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Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation
Palliative Care
Date Approved

As anyone who has faced an illness will attest, nurses are a vital part of a care team and often have the most direct contact with patients. As a result, nurses are well positioned to identify patient needs and often have innovative ideas to improve the healthcare experience. Through a continued partnership with the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation (Hillman), AVDF is helping fund early-stage, nurse-led projects aimed at improving care for vulnerable patient populations facing serious illness. Often these projects are pre-evidence base, and the AVDF and Hillman funding provides valuable resources that the project leaders can utilize to gather initial evidence and can leverage when applying for future grant awards.

“Early-stage funding is critically important for the ability to engage in development of programs that are truly innovative and founded on principles of design-thinking. This approach to supporting the pilot-stage of program development is the only way we will be able to solve the complex problems we are facing in serving the most vulnerable in need of health care services,” said Casey Shillam, PhD, RN, Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Portland and 2019 grant recipient.

In addition to increasing the evidence base for palliative care and seeding new innovative ideas, the partnership also seeks to improve serious illness care for vulnerable populations. The projects funded through the AVDF and Hillman partnership specifically seek to meet the needs of populations who have historically struggled against discrimination and indifference. These populations include Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), the economically disadvantaged, LGBTQ people, people experiencing homelessness, low-income rural populations, and other groups that tend to encounter obstacles to accessing quality healthcare.

“The pandemic has made disparities in palliative and end-of-life care even more painfully clear,” said Rachael Watman, Vice President of Programs at the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation. “Together with our partners at the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, we are committed to addressing these gaps in care and advancing innovative ideas to serve marginalized populations.”

Through the most recent grant partnership, AVDF and Hillman have pledged to provide at least seven grant awards to promising projects in 2022. Since the programs’ inception in 2018, and through the partnership established in 2021, 22 nurse-driven efforts have been supported and more than $1 million in funding has been awarded.