Prof. Gary Stein

Gary Stein, professor of social work and director of gerontology and palliative care at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, has received two new grants, one to continue his research in the experiences of LGBTQ patients and families in the health care system and the second to provide fellowships to Wurzweiler students studying gerontology and palliative care.

In 2018, Prof. Stein and Dr. Cathy Berkman, associate professor of social work at Fordham University, received a grant from the Borchard Foundation to lead a research team on a study of the experiences of LGBTQ patients and families in hospice and palliative care. That study was published in 2020 in the Journal of Palliative Medicine and was featured at many leading palliative care conferences.

A new grant from the Borchard Foundation will enable Prof. Stein, Dr. Berkman and their team to expand on their previous findings by conducting a qualitative study of the spouses, partners, surrogates, or case managers of deceased LGBTQ patients to obtain firsthand descriptions of their experiences when receiving hospice and palliative care, particularly the extent to which their care was disrespectful, inadequate or abusive due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Based on their findings, they will advocate for recommendations to address the needs for provider education, implementation of best practices with LGBTQ patients and families, and revising institutional and public policy that promotes competent and respectful care.

“As groundbreaking as our prior study was,” said Stein, “we are also very aware that fully understanding the experience of LGBTQ patients and family members with serious illness won’t be fully realized until we hear directly from the individuals who have experienced discriminatory palliative and end-of-life care. We need to better understand how these experiences affected their care, how they felt about this care and whether it led to delaying or avoiding health care, withholding complete information from their health care providers or other adverse outcomes.”

The second grant is from the Samuels Foundation, whose mission, through its Healthy Aging Program, is to improve the health care and overall quality of life for New York City’s older adults. (The Samuels Foundation also has a second program that supports the performing arts.) The grant will fund Gerontology and Palliative Care Fellowships for students interested in and committed to serving older adults and people facing serious illness and their families in New York City. The Fellows will complete specialized coursework and field training to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviors for successful careers in aging and serious illness care. Dr. Lynn Levy, associate clinical professor at Wurzweiler, will be joining Prof. Stein on this groundbreaking project.

“We are among the very few MSW programs nationally with a dedicated special palliative care course and certificate program,” said Stein, and in order to strengthen and extend that effort, the Foundation will provide substantial scholarships per academic year for five full-time students enrolled in Wurzweiler’s Certificate in Gerontology and Palliative Care. “Students receiving the Gerontology and Palliative Care Fellowship will also receive specialized mentoring by our expert palliative care and aging faculty and doctoral students,” added Stein. “Through programs like the one the supported by the Samuels Foundation, Wurzweiler will take the lead in developing leaders in aging and palliative care who will make significant contributions to the field.”

For more information about these and other Wurzweiler programs, visit the school’s website.

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