Tribute to Barbara Head, Ph D, CHPN, ACSW, APHSW-C, FPCN

Dr. Barbara Head’s passion for education and our specialty of hospice and palliative care has helped to support, nurture, and strengthen so many social workers, nurses, physicians, chaplains, students, and other health professionals. We are all very grateful for her service. Barbara is currently receiving hospice care. Please join us in acknowledging the impact she has had on the lives of so many through your donation to honor her as a Florence Wald Champion. 

Barbara has been a lifelong champion for hospice and palliative care. Prior to entering academics, she worked at a large hospice program in Louisville, Kentucky, as a home care nurse, quality-improvement director, and staff/community education director. She has served as both a board member and president of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) and the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC) and as a member of the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) Board of Directors. 

“In 2000, Barbara, as president of the certifying organization, along with Molly Poleto, hired me for the executive director position at HPNA. Barbara’s knowledge, skill, and kindness supported, guided, and counseled me in this new role, establishing a very deep and special friendship. I am eternally grateful,” said Judy Lentz, former chief executive officer of HPNA, HPCC, and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation. Regarding her service with the SWHPN board, “Dr. Barbara Head was one of the early leaders of the SWHPN board, helping establish the organization, and her contributions to the field of hospice and palliative care have been tremendous. She was honored with the 2018 Project on Death in America’s Career Achievement Award from SWHPN in recognition of her impact,” said Jessica Strong, executive director of SWHPN. 

Barbara’s passion for education has impacted so many learners. She recently retired as an associate professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and affiliated faculty at the Kent School of Social Work. Barbara also served as faculty for the Master of Science in Palliative Care at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. “Dr. Head was an incredibly positive presence in this program. Given her vast experience, intellect, and common sense, Dr. Head contributed exponentially to our interdisciplinary student body,” said Dr. Mary Lynn McPherson, program director of the Online Master of Science and Graduate Certificates in Palliative Care. Barbara’s contributions to education extended outside of the United States. She served as faculty for the End-of-Life Nursing Education Curriculum (ELNEC). She has taught ELNEC geriatric curriculum nationally since its inception in 2006 in the United States, Malaysia, and India. Dr. Betty Ferrell, principal investigator of the ELNEC project, said, “Dr. Barbara Head has been a leader in palliative care education nationally and internationally. She is always a source of great wisdom and truly committed to improving patient care.” 

Barbara’s dedication to the specialty of hospice and palliative care can also be seen through her research involving workforce issues for hospice and palliative professionals, financial concerns in serious illness, geriatric palliative care, and interprofessional palliative education. Her work has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the National Cancer Institute, HPNA, and the Human Resources Services Association. Barbara has also served as the principal investigator for the iPEX project, which is training faculty teams from across the nation to develop interprofessional curricula in palliative care at their home institutions. 

She was also the principal investigator on a grant funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop a specialty certification program for hospice and palliative social workers and served as the president of the board of the Advanced Palliative and Hospice Social Work Certification (APHSW-C) program. Over the past year, Barbara helped to safely shepherd the transition of the APHSW-C credential to HPCC. “With the tireless leadership and vision of Dr. Barbara Head, palliative and hospice social workers now have an evidence-based advanced certification, the first in the field of social work. Her passion, expertise, and dedication ensured its success and future; it would not exist without her work," said Vickie Leff, former executive director of the APHSW-C program. 

Barbara has been widely published and has presented her work at numerous conferences. She has served on several dissertation committees and has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing as well as the Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care. 

A virtual celebration to honor Dr. Barbara Head is scheduled for January 24 at 7 p.m. ET. Contributors will be invited with a link prior to the event.

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