By Angela Hult, Cambia Health Foundation

“If we want to transform something as huge as health care, we have to think big. We need to change the way the people we love are dying.” –Ellen Goodman

That’s what Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman told the crowd at last week’s Cambia Health Foundation Sojourns Awards luncheon in Seattle. Goodman, who co-founded The Conversation Project, an initiative to encourage people to talk with their loved ones about their care preferences at end of life, gave the keynote address at the luncheon.

At the event, the Cambia Health Foundation honored five Northwest palliative care pioneers for their vision and innovation in the field of palliative and end-of-life care. Each of the individuals received a $50,000 Sojourns Award in recognition of their accomplishments and as an investment in their future work.

Through programs such as the Sojourns Awards, Cambia Health Foundation is committed to improving access to and quality of palliative care, recognizing and advancing leadership and innovation, and facilitating an open dialog about end-of-life issues. The foundation also provides grants to organizations working to advance palliative care in their communities.

2012 Sojourns Award Winners

  • Patricia Berry, Ph.D., APRN (Salt Lake City, Utah): Helping nurses learn how to manage a patient’s pain and provide top-notch end-of-life care is University of Utah nursing professor Dr. Berry’s specialty. She also helped found the first hospice in the Intermountain West.

  • John Forsyth, M.D. (Medford, Oregon): A pioneer in the field of palliative care and the founder of a coalition called Choosing Options, Honoring Options, Dr. Forsyth has spent the last four decades encouraging Southern Oregonians to talk about their wishes and preferences for end-of-life care.
  • Carolyn Nystrom, R.N. (Ketchum, Idaho): As the executive director of Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley, Nystrom provides quality end-of-life care for rural Idahoans. Thanks in large part to her efforts, more than 90 percent of everyone who dies in Blaine County have the support of hospice care.
  • Darrell Owens, Ph.D., DNP, ARNP (Seattle, Washington): After observing serious gaps in care, Owens, the director of outpatient palliative care at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center, launched one of the first clinics in the nation to combine primary and palliative care for low-income patients.
  • Kathy Perko, P.N.P. (Portland, Oregon): For the director of the pediatric palliative care program at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, caring for seriously ill children is her calling. Perko is in the process of starting a pediatric palliative care telehealth program for seriously ill children in rural Oregon.

Do you know a person or organization deserving of a Sojourns Award? Nominations for the 2013 Sojourns Awards open on November 1, and close on March 1, 2013.

Angela Hult is the executive director of the Cambia Health Foundation. Learn more at www.cambiahealthfoundation.org or @CambiaHealthFdn on Twitter.