Board of Directors
Mercedes Bern-Klug, PhD, MSW
is Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa School of Social Work with a joint appointment in the Aging Studies Program, where she develops and teaches undergraduate interdisciplinary courses (Introduction to Nursing Homes; Older Adulthood: Cultural Comparisons; and Basic Aspects of Aging). In the School of Social Work she teaches research methods and advises students interested in social gerontology and palliative care.
Mercedes received a doctorate degree in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas in 2003 (Dissertation: The Social Construction of Dying in the Nursing Home Setting: Implications for Social Work. Chair: Dr. Rosemary Chapin). She earned a masters degree from Georgetown University in Applied Demography and an MSW (with a Certificate in Aging Studies) from the University of Iowa.
Areas of scholarship include the overlap between: older adulthood; advanced chronic illness; and psychosocial issues in long-term care settings. With funding from the PDIA and Hartford Foundation, Mercedes has focused most of her research efforts on end-of-life issues in nursing home settings. Last summer she collected data from over 1,000 nursing home social services directors and is in the process of developing manuscripts to: describe the characteristics of the work force; explain social work involvement in nursing homes; and describe the resources needed by social workers to better meet the psychosocial needs of people living and dying as nursing home residents.
She serves on the Council of Palliative Care (American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine), the editorial board of The Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care, and the review panel for The Journal of Gerontological Nursing. She is a member of the Council on Social Work Education's Task Force on Latinos in Social Work. She has served as a volunteer Alzheimer Disease support group leader for 12 years. Mercedes currently serves as a board member to "Up Town Bills" a coffee shop/book store that provides entrepreneurial skills to people with disabilities. She is a founding member of the Iowa NASW Committee on Aging.
Susan Blacker, MSW, RSWis Director of Oncology Integration at St. Michael's Hospital, where she also served as the Professional Practice Leader for Social Work and practiced in the hospital's Hematology/ Oncology and Palliative Care Programs. Previously she was a member of the Department of Oncology Social Work at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center. In addition to her clinical and supervisory role, she was the Director of the Continuing Education Program in Psychosocial Cancer Care and the Co-Coordinator of the Living with Cancer Resource Program. She provided leadership to the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Palliative Care Steering Committee and spearheaded a number of education initiatives related to palliative care within the hospital. In January 2000, she received a Social Work Leadership Development Award from the Open Society Institute's Project on Death in America for her project, Social Work & End-of-Life Care: An Education Initiative.
Susan has a special interest in continuing education and has taught health care students and professionals in broad range of forums in Canada and the US. Susan has written several articles and book chapters on topics in the area of caring for oncology patients and their families and end-of-life care, and was co-editor of the Social Work Series in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. She has spoken internationally at a variety of professional meetings, and was co-chair of the 1st and 2nd Social Work Summits on End-of-Life and Palliative Care, the preliminary meetings which helped shape the Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network.
Susan Blacker received her BSW from King's College at the University of Western Ontario and completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Toronto.
Karen Bullock, PhD, LCSW
is an Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and a Hartford Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work, with professional interests in health care disparities; cultural competence in the delivery of mental health service and clinical practice with individuals, couples, and families. She holds an appointment as a senior research scientist at the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital and has conducted a number of studies that focused specifically on Latino and African Americans' health and mental health issues. Dr. Bullock serves on a number of community boards including the North Central Area Agency on Aging and the Connecticut Coalition to Improve Care at End of Life.
Grace H. Christ, DSW
is Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and has clinical and research interests in the fields of psychosocial oncology, end-of-life and palliative care, and interventions in childhood bereavement and traumatic loss.
Among other publications, she is the author of Healing Children's Grief: Surviving a parent's death from cancer, published in 2000 by Oxford University Press and author of a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on "Adolescent Grief". These publications identify through systematic analysis of 157 bereaved children, clinically relevant patterns of experience and expression of grief to parent loss at 5 different developmental levels. In 2004 Healing Children's Grief was recognized by the International Association of Palliative Care leadership as one of 12 books providing critical new directions to the field for the 21st century.
Dr. Christ was the director of the Social Work Leadership Development Awards Program of the Project on Death in America (PDIA), and co-chair of the 1st and 2nd Social Work Summits on End-of-Life and Palliative Care, the preliminary meetings which helped shape the Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network. She is also Director of the FDNY/Columbia University Family Assessment and Guidance Program, a program providing both intervention and research on the processes of recovery for families in which a firefighter father was killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Findings about the intervention model and the families' adaptation appear in the book FDNY Crisis Counseling: Innovative Responses to Firefighters, Families and Communities.
