Contact: Ellen Bank


Sept. 22, 2000

Grant Supports Improving Care of Dying

CHARLESTON, SC -- The development of an "institute without walls" to provide both health professionals and members of the community with information about end-of-life care is the goal of a Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) project that just received funding.

The Open Society Institute's Project on Death in America (PDIA) Faculty Scholars Program has granted $153,000 to Jerome Kurent, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine, neurology and psychiatry at MUSC. Kurent is one of 10 individuals nationally to receive PDIA Soros Faculty scholarships to improve care of the dying for his proposal to establish The Institute for Community and Professional Education in End-of-Life-Care.

Kurent's primary goal is to provide easily accessible information to health care providers and the community across the culturally diverse state of South Carolina. But, one of his means of providing information * the Internet * will bring the information worldwide. The planned website will provide basic information on living wills, Hospice services, referral sources, pain management and spiritual aspects of end-of-life care. In addition it will provide linkages with existing sources of information about end-of-life care. A key link will be with the Education for Physicians on End-of-Life Care (EPEC) project, a comprehensive site developed by the American Medical Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in conjunction with a national panel of palliative and end-of-life care experts. An online curriculum for physician education in end-of-life care is being developed in collaboration with the MUSC Office for Continuing Medical Education.

But for those without Web access, Kurent and his colleagues are developing a community resource manual for end-of-life care outlining professional and community resources available to meet the needs of dying patients and their families. In addition, a comprehensive network will provide information in a personal and direct way. This will include a culturally-sensitive outreach program with a focus on urban and rural poor African American communities in South Carolina. It will involve close ties with community clergy as well as workshops and focus groups at community functions such as senior citizens' meetings or church community centers.

Another element of the project is aimed at reducing the incidence of caregiver burnout. This will be accomplished by developing a program of community volunteerism to help provide short term relief for stressed family caregivers who are attending to the needs of a dying family member.

Kurent occupies key leadership roles in a variety of local, state and national organization with related concerns. An important part of the project is the linkage of these existing groups which include the MUSC Center for the Study of Aging, the South Carolina Center for Gerontology, the Department of Health and Human Services and other key agencies across the state.

The Project on Death in America Faculty Scholars Program identifies outstanding clinical faculty who are making a commitment to improving end-of-life care and provides support for disseminating existing models of good care, developing new models for improving care of the dying, and developing new approaches to the education of health professionals about the care of dying patients and their families.