Marking the 10th Anniversary of the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care – and Sharing What’s Next!

By Jennifer Moore Ballentine and President Ellen Neufeldt

We have so much to celebrate! This month, the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care turns 10!

On September 20, 2012, the Institute was launched at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) as America’s first statewide educational and workforce development initiative dedicated to palliative care!

A Look Back at Our Founding

The launch celebration for the CSU Institute for Palliative Care
At the launch of the Institute, September 20, 2012.
From left, then-CSUSM President Karen Haynes, Darlene Shiley, Joe Prevratil (Archstone), Helen McNeal,
Kate O’Malley (CHCF), Mary Ellen Kuhlman (Archstone), Redwing Keyssar, Charles Reed,
and Roberta Achtenberg (then-CSU Trustee)

The Institute was birthed from the innovative, strategic focus that has been CSUSM’s hallmark since its founding – and 10 years later it remains a national example of that vision and adept execution.

The vision of the Institute was inspired by then-CSU Trustee Roberta Achtenberg. Roberta identified the tremendous and growing gap in healthcare services and connected it to her passion: the CSU as an engine of opportunity and workforce preparation. And she saw Cal State San Marcos as the campus within the CSU that could truly help this visionary idea flourish, given then-President Karen Haynes’ social work background and track record of implementing bold ideas and key initiatives.

With this vision and leadership in place as well as foundational funding from both the California Health Care Foundation and Archstone Foundation, the Institute was formally launched. At the public launch event, local philanthropist Darlene Shiley surprised everyone in attendance with the announcement of a $1.2 million gift to the Institute. The excitement and momentum was already growing!   

In 2018, following another generous gift, the Institute was renamed in Darlene’s honor. And in 2021, Dr. Karen Haynes’ name was also added.

The renaming celebration July 2021
At the renaming celebration, July, 2021.
From left, CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt, Darlene Shiley, CSUSM President Emerita Karen Haynes, Jennifer Moore Ballentine, Helen McNeal, CSUSM Chief Community Engagement Officer Patricia Prado-Olmos

The Early Years

With founding Executive Director Helen McNeal at the helm, and with the active guidance and support of then-President Haynes, a small yet mighty team took the Institute from 0 to 160 in short order, building a robust catalog of continuing education courses for working healthcare professionals and beginning to foster partnerships with other CSU campuses.

By 2017, upon Helen’s retirement, the Institute offered 26 online courses in palliative care, ranging from one-hour self-paced modules to nine-month-long certificate-level instructor-led courses, and 57 modules in care management, generating significant revenue. Helen also piloted half a dozen campus partnerships, working with them to introduce palliative care content into the pre-professional curriculum, and launched the National Symposium.

Building on a Strong Foundation

I was honored to come on board as the second executive director of the Institute in 2017. Over the past five years – two of them in the midst of the greatest global healthcare crisis in 100 years – I’ve had the privilege to build on this well-laid foundation.

The Institute’s catalog of online palliative care courses has now almost tripled, including eight certificate-level comprehensive courses, and nearly doubled in care management. These courses have attracted more than 25,000 student enrollments from all 50 U.S. states as well as 48 countries, many coming from enterprise-level utilization of our education for across-the-board staff training and development.

I’m also proud of how we have sustained several productive partnerships with CSU campuses, created a faculty toolkit of grab-and-go teaching resources, and hosted four more very successful, invigorating, and instructive National Symposia.

These numbers and milestones can only hint at the profound effect we know this education has had on individual students and organizations. As I sampled testimonials for a recent presentation, I saw many that touched my heart – here are just a few:

“I feel that this course has helped me to listen that much more attentively, to ask the harder questions and to be that much more comfortable discussing end of life goals of care and wishes.”

“My understand[ing] of the needs of my patients has shifted. The last 8 deaths that I have managed have gone very well in many ways, symptoms control, support of families, etc. I can attribute this to the course.”

“This course gave me my reason for doing what I do with love and compassion.”

Taking the Institute to Next Great Heights

As we enter our 11th year, the Institute is no longer a “start-up” initiative. In fact, we have at least reached adolescence! And, as all teenagers do, we are beginning to understand and fully embrace our identity and destiny.

Having created, launched, and promoted our robust educational offerings into the professional healthcare sector, we are confident of the value and effectiveness of the courses and certificates. Abundant data from evaluations, alumni surveys, market research, and one-on-one conversations with students and clients demonstrates that every day. The revenue generated from the sales of these courses, along with significant philanthropic support, has allowed the Institute to grow and gain a national reputation and impact on the field.