Dr. Christ was a Senior Faculty Scholar with PDIA, a recipient of the National American Cancer Society's Distinguished Service Award, and recipient of the American Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's 2001 research award. She was formerly Director of Social Work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Daniel S. Gardner, PhD, LCSW
is an Assistant Professor at the NYU School of Social Work and a Hartford Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work, with professional interests in social gerontology; oncology, end-of-life and palliative care; health care practice and policy; clinical practice with individuals, couples, and families; and program evaluation and social work research.
Prior to joining the NYU faculty in 2005, Dr. Gardner held faculty positions at Columbia University and Hunter College (CUNY), teaching generalist and advanced clinical practice as well as courses on aging, health care policy and practice, and social work research methods. Dr. Gardner graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies, received an MSW degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work, and a doctorate in Social Work from Columbia University. He completed a post-master's certificate program in clinical social work from the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Workers, and has held clinical licensure in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York.
Dr. Gardner has over 20 years of social work practice experience with individuals, families, and groups. This includes ten years in hospital and community-based health care organizations, specializing in clinical practice with individuals and families living with cancer or with HIV/AIDS. He has also provided individual, group, couples, and family therapy to children and adults in a variety of agency and private settings. Dr. Gardner has extensive supervisory, administrative, and program development experience. For six years, he directed the counseling department of a large family service agency, overseeing prevention and behavioral health programs for children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. One consistent theme in his practice has been a commitment to supporting the efforts of individuals and families to manage health-related transitions and crises.
Dr. Gardner's research interests include health and aging; end-of-life care; and the role of familial and social relationships in managing chronic and terminal illness. He is a member of the RAND Interdisciplinary Geriatric Center at NYU, has been a research consultant and program evaluator for the Gerontological Society of America and the Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholars Program, and a research assistant and project coordinator on several NIH-funded grants at the Center for the Psychosocial Study of Health and Illness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. As a doctoral student, Dr. Gardner received a Ruth Fizdale Doctoral Dissertation Award, an American Cancer Society Doctoral Training Grant, and was a Hartford Doctoral Fellow in Geriatric Social Work. His current research includes the development and evaluation of a psychoeducational intervention for individuals at end-of-life and their familial healthcare proxies.
Barbara L. Jones, PhD, LMSW
is President of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers (APOSW) and Assistant Professor at the UT Austin School of Social Work where she is also Co-Director of The Institute for Grief, Loss and Family Survival.
Dr. Jones was a Social Work Leader in the Open Society Institute's Project on Death in America and principal investigator on a study of the role of social work in pediatric palliative care. Dr. Jones serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life Care (Haworth Press) and has written articles on the needs of children and families at the end-of-life. She is a member of the Alliance for Childhood Cancer.
Dr. Jones' extensive clinical experience has been primarily in the field of children's loss, pediatric palliative and end-of-life care, grief, trauma, and survival. Most recently she was the Director of Pediatric Programs at the Center for Advanced Illness Coordinated Care and a Clinical Faculty member and Senior Clinical Social Worker at Albany Medical Center Children's Cancer Center. Previously she was the Coordinator of the Children's Bereavement Program at St. Peter's Hospice in NY. Dr. Jones has served as a Steering Committee Member of the National Alliance for Children with Life Threatening Conditions (NACWLTC), Chairperson of the NACWLTC Clinical Models Work Group, member of the Children's Oncology Group End-Of-Life Committee and member of the New York State Children's Hospice and Palliative Care Advisory Group.
Dr. Jones consults and lectures nationally on issues of pediatric palliative care, grief and loss, and the role of social work in health care. Her newest research project is a study of the meaning of surviving cancer for Hispanic/Latino adolescents funded by a grant from the Center for Health Promotion Research at the UT School of Nursing. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Master of Social Work, and PhD in Social Work at the University at Albany, New York State.
Sanford Klein, DDS, MD
was founding professor and Chairman of the department of Anesthesia at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, a position he served for 16 years. The author of many articles and a popular textbook, he remains a professor at the Medical School, teaching, counseling and lecturing.
A product of the New York City School System through the Bronx High School of Science, Dr. Klein received a Dentistry degree from NYU and an MD degree from Albany Medical College. He became a board certified Anesthesiologist in 1975 and joined the faculty at the University of Iowa.
