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Recognizing Excellence



The Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) is committed to fostering and encouraging social work excellence in psychosocial research, education, and clinical practice in palliative care.

Each year, SWHPN members nominate their peers to recognize outstanding achievements in social work hospice and palliative care. Winners are recognized at the annual General Assembly; below are awards categories and their winners. 


See below for more information on how to nominate a colleague for the 2017 SWHPN Awards, being held February 21, 2016 at the SWHPN 2017 General Assembly.


PDIA: SWHPN Award for Career Achievement

Originating with the Open Society Institute’s Project on Death in America’s initiative to understand and transform the culture and experience of dying and bereavement, the PDIA Social Work Leadership Award is designed to honor an individual who has made an outstanding professional contribution in the palliative care. PDIA award winners have had a national or international impact on the field for at least 15 years and have dedicated themselves to advancing the development or improvement of psychosocial palliative care for individuals with chronic illness, individuals in hospice, or those confronting grief, loss and bereavement. Nominees must have made a singular contribution to the development and understanding of palliative care and bereavement that historically has and will continue to distinguish his/her work. Criteria: The award recognizes a significant professional contribution to the field for 15 years or more, with a definable body of work through one or more of the following: Theory development; Presentations at professional conferences; Teaching/training; Research; Publications; Professional practice


2016 Award winner: Penny Damaskos, PhD, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C


Previous PDIA winners: Iris Cohen Fineberg, PhD, MSW, OSW-C • Susan Gerbino, PhD, LCSW • Terry Altilio, MSW, ACSW, LCSW • Grace Christ, DSW/PhD • Susan Blacker, MSW, RSW • Nancy Contro, MSW, LCSW • Barbara L. Jones, PhD • Shirley Otis-Green, MSW, LCSW, ACSW, OSW-C • Debra Parker Oliver, PhD, MSW



SWHPN Award for Emerging Leader in Palliative Social Work

This award is designed to honor a palliative social worker with six or less years of experience in the field who has already demonstrated significant contributions. Emerging Leaders should show potential to move the field forward and evidence of excellence and innovation in any of the following areas: professional practice, leadership, research, education, and/or policy and advocacy work. Criteria: The nominee demonstrates:

Excellence in professional practice, leadership, research, education or policy and advocacy work as demonstrated by:

  • Honors, awards, and reputation in one’s area of specialization, judgment by peers, supervisors, administrators, and clients.
  • Contributions to the field as demonstrated by: innovations in practice, research, education, policy and advocacy or leadership in organizations as it relates to palliative care, grief, loss and bereavement.
  • Continuing growth as demonstrated by: keeping abreast of new developments in the field and being at the cutting edge of developing ideas.


2016 Award winners: Rebecca Freeman, LMSW, ACHP-SW  •   Bridget Sumser, LMSW 

Previous winners: Christine Wilkins, PhD, LCSW • Elizabeth Wilde, LCSW • Sara Sanders, PhD, MSW • Kathryn Shoemaker, LMSW 


SWHPN Awards of Excellence

This award will be presented to individuals in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of palliative social work in one of the following four areas:

Clinical Practice: The recipient will demonstrate outstanding clinical contributions to palliative social work. This award focuses on the distinctive contribution made in providing or developing services to patients and families or in clinical supervision of others. The recipient shows innovation and sustained successful clinical service.
Professional Education: The recipient’s scholarship or accomplishments in education and/or training have brought about changes or enhanced the knowledge base in palliative care. The recipient’s contribution as a teacher, supervisor and/or administrator will have influenced the methods and settings utilized in education and training in ways of significant benefit to palliative social work.


Psychosocial Research: The recipient will demonstrate an ongoing consistent record of research and publication that adds/contributes significantly to the body of knowledge in psychosocial palliative care, hospice, grief, loss, and bereavement.


Policy and Administration: The recipient will demonstrate outstanding contributions to palliative social work through policy analysis or advocacy, program development or administration, or public engagement. The recipient’s activities show leadership and commitment to promoting community access to palliative care services and/or advancing the field of palliative social work.


2016 Award winners: Daniel S. Gardner, PhD, LCSW   •   Eileen Schmidt, LCSW, ACHP-SW


Previous winners: Taryn Lindhorst, PhD, LCSW • Jennifer M. Giuffrida, LCSW, ACHP-SW • Susan Murty, PhD, MSW

SWHPN Journal Article of the Year Award

This award honors an article published in the Journal of Social Work in End of Life and Palliative Care over the preceding year.

SWHPN Organizational Leadership Award

The SWHPN Organizational Leadership Award will honor contributions to the organization. Public nominations for these awards are not accepted. Recipients of the Journal Article of the Year Award and the SWHPN Organizational Leadership Award will be chosen internally by the SWHPN Awards Committee in consultation with the SWHPN Board of Directors.

SWHPN Awards for Outstanding Posters

Each year, psychosocial professionals from around the world submit posters for presentation at the SWHPN General Assembly. SWHPN recognizes the best of those awards on the second day of the assembly.


About the nomination process:



  • Nominee must hold a degree in Social Work from an academic institution recognized by the Council on Social Work
  • Education or a comparable accrediting body in the nominee’s country
  • Nominee must have exemplified excellence and leadership in end-of-life, hospice and palliative care that has reached beyond their immediate institution/place of employment
  • The Awards Committee and the SWHPN Board of Directors shall determine who receives the award(s)
  • Previous winners are not eligible for the same award
  • If nominated and awarded, award winners will also be encouraged to publish their work in a professional journal, such as the Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care, the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, and the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
  • Nominees are not required to be SWHPN members. However, upon nomination recipients must be an existing member of and/or join SWHPN in order to receive the award for which they are nominated.


To submit a nomination, please email the following directly to

  • A 2017 Awards Nomination Form (answers may be sent directly in email or in a Word document)
  • A summary of the candidate’s qualifications and professional credentials relevant to this award, such as memberships, credentials, and professional association memberships and activities (up to 600 words)
  • Your nominating letter of support that addresses the candidate’s qualifications for this award and contributions to the fields of palliative care, hospice, grief, loss and bereavement *
  • An additional letter of support, from an individual knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional accomplishments
  • The candidate’s resume or CV

Contact information for the nominee and nominator. Your information will be kept confidential but you will be contacted if your candidate is a recipient of the award.


* Self-nominations are allowed; however, nominating letters and support letters must be from other professionals or colleagues and not from the candidate.



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