Still, we know that true transformation of healthcare – and the experience of serious illness – will only come about through sustained attention to future generations, to the students in their pre-professional preparation, as they not only gain knowledge and skills but form the values, approaches, temperament, and emotional-moral capacity to provide care to the very sick and dying.

It is time now for the Institute to turn its full attention to a new (but really the original) mission: to foster integration of palliative care content into pre-professional academic education, promote palliative care as a focus for academic research, and support community outreach and awareness through on- and off-campus activities throughout the CSU.

Moving forward, our dream is that:

  • Every nurse, every social worker, and every physician’s assistant graduating from the CSU has substantive understanding of palliative care;
  • Every major or master’s graduate in gerontology; public health; behavioral science; child, adolescent, and family studies; clinical science; human development; pre-med; public health; healthcare administration; health science; collaborative health and human services; kinesiology; psychology/counseling; sociology, and all relevant fields has significant exposure to palliative care; and
  • The CSU is the national first-choice for palliative care education.

To this end, we have made several changes over the past year to ensure our continuing education courses have a permanent home and sustainable administration through the CSUSM Extended Learning division. For the time being, the Institute website ( will continue to be the quickest way to access registration.

I am also pleased to share that Sharon Hamill, PhD, has joined the Institute staff as director of University Relations and Research. Dr. Hamill was the founding faculty director for the CSUSM Institute Campus Partner. Over her five years in that role, she initiated numerous programs and products that have impacted the CSUSM and surrounding communities’ awareness of palliative care, advance care planning, and caregiving. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in palliative care as well as skills in working with faculty and university administrations on complex, collaborative projects. She will be the main lead in our new direction.

Furthermore, we will be forming a new Campus Partnership Advisory Committee with representation from the faculty and administration of CSU campuses and a Steering Committee of campus partner faculty directors. CSU campuses will have several opportunities for affiliation and partnership with the Institute to advance this academic mission.

This is just the beginning – really an extension of work that has been going on for quite a while, but with a renewed focus and energy. I’m very excited for this new chapter, and I hope you will be too!

As our thank you for your support, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary year with a discount offer “10 For 10” – for the next 10 months, we’re offering a 10% discount off all our self-paced courses. Use the promocode “10for10” when registering to receive the discount.

Save the Date: National Symposium Scheduled for March 2023!

As a final note, please mark your calendars for our National Symposium on Academic Palliative Care Education and Research, scheduled for March 1 through 3 in Long Beach (see our Symposium page for more details). This symposium will include a celebratory dinner featuring Nikki Erlick, author of The Measure, and our annual Doris A. Howell Award for Advancing Palliative Care.

A Note from CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt

Over the course of my three-year tenure at CSUSM, I have come to fully appreciate the innovative vision and adept execution that has put the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care at the national forefront of palliative care education. Today, the Institute is truly a jewel of the CSU system and a credit to the tradition of trailblazing innovation that is CSUSM!

As the Institute turns 10, I continue to be so impressed by the work being done by Executive Director Jennifer Ballentine and her team, building on that original vision and work of Roberta Achtenberg, Dr. Karen Haynes, Darlene Shirley, Helen McNeal, and others. In Jennifer’s five years at the helm, we have seen the Institute grow tremendously in enrollment and course offerings while also fostering campus partner programs and building out resources for CSU faculty to access in our efforts to increase awareness of palliative care across disciplines. I also look with great excitement to what talents and ideas Dr. Sharon Hamill will also bring to this work as we look to the future.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending the National Symposium and meeting so many current and future palliative care practitioners. It was important for the attendees to know, from my heart, how important and valued their profession is. Recently my father passed away, and it was our healthcare team – trained in palliative care – who helped make the difficult journey a little easier for my family and me.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has also recently shown us, our palliative care providers are true heroes in every sense of the word. It is my sincere hope that through our work at the Institute that we will continue to positively affect and touch countless more individuals and families. We know the need is great – we also know our impact is transformative for all who experience it.

It is clear to me that over its decade-long history, the Institute has transformed palliative care professional education across California and our nation. I’m grateful for the visionary leadership of so many that has helped us get to this milestone, and am also so pleased that you are all part of our network and team as we look to what is next.

With deep appreciation,

Ellen Neufeldt, Ed.D.

CSUSM President

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