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Hastings Center News

Physicians and Nurses Recognized for Providing Exceptional End of Life Care 

The Hastings Center and The Cunniff-Dixon Foundation are pleased to announce nine recipients of awards that honor clinicians for outstanding care provided to patients nearing the end of life. The awards are based on technical competence, personal integrity, empathic dialogue with patients, active engagement with the family and loved ones, practical and heartfelt communication regarding advance directives, and compassionate alleviation of suffering.

The Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, whose mission is to enrich the relationship of health care providers and patients who are near the end of life, created and funds the awards, which are up to $25,000 each. The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute that has done groundbreaking work on end-of-life decision-making, cosponsors the awards.

Physician Awards:

The  Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards have long recognized five outstanding physicians—a senior physician, a mid-career physician, and three early-career physicians. The year 2022 marks the addition of a sixth physician award: The Dr. Richard Payne Leadership Award to honor physicians who work with vulnerable and/or underserved populations.

Dr. Richard Payne Leadership Award:

Shellie Williams, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Chicago. Dr. Williams practices both geriatric and palliative medicine. Her clinical focus is primarily with aging dementia patients in underserved communities on Chicago’s South Side. She is a dedicated teacher, advocate, and researcher who focuses much of her work on addressing access and education disparities for patients of color and their caregivers. She provides culturally competent care for patients in inpatient units, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and home hospice. Her scholarly focus is related to dementia education, awareness, and resources through a number of avenues, including the Supporting Healthy Aging Resources & Education (SHARE) Network. In addition, Dr. Williams developed and launched an innovative education and intervention model that helps faith leaders identify signs of dementia within their congregations and connects them to resources for optimizing care in the community. She is an active member of UChicago’s Diversity and Inclusion and Physician Assistance committees, chair of the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) Black Professionals, Patients & Families Forum, and member of AAHPM Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. She works tirelessly to address issues of injustice and racism while improving health, access, and quality care for patients.

Senior Physician Award:

J. Randall Curtis, MD, MPH, Director, Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence, UW Medicine. Dr. Curtis is a pulmonary, critical care, and palliative care physician at Harborview Medical Center at the University of Washington. He also holds the A. Bruce Montgomery – American Lung Association Endowed Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UW Medicine His research focuses on improving palliative care for patients with serious illness as well as for patients’ families. Dr. Curtis has made mentoring in palliative care research a priority. He has received several awards for his research and teaching in palliative care including a Lifetime Achievement Award and Mentoring Award by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Mid-Career Physician Award:

Craig Blinderman, MD, MA, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Adult Palliative Medicine Service, Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Blinderman is also the program director of the Bi-Campus (Columbia and Cornell) Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. His academic and personal interests are at the intersection of narrative medicine, philosophy, and contemplative practice into the care of patients with serious illness. His teaching focuses on pain and symptom management, decision-making at the end of life, medical ethics, and communication skills training. He is the section editor for the Case Discussions in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, serves on the advisory board for the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, and is a faculty mentor in a new Contemplative Medicine Fellowship to help doctors integrate meditation in their clinical settings.

Early-Career Physician Awards:

Rachel J. Vandermeer, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UT Health San Antonio and  Medical Director of Inpatient Pediatric Palliative Care,  University Hospital. Dr. Vandermeer helped develop the University Health Perinatal Palliative Care Program, which provides palliative care to families expecting a baby with serious illness. Regarding education, she is the assistant pediatric clerkship director, working with medical students in pediatric education, and she participates in adult and pediatric hospice and palliative medicine fellowship education. She serves on the executive admissions committee for the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. She was recently accepted into the Academic Pediatric Association Education Scholars Program Cohort 10, a three-year national faculty development program for academic pediatric educators who wish to build their skills in educational scholarship and leadership.

Alyssa Evelyn Tilly, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Dr. Tilly practices both adult and pediatric palliative medicine. She serves as the program director of UNC’s Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship. She is also director of Palliative Care for the UNC Project-Malawi Cancer Program, which aims to provide an organizing structure for research and capacity-building focused on cancers in this small country in southern Africa. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Tilly’s interests include mentorship and advising along with advancing global palliative medicine through research and education. Her research work is centered on global oncology palliative care for patients of all ages. 

Dillon Stein, DO, Medical Director, Division of Palliative Care, Butler Health System. Dr. Stein helped establish an inpatient palliative care consult service and began the only outpatient palliative care clinic set in rural Butler County, Pa. He developed an interdisciplinary team involving community partners to cultivate resources for the surrounding underserved population. His beliefs in the benefits of gifting and gratitude led to a project involving the delivery of care packages to cultivate support and community with other hospice and palliative care programs. A passionate physician, Dr. Stein believes patient care is driven by individualized medical care, connection, and relationships; he hopes to inspire others to approach end-of-life care the same way in their communities

Nurse Awards:

Inpatient-Outpatient Palliative Care:

Barbara Reville, DNP, ANP-BC, ACHPN, Nursing Director, Adult Palliative Care, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Throughout her career, Reville has demonstrated a commitment to the care of seriously-ill as a clinician, leader, and educator. As faculty in the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care, Reville built educational content to emphasize nursing’s role in palliative care and to empower nurses to fulfill their potential as equal contributors within palliative care’s team-based model. She published curricula designed to facilitate the role transition to palliative nurse specialist and train the next generation of palliative nurses. In addition, she co-authored a competency assessment framework that was adopted by the Hospice and Palliative Nurses’ Association. Previously, Reville  served as a leader in the development of inaugural palliative care programs at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Home Hospice Palliative Care:

Erin Perez, DNP, APRN, ANP-C, AGNP-C, ACHPN, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, University Health System, San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Perez is recognized as a pioneer to advance palliative care for vulnerable Texans. Her work and advocacy have changed the landscape by leading to state laws and statutes that benefit palliative care providers and patients. She is the first nurse practitioner to chair an advisory council in Texas and is vice president for Texas Nurse Practitioners, the largest state nurse practitioner organization in the United States. In addition, she published a bilingual guidebook with an accompanying video on goals, wishes, and advanced care planning for health care clinicians, patients, and families.

Juanita Georges, LVN, Palliative Care Services Ambulatory Nurse, University Health Palliative Care, San Antonio, Texas. Ms. Georges has more than 20 years of experience in health care. In addition to managerial oversight, Georges provides direct patient care and multiple services, including serving as an  educator, patient advocate, case manager, and psychological and spiritual support to patients and caregivers.

The Hastings Center and the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation originally planned on two nursing awards, but the nominees were so exceptional that a third award was added for this year.

The Physician Awards selection committee is chaired by Kathleen Foley, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and includes Anthony N. Galanos, MD, Duke University School of Medicine; Rodney Tucker, MD, UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care; Zara Cooper, MD, MSc, FACS, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Diane Meier, MD, Mt. Sinai Hospital and Center to Advance Palliative Care.

The Nursing Awards selection committee is chaired by Betty Ferrell, PhD, City of Hope Medical Center and includes Ashley Leak Bryant, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Meg Campbell, PhD, Wayne State University; Nessa Coyle, PhD, palliative care nurse and clinical ethics consultant; Billy Rosa, PhD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, Johns Hopkins University. 

Photo: Top row (left to right): J. Randall Curtis, Craig Blinderman, Rachel J. Vandermeer,
Alyssa Evelyn Tilly, Dillon Stein
Bottom row: Barbara Reville, Erin Perez, Juanita Georges, Shellie Williams