Hastings Center News
Remembering Andy Baxter, Dedicated Champion of Compassionate Care at the End of Life
The Hastings Center is saddened by the passing of Matthew A. (“Andy”) Baxter, a visionary and dedicated champion for better end of life care, who founded the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, committed to celebrating health care professionals who demonstrate excellence in care near the end of life. Baxter died at home with his family in Lyme, Ct., on February 21.
“Andy made a huge difference in many peoples’ lives,” said Mildred Solomon, president of The Hastings Center. “He was both compassionate and effective, and knew that if we celebrated excellence in care, it would gain momentum across individuals and health systems. He demonstrated what it means to live a life of meaning and purpose. My colleagues and I were honored to know him and to work with him.”
Recognizing their shared goals of supporting compassionate care for people nearing the end of life, The Hastings Center and the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation joined forces to create The Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards, which honor five physicians in the United States for providing exemplary care. The awards consist of $25,000 each for a senior and mid-career physician and $15,000 each for three early-career physicians. Forty-five physicians have received the awards since their inception in 2010.
“The Andy Baxter I came to know was imaginative, warm, and brilliant, with a lovely sense of humor,” said Thomas Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, who worked with Baxter to create the physician awards. “He’d lost his wife and his son; those early deaths gave him an uncommon appreciation of the tragic dimension of human life. I will miss his friendship. His legacy will live on.”
This year, the awards were expanded to include two nurses and a sixth physician. The Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Nursing Awards will go to one nurse working in a hospital setting and another working in hospice and home care. The Dr. Richard Payne Palliative Care Leadership Award will honor a physician who works with underserved populations. The recipients, who will receive $25,000 each, will be announced in spring 2022.
“These consummate professionals are going above and beyond, providing the kind of quality care near the end of life that we all wish for ourselves and our loved ones,” said Baxter last year when those awards were announced.
Andy Baxter was born in 1942. He received a BA in philosophy from Yale University and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. After a career in business, he retired in 1999. He founded the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation in 2005 in memory of his wife, Carley Cunniff, who died of breast cancer, and her attending physician, Dr. Peter S. Dixon, in Essex, Ct., who enabled her to die a peaceful death at home with her family and loved ones.
“In Carley’s case—and in the case of most terminal patients—the role of the attending physician is the critical factor,” Baxter wrote on his foundation’s website. “Without the sensitive leadership of the physician to whom the patient and the patient’s family look for direction and hope, insecurity, fear, and despair can set in. Failure to acknowledge that fragile line between curative medicine and palliative care can result in needless intervention, unnecessary institutionalization, and in some cases, misery.”
In announcing Baxter’s death from metastatic bladder cancer, Dr. Dixon said that he lived by the principles of his foundation. “When he recognized standard therapy had minimal impact and significant toxicity, he declined it,” Dr. Dixon wrote in an email. “He also decided against pursuing experimental treatment for its limited efficacy as well.
“As his physician, I was privileged to help him see his options each step of the way.”
As his partner, The Hastings Center has been forever changed.