10th Annual Death and Dying Fellowship Kicks Off

Karen Feinstein lauds the fellowship cohort for their work to improve end of life conversations.

Since 2015, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's (JHF) Death and Dying Fellowship has been preparing students in the art of working and talking with patients and families facing the end of life. The healthcare landscape has experienced numerous changes over the past decade, but one issue remains unresolved: healthcare professionals are ill-prepared to have quality conversations around the end of life with patients and their loved ones. The Fellowship aims to fill that educational void.

On January 22, 25 fellows convened at the JHF offices to kick off the 10th annual Death and Dying Fellowship. The cohort represents seven universities and a broad range of disciplines, including ethics, pharmacy, nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physician assistant, social work, counseling, birthing support, healthcare administration, gerontology, and public policy.

The session commenced with remarks from JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, who shared about the Foundation's longstanding commitment to its key focus areas, and particularly issues around aging and the end of life. She applauded fellows for tackling the often-challenging work of death and dying and encouraged them to approach their work with an activist mindset to be the best possible advocate for the patients and families they serve.

JHF Chief Operating Officer and Chief Program Officer Nancy Zionts, MBA described the Closure model, which forms the foundation of JHF's end-of-life work and gave fellows the opportunity to reflect on their vision of a "good death" and explore reasons why that's not always achieved. JHF Medical Advisor Judith Black, MD, MHA, led participants through the history and current state of end-of-life care in America, highlighting progress made as well as the work still needed to ensure that what matters to individuals at the end of life is respected.

Over nine sessions this winter, fellows will have the opportunity to engage with healthcare and community leaders from a variety of settings and backgrounds through a combination of virtual and in-person sessions and site visits. The goal is to present the often-challenging topics of communicating around serious illness and the end of life in an open, collaborative, and low-pressure environment. The Fellowship will culminate with an opportunity for participants to practice end-of-life conversations in small groups using role-play scenarios, with expert facilitators on hand to provide guidance and feedback. The JHF Death and Dying Fellowship staff team is supplemented by more than two dozen experts from across Pennsylvania who bring their perspectives from their disciplines, healthcare settings, and personal lived experiences to enlighten and inform the next generation of professionals.

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