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Easing the Suffering of Fellow Humans is the Goal of the Academy

Faculty Explore Vastly Different Research to Alleviate Suffering

When researchers gather at the National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education & Research September 28-29 in San Diego, we’ll see how different their perspectives and experiences are – which underscores that “palliative care” exploration and pedagogy varies widely in the academy. But their work has the common denominator of easing the suffering of fellow humans.

The Symposium is a place where conversations among members of the academic community, from all disciplines, can coalesce, blending ideas and evidence from their work in spiritual, emotional, mental or physical aspects of illnesses, with the goal of finding new ways to integrate the palliative care message into their research endeavors and curriculum.

Here are some examples of the wide array of research our participants are conducting, and will be discussing at the Symposium:

Music’s Influence on Quality of Life

A PhD Psychologist is enlisting college students to help older adults with dementia pass their days enjoying their favorite music. The students are creating “autobiographical music” collections for adults, music that is personally reminiscent to them and is directly tied to positive or significant events in their lives (e.g., their first date, their wedding).

Information gleaned during “music life history interviews” with patients and families allows for the creation of customized playlists that played during the patient’s day. Data collection will show if participants had changes in biomarkers, levels of social engagement, and quality of life as a result of having their favorite music again in their lives.

Help for Children whose Parents Are Terminally Ill

A collaborative team of faculty and school personnel wanted to help young caregivers and grieving children whose caregiving and grief has impacted their development. The group devised, tested, and implemented a toolkit to provide educators in school systems a means to enhance their skills and knowledge about young caregivers. The aim is to improve young people’s resiliency, improve their quality of life today, and provide them support for optimal development in the future.

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers to End-of-life Discussions

When people are ill, how they perceive illness, suffering and dying is through their own cultural lens. In fact, the lack of culturally-competent end-of-life care has been referred to as the largest public health crisis looming in the US (Periyakoil, 2016). One PhD Psychology researcher is teaming with pastors in rural South Carolina to hold conversations with African American elders to learn their preferences for having conversations about end-of-life choices. The research will inform education for local healthcare providers to strengthen their understanding of culturally diverse views, especially about healthcare choices.

If you are a member of the academy from any institution of higher learning, with an interest area of reducing suffering or improving quality of life, we strongly urge and invite you to partake in the Symposium. In addition to faculty from disciplines including nursing, medicine, psychology, and social work, there are faculty from communications, sociology, technology, and many more, whose teaching and research aims to enhance the lives of people affected by serious or chronic illness. The Symposium invites all researchers from all disciplines to come, share, amplify and grow new ideas to improve the lives of anyone of any age, ethnicity, or belief system affected by serious illness.  


Periyakoil, V. S., Neri, E., & Kraemer, H. (2016). Patient-Reported Barriers to High-Quality, End-of-Life Care: A Multiethnic, Multilingual, Mixed-Methods Study. JOURNAL OF PALLIATIVE MEDICINE, 19(4), 373–379.

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