Dr. Rabow attended UCSF for medical school and general internal medicine residency training. He completed fellowships at UCSF in general medicine, as well as in medical education research. His widely-published research work is in palliative care, family caregiving, and end-of-life care education. Dr. Rabow conducted one of the few controlled trials to date of outpatient palliative care consultation, as well as a survey of current outpatient palliative care consultation practices in comprehensive cancer centers nationally.

Dr. Rabow was Assistant Editor for the recently completed bimonthly section in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life.” This series now appears as a palliative care textbook, Care at the Close of Life. He serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of the Healer’s Art at the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness at Commonwealth in California. Dr. Rabow is the Assistant Editor of the best-selling general medicine textbook, Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment.

Dr. Rabow serves as a consultant to U.S. hospitals and hospital systems working to develop or expand their palliative care services. Dr. Rabow serves as the lead of the project advisory board for the “Improving Palliative Care in the Outpatient Setting” (IPAL-OPT) initiative at the Center to Advance Palliative Care. Dr. Rabow is the Associate Director of the UCSF Palliative Care Leadership Center (PCLC) and a member of the curriculum development committee for the PCLC Initiative nationally. The PCLC Initiative has trained more than 1000 hospital-based palliative care programs in the United States. Previously, Dr. Rabow helped direct the California Hospital Initiative in Palliative Services, the first program to support the development of hospital-based palliative care services in California. In additional, Dr. Rabow served as a technical advisor and member of the leadership team for the Archstone Foundation’s Hospital-Based Palliative Care Service Innovations project.

Dr. Rabow is the executive producer of “The Caregivers” documentary film and accompanying family caregiver handbook. He has written and taught widely about family caregiving and communication with patients and families around serious news and existential issues at the end-of-life. In addition to his clinical palliative care work, Dr. Rabow has an active outpatient primary care medicine practice.

Dr. Rabow served as a Soros Foundation Project on Death in America Faculty Scholar and has been recognized for his work in palliative care as a 2012 recipient of the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation Physicians Award from the Hastings Center.


Harvard College, Cambridge, MA, 1983-1987, B.A., summa cum laude (Anthropology)
Harvard University Extension School, Cambridge, MA, 1987-1988, No degree sought
University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 1989-1993, M.D., (Medicine)
University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 1993-1994, Primary Care Internal Medicine Internship
University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 1994-1996, Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency
University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 1996-1997, Clinician-Educator Fellowship in General Internal Medicine

Professional Experience

  • 1997-2003
    Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • 1998-2003
    Co-director, Behavioral Medicine Training, Division of General Internal Medicine, UCSF
  • 2003-2009
    Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, UCSF
  • 2004-present
    Founding Director, Symptom Management Service
  • 2006-present
    Founding Director, Center for the Study of the Healer's Art, Institute for the Study of Health and Illness
  • 2007-present
    Associate Director, Palliative Care Leadership Center
  • 2009-present
    Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, UCSF
  • 2010-present
    Site Director, Palliative Care Fellowship Program, Department of Medicine

Honors & Awards

  • 1987
    Summa Cum Laude, Harvard University Department of Anthropology

  • 1987
    Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard University Chapter

  • 1993
    Alpha Omega Alpha, UCSF School of Medicine

  • 1999
    UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Residency Teaching Award

  • 2000
    Robert H. Crede Award for Excellence in Teaching, UCSF

  • 2002
    Project on Death in America Faculty Scholarship, Soros Foundation

  • 2002
    David E. Rogers Junior Faculty Education Award, Society of General Internal Medicine

  • 2004
    Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Outstanding Lecture Award, UCSF Class of 2006

  • 2004
    UCSF Academy of Medical Educators

  • 2004
    Best Research Poster, AAMC Western Regional GEA/GSA Annual Conference

  • 2005
    Society of General Internal Medicine Clinician-Educator of the Year Award, California

  • 2007
    Circle of Life Award, American Hospital Association, to the UCSF Palliative Care Service

  • 2008
    Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, Innovation in Education Award to the Healer’s Art

  • 2008
    Fellow, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

  • 2009
    American Association of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Paper Award

  • 2010
    Essential Core Teaching Award for Outstanding Lecture from the UCSF Class of 2012

  • 2011
    Geriatrics Abstract Award, Society of General Internal Medicine

  • 2012
    Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Award
  • 2017
    2017 AAHPM PDIA Palliative Medicine National Leadership Award

