Death and Dying Fellowship Concludes

Fellows and speakers attend the Death and Dying Fellowship finale

The 2022 Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) Death and Dying Fellowship completed its nine-session run on March 28. This year's program equipped 34 fellows from a broad range of disciplines with the skills to confront and discuss the legal, medical, social, cultural, familial, and spiritual aspects of death and dying. The fellowship provided an opportunity for participants to learn from and engage with expert speakers and each other in a virtual setting. Most importantly, they learned how to have conversations around serious illness, death, and grief with patients, families, and staff in various settings from the community to long-term care and hospice.

During the finale, Dr. Robert Arnold, distinguished service professor of medicine, chief of the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics, and director of the Institute for Doctor-Patient Communication at the University of Pittsburgh and medical director at UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, provided an overview of how practitioners can have more meaningful conversations about end of life. He discussed the importance of improving skills through practice, expert guidance, and developing an understanding of yourself as a provider.

Following Dr. Arnold's presentation, fellows gathered in small breakout groups to role-play end-of-life conversations using case studies. This offered a low-pressure environment to practice how to have challenging conversations and receive feedback from expert facilitators and peers. The experts who served as breakout group facilitators included Judith Black, MD, medical advisor for JHF, Theresa Brown, PhD, BSN, RN, writer, nurse, and patient, Kalpana Char, MD, associate vice president of Special Needs Program Medical Services at UPMC Health Plan, Jeffrey Gordon, MD, hospice and palliative care physician at Allegheny Health Network, Ruth Ann Guilinger, MD, hospitalist at Allegheny Health Network, Carol May, RN, MSN, MBA, CHPPN, manager of Supportive Care at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Libby Moore, LSW, DHCE, director of Federated Guardians, and Susan Panah, DO, FACP, medical director of LIFE Pittsburgh.

As the session concluded, the fellows, staff, and guest faculty reflected on their experience with the fellowship and how the learnings will impact their work. 

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