Park University Hosting Workshop on Compassion in Disease Dialogue and Death Notification

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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Park University’s Center to Advance the Study of Loss will host a workshop on Friday, Oct. 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Park Distance Learning Conference Center on the University’s Parkville Campus. The workshop, “Compassion in Disease Dialogue and Death Notification,” is designed for professionals to gain knowledge in considerate truth-telling throughout a person’s disease journey and to develop strategies for using compassion in death notification.

The keynote speaker for the event is Clay M. Anderson, M.D., FACP, FAAHPM, senior medical director for NorthCare Hospice and Palliative Care. In addition, Rev. Dan Festa, D.Min., pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Marshall, Mo., will present on the topic. Anderson will focus on the disease dialogue concept and expand on strategies that utilize a positive approach for communication in hospice, palliative care and other settings. Festa will bring his experience and recommendations for sharing news of a death in a compassionate manner.

Anderson, trained and board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hospice and palliative care, attended the University of Missouri-Columbia as an undergraduate and graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine in 1991. His oncology training was at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and he has 13 years of teaching experience as a faculty member at the University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia. Anderson has been with NorthCare Hospice and Palliative Care since 2010.

Festa began his professional career as a certified medical librarian on faculty with the medical school at the University of South Carolina. After earning his Doctorate of Ministry from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Mo., he taught biomedical ethics at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University. Concurrently, Festa served as chaplain and coordinator of bereavement services on the Medical Campus of VCU. He has also worked as director of counseling and wellness services at the University of Charleston (W.Va.) and as chaplain at St. Francis Hospital in Charleston. Festa was also employed by several organ procurement agencies, where he taught death and bereavement sessions for organ recovery coordinators.

Other speakers include Laurel Hilliker, Ph.D., executive director of Park’s CASL and assistant professor of sociology, and Gerry Walker, D.H.Ed., MSN, RN, chair of Park’s Ellen Finley Earhart Nursing Program and associate professor of nursing. Hilliker will facilitate the agenda and briefly discuss current research on the day’s topic, while Walker will provide a personal story of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of a young adult and the delivery of the news to the family in a hospital setting.

“The way in which the news of a terminal illness or the death of a family member is delivered has been found to have a great impact on a person’s bereavement,” said Hilliker. “It is our hope that we will equip participants in this workshop with compassionate practical strategies on this topic.”

The workshop will also help students in attendance to empathize with the challenges that professionals have who currently work in the field. Students will also learn to devise strategies to assist in environments involving terminal illness and death in their respective fields of work, added Hilliker.  

Registration for the event is $50 and includes lunch and refreshments. Continuing education units are available. Register before Thursday, Oct. 7, by visiting Payment can be made online or by sending a check payable to: Park University/CASL, Attn: Janice Sieminski, CMB 132, 8700 NW River Park Drive, Parkville, MO 64152.

For questions or additional information, contact Hilliker at or (816) 584-6808.