Selected Publications

  1. Rabow MW, McGowan M, Small R, Keyssar R, Rugo HS. Advance Care Planning in Community: An Evaluation of a Pilot 2-Session, Nurse-Led Workshop. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2018 Aug 28; 1049909118797612.
    View on PubMed
  2. Finlay E, Rabow MW, Buss MK. Filling the Gap: Creating an Outpatient Palliative Care Program in Your Institution. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2018 May 23; (38):111-121.
    View on PubMed
  3. Bischoff K, Yang E, Kojimoto G, Shepard Lopez N, Holland S, Calton B, Adkins SH, Cheng S, Miller BJ, Rabow MW. What We Do: Key Activities of an Outpatient Palliative Care Team at an Academic Cancer Center. J Palliat Med. 2018 Feb 12.
    View on PubMed
  4. Rabow MW, Petzel MQB, Adkins SH. Symptom Management and Palliative Care in Pancreatic Cancer. Cancer J. 2017 Nov/Dec; 23(6):362-373.
    View on PubMed
  5. Rabow M, Small R, Jow A, Majure M, Chien A, Melisko M, Belkora J, Esserman LJ, Rugo H. The value of embedding: integrated palliative care for patients with metastatic breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 Feb; 167(3):703-708.
    View on PubMed
  6. Rabow MW. Living with Cancer: A Step-by-Step Guide for Coping Medically and Emotionally with a Serious Diagnosis. J Palliat Med. 2017 Oct; 20(10):1175.
    View on PubMed
  7. Kestenbaum A, Shields M, James J, Hocker W, Morgan S, Karve S, Rabow MW, Dunn LB. What Impact Do Chaplains Have? A Pilot Study of Spiritual AIM for Advanced Cancer Patients in Outpatient Palliative Care. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017 Nov; 54(5):707-714.
    View on PubMed
  8. Calton BA, Thompson N, Shepard N, Keyssar R, Patel K, Dzul-Church V, Kao H, Ritchie C, Rabow MW. "She Would Be Flailing Around Distressed": The Critical Role of Home-Based Palliative Care for Patients with Advanced Cancer. J Palliat Med. 2017 Aug; 20(8):875-878.
    View on PubMed
  9. Calton BA, Alvarez-Perez A, Portman DG, Ramchandran KJ, Sugalski J, Rabow MW. The Current State of Palliative Care for Patients Cared for at Leading US Cancer Centers: The 2015 NCCN Palliative Care Survey. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2016 07; 14(7):859-66.
    View on PubMed
  10. Rabow MW, Lapedis M, Feingold A, Thomas M, Remen RN. Insisting on the Healer's Art: The Implications of Required Participation in a Medical School Course on Values and Humanism. Teach Learn Med. 2016; 28(1):61-71.
    View on PubMed
  11. Scibetta C, Kerr K, Mcguire J, Rabow MW. The Costs of Waiting: Implications of the Timing of Palliative Care Consultation among a Cohort of Decedents at a Comprehensive Cancer Center. J Palliat Med. 2016 Jan; 19(1):69-75.
    View on PubMed
  12. Rabow MW, Dahlin C, Calton B, Bischoff K, Ritchie C. New Frontiers in Outpatient Palliative Care for Patients With Cancer. Cancer Control. 2015 Oct; 22(4):465-74.
    View on PubMed
  13. Ritchie CS, Rabow MW. Fostering a Quality of Care Culture in Community-Based Palliative Care: What Will It Take? J Palliat Med. 2015 Jul; 18(7):568-9.
    View on PubMed
  14. Kestenbaum A, James J, Morgan S, Shields M, Hocker W, Rabow M, Dunn LB. "Taking your place at the table": an autoethnographic study of chaplains' participation on an interdisciplinary research team. BMC Palliat Care. 2015 May 02; 14:20.
    View on PubMed
  15. Rabow MW, Benner C, Shepard N, Meng MV. Concurrent urologic and palliative care after cystectomy for treatment of muscle-invasive bladder cancer. Urol Oncol. 2015 Jun; 33(6):267.e23-9.
    View on PubMed
  16. LeBlanc TW, O'Donnell JD, Crowley-Matoka M, Rabow MW, Smith CB, White DB, Tiver GA, Arnold RM, Schenker Y. Perceptions of palliative care among hematologic malignancy specialists: a mixed-methods study. J Oncol Pract. 2015 Mar; 11(2):e230-8.
    View on PubMed
  17. Rabow MW. Author response to "scientific rigour is far more than a matter of sample size". Support Care Cancer. 2015 Apr; 23(4):903.
    View on PubMed
  18. Rabow MW, O'Riordan DL, Pantilat SZ. A statewide survey of adult and pediatric outpatient palliative care services. J Palliat Med. 2014 Dec; 17(12):1311-6.
    View on PubMed
  19. Rabow MW, Knish SJ. Spiritual well-being among outpatients with cancer receiving concurrent oncologic and palliative care. Support Care Cancer. 2015 Apr; 23(4):919-23.
    View on PubMed
  20. Schumacher KL, Plano Clark VL, West CM, Dodd MJ, Rabow MW, Miaskowski C. Pain medication management processes used by oncology outpatients and family caregivers part II: home and lifestyle contexts. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2014 Nov; 48(5):784-96.
    View on PubMed

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