Fifth Year of Death and Dying Fellowship Opens, Teaching the Most Difficult Conversation

The JHF and HCF Fellowship on Death and Dying is built around developing one skill for healthcare professionals: How to take part in difficult conversations around serious illness, including issues of death, dying, and grief. A formal education in health care does not necessarily provide such training. Yet students and young professionals realize the value of being able to speak with candor and sensitivity about end-of-life care. JHF receives twice as many applications as space allows for the Fellowship, which engages legal, medical, social, cultural, familial, and spiritual dimensions. 

This year's Fellowship on Death and Dying opened on January 28 with the first of eight weekly sessions. The 39 Fellows represent a range of disciplines, from medical school to bioethics, public health, social work, pharmacy, and counseling psychology. The opening event, held at the QI2 T Center, grounded participants in the history of Fellowship, which launched in 2015, and the longrunning work of Closure, JHF's outreach, education, and advocacy initiative around end-of-life care. JHF Physician Consultant Judith Black, MD, MHA; Nancy Zionts; and Quality Improvement Specialist Nicole Greer, RN, MPH/MPA led the session.

The 2019 participants in the Fellowship on Death and Dying.
Olutoyin Ola (center), a dual MPH/MSW student at the University of Pittsburgh, reflects on her experiences with end-of-life care during a Fellowship session on January 28.

The next six sessions get the Fellows out into the field. During site visits, the Fellows will discuss the importance of advance directives and POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) at Shadyside Hospital; families and children confronting chronic disease and loss while at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; long-term care while at the Jewish Association on Aging; end-of-life conversations in community settings while at Community LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly); hospice and end-of-life while at Family Hospice; and family supports while at Highmark Caring Place.

In the final session, the Fellows will return to the QI2T Center to demonstrate their skills in conducting end-of-life conversations, joined by Robert Arnold, MD, chief medical officer of the Palliative and Supportive Care Institute of UPMC.

The Death and Dying Fellowship runs alongside two other Feinstein Fellowships—the Patient Safety Fellowship, which runs in the summer, and the Jonas Salk Health Activist Fellowship in the fall.

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