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Advisors

Karl Ahlswede, MD

Dr. Ahlswede completed his surgery residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital before joining the Main Line Health system and Lankenau Hospital. There he practiced intensive care surgery in the department of cardiac surgery. While caring for these patients Dr. Ahlswede developed an appreciation for the difficulties encountered by patients and their families when faced with end-of-life issues or incurable chronic diseases. He is a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons and was recognized by the American Board of Surgery in 2009 as one of the first surgeons to be given the specialty board certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Betsy Alexander

Elizabeth (Betsy) Alexander currently serves as the Director of Cancer Services for a suburban Philadelphia hospital. Her previous positions include Director of Penn Wissahickon Hospice and Vice President of Patient Services at Samaritan Hospice. Ms. Alexander has extensive oncology, hospice, and palliative care experience. During her early work with oncology patients, Betsy quickly recognized the need to create awareness for better end-of-life planning, and throughout her 35-year career she has counseled numerous patients and families regarding end-of-life care planning. She also has mentored many clinicians on how to have crucial end-of-life conversations with patients and families. She sees her primary role as that of a patient advocate to improve chronic-disease and end-of-life outcomes.

Betsy received her MS degree in Healthcare Administration from St. Joseph’s University and her BS degree in Nursing from LaSalle University. She holds certifications in Oncology Nursing (OCN) and Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing (HPCN), and she is a member of the Oncology Nursing Society and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.

Ira Byock, MD

Ira Byock, MD is a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care through the end of life. Dr. Byock has authored numerous articles on the ethics and practice of hospice, palliative and end-of-life care. His first book, Dying Well (1997), has become a standard in the field. The Four Things That Matter Most (2004), is widely used as a counseling tool by palliative care and hospice programs, as well as within pastoral care. His most recent book, The Best Care Possible (March 2012), tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in America and his quest to transform care through the end of life.

Tim Cousounis

Tim Cousounis is a certified health care executive (CHE) whose professional career has been largely dedicated to advancing the influence of palliative care in meeting the needs of those with advanced illness. Presently, he leads the palliative care practice of a national consultancy, focused upon building palliative care intellectual capital for health care providers.

During his professional career, Mr. Cousounis has started up a certified hospice serving the largest health system in the Philadelphia marketplace; formed an initiative to disseminate the expertise of palliative care throughout an academic health center; and conceived of, and secured funding for, the Project for Palliative Care Excellence, a joint venture between a health foundation, a university, and health provider organizations to establish “mechanisms through which long-term changes in end-of-life care will result.” In his current engagement at Chandler Hall Health Services, he is leading the transformation of a traditional hospice into an accountable palliative care organization. Previously, Mr. Cousounis held executive positions for the home health and palliative care services of Main Line Health, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and Community Health Affiliates.

Dana DeDonato

Dana DeDonato is an oncology social worker specializing in geriatrics and palliative care. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of an innovative Geriatric Oncology Program at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital. Her clinical interests include improving the delivery of psychosocial care to older adults with cancer and those with advanced disease. She is also passionate about improving the quality of advance care planning discussions for people with advanced illness. She has written on a variety of topics related to advance care planning and geriatric oncology, including the development of a geriatric oncology program in a community cancer center. Dana received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and her Masters of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Danbury, Connecticut.

Georgia Guthrie

Georgia is a designer and maker. She uses design thinking to help solve big, intractable problems. Georgia is the Director of The Hacktory, where she creates opportunities for anyone to creatively tinker and learn about technology.

Georgia is also one of the designers of My Gift of Grace.

Rebecca Kirch

Rebecca Kirch is a health policy expert and advocate dedicated to improving quality of life and quality of care for all adults, children and families in the setting of serious illness. She is the Executive Vice President of Healthcare Quality and Value with the National Patient Advocate Foundation.

During her 15-year tenure with the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), she orchestrated development of the Society’s national agenda addressing pain, symptoms and distress for patients and families facing cancer and its aftermath. As the Society’s first Director of Quality of Life & Survivorship, Rebecca created new research, program, advocacy, and alliance initiatives to promote integrated palliative, psychosocial, and rehabilitation services and enhanced clinical communication skills.

Read Rebecca’s recent article Advancing a Quality-of-Life Agenda in Cancer Advocacy: Beyond the War Metaphor, in JAMA Oncology.

Rob Peagler

Rob is a former partner at Common Practice and was part of the My Gift of Grace design team. Rob has spent the past two decades applying human-centered design to help individuals, teams, and organizations conduct meaningful, principled, and effective work.

Before joining Common Practice, Rob worked as a senior consultant for Matter, an Atlanta-based design strategy firm. With Matter, he focused on social value creation projects in the non-profit arena. In that capacity Rob provided strategic guidance on how to address the challenges of stakeholder engagement and alignment presented by a multi-year, national-scale, systems-change initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Prior to joining Matter, Rob co-founded the Design Studio for Social Intervention, which was incubated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As Principal and Director of Design Practice & Organizational Research, Rob guided the Studio in applying design methods to the resolution of intractable social problems.

Rob has also worked in knowledge management at Razorfish, Inc., where he developed tools and procedures for the strategy firm’s 2,000 employees based in 20 offices in 8 countries. At IBM Research he collaborated with researchers to develop and apply methods and tools that leverage insights from complexity science, cognitive science, and anthropology to help leaders make good decisions in times of rapid change and uncertainty.

Brad Stulberg

Brad Stulberg works in Population Health for a large integrated health care system in Northern California. In particular, his areas of focus are advance care planning, palliative care, complex needs patients, and behavior change. Brad also writes a column about health care in the Huffington Post and his work has been featured in other large media outlets such as the LA Times. Prior to his current role, Brad worked as a consultant in McKinsey and Company’s health care practice, and also spent a brief period of time at the White House (National Economic Council) where he supported the very initial implementation of health reform. Brad received both his undergraduate (Organizational Behavior) and graduate (Masters in Public Health) degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Brad currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, Caitlin. He moonlights as an endurance athlete, doing his best thinking on the trail.

Lauren Van Scoy, MD

Dr. Lauren Van Scoy is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Humanities at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. She practices Pulmonary and Critical Care medicine, with a special interest in end-of-life issues in the intensive care unit. Dr. Van Scoy’s research interests center around designing and testing innovative tools to facilitate end-of-life decision making. She also does research on end-of-life issues relevant to patients with severe sepsis or septic shock. Dr. Van Scoy is the author of Last Wish: Stories to Inspire a Peaceful Passing and the creator of KnowYourWishes.com through which she engages in community outreach and advocacy about end-of-life planning.