Dr. Diane Meier, a leading expert in hospice and palliative care, will be the featured speaker and instructor at an expanded Thresholds Conference to be hosted Wednesday by Hospice of Southern Maine.

More than 350 people are expected to attend the conference, which is now closed to registration, according to a news release. However, the hospice agency also will host six community forums throughout southern Maine over the next several months, when patients, family caregivers and others can watch a video of Meier’s talk and learn more about end-of-life conversations and advance-care planning.

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began reimbursing doctors and other professionals for leading discussions about end-of-life and advance-care issues with their patients. The benefit covers multiple conversations and is not limited to patients close to death.

But while most physicians in a recent survey agreed that talking with patients about these issues is important, about half said they’re often unsure what to say, and two-thirds said they had no formal training in how to talk about end-of-life care, according to the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Meier is director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care in New York City and a recipient of the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor. She will speak Wednesday afternoon at the University of Southern Maine, where she will discuss the importance of end-of-life conversations and provide a step-by-step guide for how to have them, whether as a patient, physician or family member.

“We should all have this conversation about what matters most to us in life,” Meier said. “These are conversations about the quality of life, and doctors, their patients, and caregivers alike need to know how to have the discussion that identifies and then honors each patient’s individual priorities and wishes.”

Meier also will lead grand rounds at Maine Medical Center on Wednesday morning, when more than 150 doctors, residents and other medical professionals will discuss patient care in real-world situations.

The Thresholds Conference is an annual event to educate the public and medical community about hospice care and advances in the field. This year, that mission will be extended with a series of six community forums from May 19 through Nov. 16 in South Portland, Kennebunk, Bridgton, Falmouth, Brunswick and York. Visit www.hospiceofsouthernmaine.org/thresholds for more information and to register for a forum.

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