Press Release

Programs Bring Innovation to Palliative and End-of-Life Care

Three programs that expand the reach of palliative and end-of-life care will be recognized as the 2011 recipients of the Circle of Life Award®: Celebrating Innovation in Palliative and End-of-Life Care, along with four others that will be awarded Citations of Honor.

The programs share overriding themes of compassion, dedication and collaboration. Gilchrist Hospice Care in Hunt Valley, Md. has successfully integrated palliative care across hospital, hospice services, physician groups, patient homes and long-term care and assisted living facilities.  St. John Providence Health System in Detroit, Mich. has hardwired palliative care into every service and educated staff, so that no matter where an individual enters the system they are evaluated for palliative care needs. The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care in Cheektowaga, N.Y. provides a very-extensive care continuum and a sophisticated palliative care institute, with strong emphasis on collaboration, physician leadership and clinical research. Each of these innovative programs will each receive a Circle of Life Award at a ceremony on July 18 in San Diego. 

"A patient needing palliative or end-of-life care faces difficult challenges that must be addressed with skill and unique expertise," said AHA president and CEO, Rich Umbdenstock.  "These winners exemplify what the health care field is striving for: compassionate care for patients and families at all times.  These innovative programs serve as guiding lights for others on this path."

Citations of Honor were awarded to Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, N.H. in recognition of its strong commitment to inpatient and outpatient palliative care, regional focus and end-of-life and palliative care research and education; John H Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, Ill for its commitment to treating a very diverse population with complex needs, including helping dying immigrant patients fulfill wishes to return to home countries; St. Mary's Healthcare System in Athens, Ga. for embedding palliative care throughout the hospital and a culture change on the community level; and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburg, Pa., for providing close to seamless palliative care delivery and working to spread palliative care across the entire 18-hospital system.  

Highlights of the Circle of Life Award programs

Gilchrist Hospice Care - Hunt Valley, Md.

Gilchrist Hospice Care (GHC) provides quality, compassionate end of life care for terminally-ill adults in Central Maryland and their families. GHC has touched countless lives, providing physical, social and spiritual care as well as bereavement support for patient families and the community-at-large.  GHC's goal is to help patients approach the end-of-life in comfort and with dignity, surrounded by loved ones in the place that provides them the most solace and to shoulder much of the burden of care so that families can spend precious time together.

GHC is being recognized for successfully integrating palliative care with geriatric care across a coordinated continuum of service settings and for instilling palliative care into the fabric of long-term care and assisted living facilities and Greater Baltimore Medical Center's acute care unit for the elderly.  They have made a strong commitment to staff education, including orientation, training and mentoring requirements.

St. John Providence Health System - Detroit, Mich.

A six-hospital system in the Detroit metro area, St John Providence Health System (SJPHS) has hardwired palliative care into every service and educated staff, so that no matter where an individual enters the system, they are evaluated for palliative care needs.  Patients are also evaluated for clinical, psychosocial and spiritual needs as they move through the hospital continuum and for post-discharge resource needs. 

SJPHS takes a strategic approach to the development of palliative care services through the multifaceted and on-going efforts of interdisciplinary care teams, consisting of both clinicians as well as representatives from the spiritual care department.  Consistent with the system's mission, palliative care at SJPHS is spiritual-centered and holistic paying equal attention to the body, mind, and spirit. The health system has engaged the local faith communities as partners in the care process.

The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care - Cheektowaga, N.Y.

The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care is a freestanding hospice organization that provides a very extensive care continuum and a sophisticated palliative care institute. The Center is led by a passionate and high-quality management team and works diligently to fulfill the mission of providing exceptional care and life enhancing services for seriously ill patients and those who share their lives.  The Center improves the quality of life for those impacted by serious illness and has done so through a strong emphasis on collaboration, physician leadership and clinical research. They are constantly fine-tuning and making modifications to improve its care and program based on outcome measures and survey data from patients, caregivers and physicians.

The Center has strategically partnered with Buffalo's African-American community, including construction of a hospice house, and is moving forward with similar linkages with the Hispanic community in an effort to be culturally sensitive and expand the reach of palliative care services within the broader Buffalo community.

The Circle of Life Award celebrates programs across the nation that have made great strides in palliative and end-of-life care.  This is the twelfth year for the Circle of Life Award.  The 2011 awards are supported, in part, by the California HealthCare Foundation, based in Oakland, Calif, and the Archstone Foundation.  Major sponsors are the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association, National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization & National Hospice Foundation. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the National Association of Social Workers are Circle of Life cosponsors. The Circle of Life Award is a program administered by the Health Research & Educational Trust.

Circle of Life nominations were received and reviewed by a selection committee that included leaders from medicine, nursing, social work and health administration.  The committee visited programs that respect patient goals and preferences, provide comprehensive care, acknowledge and address the family or caregivers' concerns and needs and build systems and mechanisms of support that will ensure that the programs continue.  The programs selected serve as innovative models for other communities.  For more information on the Circle of Life Award, visit

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

About AHA


Member Constituency Sections

Key Relationships

News Center

Performance Improvement

Advocacy Issues

Products & Services


Research & Trends


155 N. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, Illinois 60606

800 10th Street, N.W.
Two CityCenter, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20001-4956