Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence








The Palliative Care Center of Excellence at the University of Washington was launched in 2012 with the goal of giving every patient with serious illness access to high-quality palliative care focused on relieving symptoms, maximizing quality of life and ensuring care that concentrates on patients’ goals. Interprofessional teams of nurses, social workers, chaplains, pharmacists and doctors must work together to meet the complex medical, emotional and spiritual needs of seriously ill patients and their loved ones, and these teams need support and resources. The goal of the newly renamed Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence, directed by J. Randall Curtis, M.D., MPH, is to see that palliative care has an integral and prominent role in healthcare — regionally, nationally and internationally — for seriously ill patients and their families.


About Cambia Health Foundation


Based in Portland, Ore., Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate Foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care. Founded in 2007, Cambia Health Foundation awards grants in three program areas: Palliative Care, Transforming Health Care and Children’s Health. The Foundation has funded just over $29 million in grants to support these causes. Cambia Health Foundation’s investments in palliative care advance patient- and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing and treating suffering.
Learn more at



What is Palliative Care?


  • Palliative (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness — whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family.
  • Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.
  • Palliative care addresses a patient's physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs and facilitates patient autonomy, access to information and choice.
  • There is a significant need to increase, enhance and support the palliative care workforce on a national level. Today, there is approximately one palliative care medical professional for every 1,200 people facing serious illness. And, as the baby boomer population ages, there will be a greatly increased need for palliative care both for patients and their families.



What Will the Cambia Palliative Care
Center of Excellence Do?


VIDEO: UW Medicine Palliative Care

Drs. Randy Curtis, Tony Back and Caroline Hurd describe palliative care and how it has transformed the lives of patients at UW Medicine Clinical Sites.


The mission of the Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence is to improve the palliative care received by patients with serious illness and their families and to provide support to clinicians caring for these patients. The center will help ensure that all patients and families are treated in a compassionate, respectful, individualized way by focusing on three interrelated areas:

  • Enhancing the palliative care programs at UW Medicine hospitals and providing tools and support to other institutions building palliative care programs;
  • Educating physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other clinicians, as well as students, in the art and science of providing thoughtful, expert palliative care; and
  • Conducting research and innovative pilot projects to improve our understanding of high-quality palliative care and how to deliver it to every patient with serious illness every time.


About the Cambia
Palliative Care Center of Excellence

Dr. Randy Curtis speaks about the progress of

Cambia  Palliative Care Center of Excellence

Click on image below to start video





















































News and Events

Call for applications: Palliative Care T32


The Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence is now accepting applications for post-doctoral research fellowship positions. Application deadline Oct. 15, 2020 (positions start after Apr. 1, 2021). For more information and to apply, click here.


2020 NPCRC Grantee Award


Congratulations to Dr. Jill Steiner, Grantee of

a National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC) award, providing career development, allowing junior faculty to have the protected time required to develop and conduct the pilot research necessary to be competitive for larger, extramurally-funded awards.


Dr. Steiner's will use the award funding in "Assessing and Promoting Resilience in Patients with Adult Congenital Heart Disease"


Learn more about the NCPCRC and 2020 Award Grantees



New Publication on Advanced Directives


Dr. Susan Merel was first author and Dr. Barak Gaster was co-author on a paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Association titled: “Advance Directives for Dementia Can Elicit Preferences to Improve Patient Care.”




A View from the Frontline - Covid 19


Dr. J. Randall Curtis, is senior author of

 “A View from the Frontline: Palliative and Ethical Considerations of the COVID-19 Pandemic” in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.





Transition to Senior Advisor at CPCCE


Dr. Anthony Back will transition to Senior Advisor at the Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence starting September 1, 2020.

He will continue his national work in serious illness public messaging funded by The John A Hartford Foundation and the Cambia Health Foundation, as well as his continued co-founder role with VitalTalk, and is developing new research on psychedelics.

The Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence has benefited greatly from Tony's expertise and leadership as Co-Director for the past 6 years. We look forward to continued collaborations with him.


Click here to download announcement.



Interview by the Washington Post


Dr. Barak Gaster, UW professor, was interviewed by the Washington Post for the article “Diagnosed with dementia, she documented her wishes for the end. Then her retirement home said no."

“This is an issue that people have really thought a lot about,” Gaster said. “They worry about it a lot. They’re so eager and excited to have a structured opportunity to make their wishes known."

Traditional advance directives focus on rare conditions, such as a persistent vegetative state or permanent coma, Gaster said. “And yet the No. 1 reason a person would lose ability is dementia,” he said.

Link to the Full Article




Bring Palliative Care to More People


By 2030, research suggests that there will only be one palliative care physician for every 26,000 patients.  Similar shortages are estimated for nurses, social workers and spiritual care providers with expertise in palliative care.

The innovative UW Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care, now in its fifth year, is working to close the workforce gap and improve access to palliative care by addressing the lack of trained clinicians in rural areas and embedded programs within primary care and specialty medicine.

This program was spearheaded by Dr. Caroline Hurd, clinical assistant professor, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.


Read more from the Cambia Health Foundation.





"Palliative care: Navigating serious illness"


UW Medicine palliative care clinicians discuss the importance of collaborative and empathetic care — in both the primary and specialty care settings — in helping our patients and their families find understanding and empowerment in dealing with serious illness and end-of-life situations.

     Speakers include Drs. Jim Fausto, medical director of palliative care at UW Medicine, Randy Curtis, director of Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence at UW Medicine, and Rashmi Sharma, palliative care physician at UW Medical Center.

Dr. Paula Houston, director of healthcare equity at UW Medicine, provides an equity perspective.
Listen to Podcast




© 2012 - 2020 Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence