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SLU Professor Named to Cambia Health Foundation Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program

by Maggie Rotermund
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Cara Wallace, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, was named to the seventh cohort of scholars accepted into the Cambia Health Foundation’s Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program. 

Cara Wallace, Ph.D.

Cara Wallace, Ph.D, is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work. Submitted photo.

Twelve emerging palliative care leaders were chosen for the program through a rigorous selection process from a highly competitive pool.  

The Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program is designed to identify, cultivate and advance the next generation of palliative care leaders. As part of the leadership program, each Sojourns Scholar receives $180,000 in funding ($90,000/year over a two-year period) to conduct an innovative and impactful clinical, policy, educational, health equity or systems change project in the field of palliative care. Scholars also participate with other scholars in a collaborative learning community while receiving individual mentorship to design and implement a development plan that supports their growth as national palliative care leaders.  

“COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of and magnified the need for palliative care services,” said Peggy Maguire, president and board chair of Cambia Health Foundation. “Our goal in supporting the innovative projects and personal development of this elite group of palliative care professionals is to ensure that all people impacted by COVID-19 and other illnesses receive personalized care that is aligned to their wishes.”

Wallace will use the funding to complete a social norms and health education campaign to reframe hospice among vulnerable residents in St. Louis.

“This project will address hospice misperceptions through a culturally relevant intervention,” Wallace said. “Utilizing community engagement, my project aims to create educational/promotional materials about hospice using art and narratives, distribute materials with a targeted approach and evaluate the impact and community perception changes to hospice care.”  

Wallace will partner with local organizations serving low-income, primarily African American older adults, community artists creating mural displays depicting hospice, and a videographer creating narrative stories of current hospice patients and families.

“As a leader, I am passionate about challenging negative perceptions of hospice and palliative care in public and professional contexts, and actively contributing to a multi-faceted approach in improving access to and quality of end-of-life care through my role as researcher, educator and social advocate,” Wallace said. “My vision for the future includes expanding my agenda to larger, funded projects with national partners.”

Since the program’s inception in 2014, the Foundation’s purposeful investment in palliative care leadership has awarded more than $13 million to 74 scholars around the country.  Scholars represent different areas of the palliative care team including physicians, nurses, chaplains, pharmacists and social workers, but all are committed to improving the experience of people facing serious illness and their caregivers.

Entry into the Sojourns Scholar program allows Wallace to build on her previous work on hospice care. In 2020, she received a $427,276 grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the needs of patients’ post-hospice discharge and how patients and their caregivers attempt to meet those needs. 

The six-month longitudinal survey is assessing the quality of life, service utilization and health status for adult patients and their adult caregiver. 

“As a social worker, my work is patient- and family-centered and guided by the core values and ethics of the profession,” Wallace said. “As a clinician first, my research is informed by clinical practice and I am committed to providing translational research that directly impacts care and services for patients and families.”

The other 2020 Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program Grant Recipients include:

Cambia Health Foundation 

Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to making health care more person-focused and economically sustainable. Founded in 2007, the foundation has funded almost $78 million in grants to advance patient- and family-centered care for all. Cambia Health Foundation strategically invests in philanthropy to change the way people experience health care from birth to natural completion of life.  Learn more at www.cambiahealthfoundation.org, and follow us on Twitter: @CambiaHealthFdn

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 12,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.