Cambia Health Foundation Collaboration Supports The Conversation Project with $161,000 Grant to Create Virtual Conversation Ready Community Resource Center

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. | The Conversation Project (TCP) will continue to increase its reach across the globe thanks to the generosity of the Cambia Health Foundation, a founding funder of TCP.   This is the third major grant given to TCP by the Cambia Health Foundation enabling the nonprofit to bring its mission to people where they live, work, pray and gather.

TCP, launched in 2012 in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), is a public engagement campaign dedicated to educating people about the importance of understanding their own end-of-life care wishes and sharing them with loved ones. At the heart of the project is the Conversation Starter Kit, a downloadable guide that helps people have “the conversation” about their preferences for end-of-life care. The Starter Kit is designed to be used by families, or by individuals, as a way to help them think about and communicate important end-of-life decisions.

Funds from Cambia Health Foundation’s Sojourn Program will be allocated to expand the tools made available to the public through a virtual Community Resource Center. The Resource Center will be available on TCP’s website and will serve as a template for change, helping communities around the world share the mission and message of TCP.

TCP’s National Field Director Kate DeBartolo will bring together best practices and lessons learned from the more than 130 community organizations nationwide with which she works with on a monthly basis. These are communities that have adopted TCP’s mission and already share the resources and messaging with a broad array of local stakeholders including civic and volunteer organizations, health care systems, senior centers, libraries, houses of worship and employers. DeBartolo will curate and annotate information, provide “tips and tricks” on how to bring TCP to communities, and share ways on how best to navigate cultural and language barriers. The Resource Center will also include a weekly blog featuring articles by DeBartolo as well as other team members and members of The Conversation Project Community Network

“The new resource center will be an invaluable asset to anyone looking to bring The Conversation Project’s mission and message to their community,” says Conversation Project founder Ellen Goodman. “We are looking forward to working closely with Cambia Health Foundation on this project and building on their terrific work in palliative and end-of-life care.”

The grant from the Cambia Health Foundation is made available to TCP through its Sojourns Program. Sojourns is a new initiative by Cambia designed to identify, cultivate, and advance the next generation of palliative care leaders. The program supports innovative and impactful clinical research, education and policy projects in the field of palliative care.

“At Cambia Health Foundation, we partner with organizations that share our vision of changing the way that Americans experience health care,” says Peggy Maguire, president and board chair of Cambia Health Foundation. “We’re honored to partner with The Conversation Project because we believe every person’s end-of-life wishes should be expressed and respected, and The Conversation Project is helping facilitate these difficult yet necessary conversations before it’s too late.”

TCP was founded in 2012 by Pulitzer Prize Winner, Ellen Goodman. Goodman created the organization after having been her mother’s caregiver and health care decision-maker. “My mother and I talked about everything, except what kinds of care she would have wanted at the end her end of life,” says Goodman. “By the time her dementia set in, I was faced with a cascading number of decisions to make, unsure if that’s what she really would have wanted.”

Unfortunately, Goodman’s experience is not unique. A survey released by Kelton showed that while 90 percent of Americans say it’s important to discuss their own and their loved ones’ wishes for end-of-life care, only 30 percent actually do. Similarly, 70 percent of people say they want to die at home, but in reality, 70 percent die in hospitals or institutions.

The goal of TCP and its new public health campaign will be to help individuals and their loved ones live out their final days in the way they would choose, honoring their wishes in death the same way we do in life – with dignity, respect, and deep compassion. Studies show that when there is a meaningful conversation about end-of-life choices, survivors report feeling less guilt, less depression, and an easier process of grieving.


About The Conversation Project

The Conversation Project, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Goodman and launched in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), is a public engagement campaign with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected. Too many people die in a manner they would not choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain. The Conversation Project offers people the tools, guidance, and resources they need to begin talking with their loved ones about their wishes and preferences, before a medical crisis – “at the kitchen table,” not in the intensive care unit. For more information, visit

About Cambia Health Foundation

Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience the health care system. A 501(c)3 grantmaking organization, the Foundation partners with organizations to create a more person-focused and economically sustainable health care system. Through its recently launched children’s health program area, the Foundation seeks to partner with community and school-based organizations that are pursuing holistic, integrated approaches to addressing children’s health issues. For more information, visit or


Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life

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A national, nonpartisan, committee appointed by the Institute of Medicine is calling for a major overhaul of how we treat end-of-life care in America. The committee concluded in a report released on Wednesday that, “The country’s system for handling end-of-life care is largely broken and should be changed at almost every level.” The panel concluded that the current system is not designed to meet the wants and needs of patients at the end of life. The report recommended that insurers reimburse health care providers for conversations with patients on advance care planning. Recently, the American Medical Association urged Medicare to reimburse providers for having these conversations.

For patients and their loved ones, no care decisions are more profound than those made near the end of life. For the millions of Americans who work in or with the health care sector—including clinicians, clergy, caregivers, and support staff—providing high-quality care for people who are nearing the end of life is a matter of professional commitment and responsibility. Health sys­tem managers, payers, and policy makers, likewise, have a responsibility to ensure that end-of-life care is compassionate, affordable, sustainable, and of the best quality possible.

A substantial body of evidence shows that broad improvements to end-of-life care are within reach. In Dying in America, a consensus report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a committee of experts finds that improving the quality and availability of medical and social services for patients and their families could not only enhance quality of life through the end of life, but may also contribute to a more sustainable care system.

Get access to the full report, key findings and recommendations, core components, and infographic here.

Losing My Mother Inspired Me to Help Others–Like You

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Maria– Friend of The Conversation Project, Barb Sedoric, was recently published on Maria Shriver’s blog. She tells the story of being blindsided by her mother’s death. Not only was she blindsided by grief and sadness, but by the myriad of decisions she had to make. She talks about the questions she faced such as “Should there be an autopsy?” “Will there be a memorial service” “What is the status of her finances?” Read the full blog post here.

How Jazz Singer Dolly Baker Found Voice on Deathbed

Posted on The Conversation Project is thrilled to have been featured on The major news outlet highlight the story of Dolly Baker, a former jazz singer who found rediscovered her singing voice in her final days of life.

In the last days before her death, 92-year-old Baker rediscovered her voice with Beth Israel’s palliative care specialist, and advisor to The Conversation Project, Dr. Lachlan Forrow. Dolly did not want to undergo amputation surgery and was referred to hospice, Forrow asked her, “What would make a good day for you?” That simple question revealed a woman whose passion had been singing. For the first time in 40 years, Baker joined her daughter and sang a duet, “What a Wonderful World.”

Read the full story here, and visit The Conversation Project’s YouTube site to the full video of “A Soul Doctor and a Jazz Singer.”

The Soul Doctor and The Jazz Singer

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“The Soul Doctor and The Jazz Singer”

What can a doctor do when there is “nothing left to do?”  At the end of Dolly Baker’s life, one doctor asked a question that made all the difference to her, to her care providers and her family. He asked simply and deeply:  “what would make today a good day for you?” He got to the heart of his patient, and with deep respect asked what mattered to her, not “what was the matter with her…”

No one on the hospital staff would have guessed that this shrinking 92 year old woman in a hospital Johnny facing the end-of-life was a former jazz singer, who could still scat and croon with the best of them.

How important and yet how rare is this moment. Dr. Lachlan Forrow is considered “The Soul Doctor” of internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He also advises The Conversation Project, a public engagement campaign with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care discussed, expressed and respected.

In this exchange we see how humanity at the end-of-life can transform a hospital room into a private concert hall, and transform the perspective of young doctors, who will help their patients truly live their last days.

Watch the full video here.