UF researchers host summit on end-of-life care 

UF Health Cancer Center members Carma Bylund, Ph.D., a professor in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics, and Susan Bluck, Ph.D., a lifespan developmental psychologist and gerontologist in the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ department of psychology, recently co-hosted a summit at UF that delved into the science of how people care for one another, particularly at the end of life. 

The Science of Care Summit was funded through a three-year grant from the National Cancer Institute. 

Bluck and Bylund presented research on two pillars of humanistic care: recognizing seriously ill and dying individuals as unique human beings and empathy in patient-provider interactions. 

Experts from across the nation joined with UF faculty and students to present and exchange ideas during the summit, held March 21-22. Presentations included the need for dignity in end-of-life care by Sheri Kittelson, M.D., division chief of the Palliative Care at UF Health. Postdoctoral associates, graduate students and undergraduate students presented their research in a lunch-hour poster session.  

Interactive activities to foster creative consideration of humanism in care included breakout sessions addressing topics from illness acknowledgement to existential and spiritual concerns, a guided personal grief exercise, a Before I Die Wall, and participation by Shirley Bloodworth, a UF Health Cancer Center Citizen Scientist who shared her own story of living with cancer. 

A member of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences research program, Bylund’s research focuses on health care communication among care providers, caregivers and patients in cancer care. She serves as associate chair of education in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics.

Bluck is also a member of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences research program. Her Life Story Lab team examines the ways that individuals use memories of life’s experiences (i.e., reminiscence, life review, life stories) to serve adaptive psychosocial functions. Her most recent work, in collaboration with health professionals in palliative care, examines the last chapter of the life story: how and why people recall death-related experiences.

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