Dr. Klein's interest in end of life issues was sparked by the end stage high tech care he was working with on Intensive Care Units. It was usual to pour enormous resources into what turned out to be the patient's last days of life, which, to Dr. Klein, seemed wasteful and undignified. He joined the Board of Directors at New Jersey Heath Decisions over a decade ago to help promote humane end of life decisions.
Stacy Orloff, EdD, LCSW
is the Vice President of Palliative Care and Community Programs for the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in Clearwater, Florida and has over 17 years of experience in pediatric hospice and palliative care. Dr. Orloff serves on several task forces through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, including the social work steering committee. She serves as chair of the organization's Social Work Outcomes Workgroup and is also co-chair of the Children's Project on Palliative/Hospice Services. Dr. Orloff has presented at many national conferences. She also serves as Florida's hospice representative on the state steering committee for the Partners in Care: Together for Kids, a palliative care waiver program in partnership with the Department of Health, Children's Medical Services and the Agency for Health Care Administration. She has published in several peer reviewed books and journals and has co-edited two books. Dr. Orloff holds a doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership.
Judith R. Peres, LCSW-Cwas the Vice President for Policy & Advocacy of the former Last Acts Partnership which dissolved in September, 2004. Prior to the formation of Last Acts Partnership, she was the Deputy Director of the Last Acts, National Program Office, funded by Robert Wood Johnson to improve care and caring near the end of life. In those roles she developed major policy pieces speaking to the need to improve end-of-life care in this country. Her career spans over three decades in both Medicare health policy and direct clinical work. Prior to her appointment at Last Acts, Ms. Peres served as Director of Health Policy for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, specializing in quality, reimbursement, and workforce issues.
A clinical social worker with postgraduate training in cognitive/behavioral therapy and mind/body health, she has extensive experience in stress management, grief work, aging and palliative care. Her clinical practice includes Employee Assistance Program work for the Sheppard Pratt Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition, she was a practicing psychotherapist for Kaiser Permanente with a specialty in cognitive behavioral therapy. She has returned to Kaiser as the Mind/Body Coordinator in the Department of Integrative Medicine.
Tracy Schroepfer, PhD, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
is Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and Co-Director of the Cancer Health Disparities Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Schroepfer is currently working on several areas of research, the first of which is focused on gaining knowledge of the psychosocial and physical factors that motivate terminally ill elders to either consider or not consider a hastened death. Over the past two years, she has interviewed 200 terminally ill elders regarding the psychosocial and physical factors that motivated them to either consider or not consider a hastened death. The quantitative and qualitative results will be used to inform policy makers and practitioners working to improve the palliative care offered to terminally ill elders.
The second area of research on which Dr. Schroepfer is currently working focuses on reducing cancer health disparities in medically underserved communities in Wisconsin. She and fellow researchers are currently working in eight communities using a community-based participatory approach to assessing the readiness of the community to address cancer, as well as assessing the care provided to community members who have had cancer, currently have cancer, or who have been given a terminal cancer diagnosis. Once the assessments are complete, the research team will sit down with community members to set action priorities and decide how best to implement programs or policies to address the priorities.
Dr. Schroepfer was selected as both a Hartford Doctoral Fellow and a Hartford Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work. At the University of Arkansas she obtained a BA in Sociology and an MA in Gerontology, and an MSW and PhD in Social Work/Sociology from the University of Michigan.
Gary L. Stein, JD, MSW
is faculty in the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at New York City's Yeshiva University, bringing more ethics curriculum and discussion to the university. His courses include Social Welfare Organization, Social Work in Health Care, and Social Policy, a doctoral class. Stein has been commissioned to write a paper for the RAND Corporation, on behalf of the US Department of Health and Human Services, regarding advance care planning as it applies to people with disabilities.
Previously he served as executive director of New Jersey Health Decisions, having joined the organization in November 1998. He was responsible for developing and administering projects to promote end-of-life care, informed health care decision-making, and citizen involvement in health issues. He has been principal investigator of: the New Jersey Comfort Care Coalition, under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Community-State Partnerships to Improve End-of-Life Care; the End-of-Life Care Fellowship for Social Workers under the Soros Foundation Network Project on Death in America's Social Work Leadership Development Awards; and the Project on Health Decisions for People with Disabilities under grants from the Soros Foundation Network Project on Death in America, the State of New Jersey, the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, and the Kessler Foundation. He co-authored a chapter on "Palliative Care for People with Disabilities," which is included in Living with Dying: A Social Work Textbook in End of Life Care, Columbia University Press, 2004. Mr. Stein was a consultant to Partnership in Caring, through which he completed the Project on Health Care Attitudes in the Lesbian and Gay Community; articles from this study were published in 2001 in the Journal of Palliative Medicine and the Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. Mr. Stein was project director for the HIV Professional Development Project and the Palliative Care Leadership Development Program at the New York Academy of Medicine.
