Principles of palliative care can cross over into many fields of study, from ancient history and philosophy to health communication and bioethics. Palliative care clinicians looking to make connections with undergraduate faculty colleagues may find the following helpful:
Search the course catalog
Search your institution’s course catalog for courses themed around death or dying, aging, or human lifespan. Courses such as Sociology of Medicine or Health Communication may also lead to productive connections. More broadly, you may find courses in history, literature, and other disciplines with a focus on suffering, mortality, illness, or meaning-making.
Email potential collaborators or program chairs. A sample might read:
“I’m an assistant professor in the Division of Palliative Medicine. Our work focuses on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life for people living with serious illness. Some of our colleagues at other universities have started working with undergraduate peers to integrate discussions of mortality, grief, and related topics into undergraduate courses through lectures, campus events, or seminars. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive from students, particularly as the pandemic has made these issues tangible for many. If you have time for coffee or a call, I’d love to hear more about your course, XXX, and what’s on your students’ minds. I hope it might lead to new collaboration between our departments.
Identifying a few champion colleagues in the undergraduate college can lead to new opportunities and help clinically focused faculty better understand how to work effectively with undergraduate educators. Establish a core group of 2-3 faculty and meet at least quarterly.
Lead a faculty discussion or reading group
Invite prospective undergraduate partners to a journal club or wine and cheese. You might start with a student-friendly overview article, such as Atul Gawande’s Letting Go article from The New Yorker, and discuss its relevance across fields. Or you might elicit feedback from faculty on students’ concerns about death and loss as they relate to established course topics, or talk with faculty about ways to engage with students who are dealing with serious loss or illness.
Look for opportunities to partner
Across the Consortium, a lecture on palliative care has been one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to engage with undergraduates, but opportunities at your institution may vary from hosting or sponsoring Death Café events to planning entire seminar courses. Consortium members can use materials in the Resources section for inspiration.
Want to learn more? Contact us to get involved with the Consortium.