Mr. Stein received a Certificate in Bioethics and the Medical Humanities from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1998. He also received advance bioethics training at Georgetown University and Montefiore Medical Center/New York University Division of Nursing. He received his J.D. (cum laude) from the New York Law School; M.S.W. (clinical practice) from the Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work; and A.B. (psychology) from Rutgers College. Stein previously taught at Seton Hall, Drew, and Kean Universities.
Christina Woodward Strong, Esq., JD
is an attorney in private practice who concentrates in healthcare law and policy, representing numerous non-profit and provider organizations, as well as trade groups, medical societies, and individual providers and practices. Ms. Strong has particular expertise in the areas of organ and tissue donation for transplant, education and research, and has been closely involved in state and national law and policy development concerning consent, allocation, brain death and donation after cardiac death. In 2006, she received the "Executive Directors Award" of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations for her work in national health care policy development. In 2007, she was named "Outstanding Woman of the Year" in Somerset County, New Jersey, for her legal and health policy accomplishments.
Besides legal representation, Ms. Strong also provides policy and governmental affairs consultation. She worked successfully on behalf of several health advocacy organizations to obtain passage of ground-breaking stem-cell research legislation in New Jersey, and was instrumental in updating clinical brain death standards in that State. Ms. Strong has facilitated her clients' goals on health-related legal and policy issues in New York, New Jersey, and California, as well as on the federal level, particularly in areas of organ and tissue donation, privacy, informed consent, biotechnology and research.
In addition to her professional activities, Ms. Strong volunteers for Hi-Tops, the nationally recognized teen health and education center located in Princeton, New Jersey, where she serves as Secretary of the Board of Trustees. In late 2006, she was appointed to the Board of New Jersey Health Decisions, a non-profit organization involved in end-of life decisions policy.
Katherine Walsh, PhD, MSWas a Professor at the Springfield College School of Social Work, designs and teaches courses in social work practice with vulnerable and resilient populations, family therapy, therapeutic applications of adventure and loss and grief. During her 27 years as an oncology social worker in a variety of settings, she was a senior social worker and student supervisor at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Director of Psychosocial Services at Hospice/VNA Alliance of Hampshire County, and private practitioner of individual, group and family therapy.
She is the Immediate Past President of the Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW) and a co-author of the C-Penn Award winning Cancer Survival Toolbox, a collaborative project of AOSW, the Oncology Nursing Society and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. Her Social Work Leadership Development Award from the Project on Death in America in 2000 developed curriculum in end-of-life care for masters and post-masters level social workers as well as allied health professionals.
Dr. Walsh received the American Cancer Society's Trish Greene Quality of Life Award of Excellence in 2001 and the Social Work Leadership Award from the Association of Oncology Social Work in 2002. She serves on the Medical Advisory Committee of the NE Division of the American Cancer Society, as Children's Activities Coordinator for the Massachusetts We Can Weekend, an annual retreat for families affected by cancer, and on the professional advisory committee of Cancer Connection, a community organization in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Her textbook, Loss and grief: Theories and skills for helping professionals was published by Allyn & Bacon in April of 2005. Other recent publications include Walsh-Burke, K. and Zebrack, B. "Advocacy needs of adolescent and young adult survivors of cancer: Perspectives of pediatric oncology social work leaders" Journal of Psychosocial Oncology; Walsh-Burke, K. "Mental health risk assessment" in Berzoff, J. and Silverman, P. (Eds) (2004). Living with dying: A handbook for end of life healtcare professionals, New York: Columbia University Press.; Walsh-Burke, K. "Advanced generalist social work and managed care" in Roy, A. and Vecchiolla, F. (Eds). Advanced Generalist Social Work. E.Bauer Press; Taylor-Brown, S., Altilio, T., Blacker, S., Christ, G. and Walsh-Burke,K. (2001). Care at the End of Life. Society for Leadership in Social Work and Health Care Best Practices Monograph, Walsh-Burke, K. (2000). "Matching Bereavement Services to Level of Need", The Hospice Journal, 15(1), 77-86.
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