The Vital Decisions Program Advisory Board convenes semi-annually to aid, develop and promote the work of Vital Decisions as it interacts with patients and family members facing advanced illness.
Board participants have a critical role in providing informed guidance and serving as a sounding board to enhance the quality of our product and service to patients. Board members provide neutral, non-binding, and well-informed expertise in a variety of crucial areas, and are a significant asset in our quest for superior governance and an excellence in delivery of our advance care planning intervention. The board offers timely knowledge about healthcare trends, current academic research, as well as legislation, regulatory and accreditation issues.
Meet Our Advisory Board
Helen D. Blank, Ph.D.
Founder, Vital Decisions
Coordinator, Vital Decisions Program Advisory Board
Helen D. Blank received her Ph.D. degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the History of Medicine and Biomedical Ethics. She is on voluntary faculty at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. From 2004 to 2008, she developed the Clinical Ethics, Medicine and Healthcare Law module and currently serves as the Bioethics Consultant to the Healthcare Foundation Center for Humanism in Medicine at the school. Dr. Blank is an Adjunct Professor of Bioethics at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and provides lectures/training workshops for hospitals, long-term care facilities, educational institutions, medical societies, and professional organizations on bioethics topics, with a particular focus on end-of-life care and conflict resolution. Helen serves as a bioethics consultant to statewide groups, such as the Ethics Committee of the Medical Society of the State of New Jersey, the End-of-Life State Task Force organized by the New Jersey Bar Association and the Ethics Consortium of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. She is the Ethics Advisor at HUMC-Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, and serves on ethics committees at Overlook Hospital, Morristown Medical Center and the Atlantic Health System Ethics Oversight Committee.
Kenneth J. Doka, PhD
Kenneth is a Professor of Gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle and Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America. A prolific author, Dr. Doka’s books include Counseling Individuals with Life-Threatening Illness, Cancer and End-of-Life Care, Diversity and End-of-Life Care, Before and After Death, Death Dying and Bereavement and many others. Dr. Doka is editor of both Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying and Journeys: A Newsletter to Help in Bereavement.
Ken has served as the President of the Association for Death Education and has keynoted conferences throughout North America as well as Europe.
Julie W. Childers, MD, MS
Julie is an Assistant Professor Medicine in the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine in 2005 and completed residency training in internal medicine at the University of Rochester in 2008. She completed fellowship training in palliative care in 2009 and obtained a master’s degree in medical education from the Clinician Educator Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. In addition to maintaining a clinical practice in outpatient and inpatient palliative medicine, she established the Buprenorphine Clinic at UPMC Montefiore to provide services to patients within opioid addiction. She also developed and now directs the motivational interviewing curriculum for internal medicine residents at the University of Pittsburgh, and is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers She has written and taught nationally in the areas of teaching communication and treating pain in patients with co-occurring addiction disorders. She was the recipient of the 2011 Award for Junior Investigators from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine for an investigation of physician competency in managing opioid misuse in palliative care patients.
Pamela J. Kalen, MBA
Pamela is the vice President for Membership and Member Services at the National Business Group on Health in Washington, D.C. She received her MBA degree in marketing and BA degree from the University of Maryland. Ms.Kalen has over twenty five years of experience in association management corporate health care purchasing issues, integrated delivery, and a focus on practical solutions. Prior to joining the Business Group, Pam served for seven years as the executive director of the Employers’ Managed Health Care Association, an organization dedicated to fostering collaboration and sharing best practices in developing practical solutions for employer-based health care purchased. Ms. Kalen currently represents the Business Group on NCQA’s Purchaser Advisory Council and served as a member of the Steering Committee for the National Quality Forum’s Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care projectcharged with recommending measures for assessing and managing EOL symptom relief for acutely-ill patients. Pam also staffs the Palliative Care and End of Life Work Group at the National Business Group on Health.
Paul K.J. Han, MD, MA, MPH
Paul is a Clinical Investigator at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI), and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. He is a health services researcher and board-certified general internist and palliative medicine physician. He received an M.D at New York University School of Medicine, an M.P.H. and an M.A. in Bioethics at the University of Pittsburgh, and completed Internal Medicine residency training at UCLA and a fellowship in cancer prevention and control at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Prior to his current position at MMCRI, Dr. Han served as a Medical Officer at the NCI and a clinician-educator and member of the palliative care service at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Han’s research interests are in risk communication, shared decision making, prognostic models, cancer, and end-of-life care, and his work focuses on helping patients and clinicians communicate and manage uncertainty.
Richard Payne, MD
Richard is a Professor of Medicine at Duke University and the Esther Colliflower Director of the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life. He received his BA from Yale University and his MD degree from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Payne is an internationally known expert in the areas of pain relief, care for those near death, oncology and neurology. Prior to his appointment at Duke, he led the Pain and Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he held the Anne Burnett Tandy Chair in Neurology. Dr. Payne is a past President of the American Pain Society and is certified in palliative medicine from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and in pain management from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Academy of Pain Medicine. He is a cancer survivor and has served as board chair of the National Association of Cancer Survivors. Dr. Payne also serves on the board of directors on the Hastings Bioethics Center.
Susan Butterworth, PhD, MS
Susan received her doctoral degree in adult education and training with a cognate in health promotion from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is an associate professor at the School of Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Her special area of expertise and research is the application of behavior change science into interventions, such as Motivational Interviewing-based health coaching. She was been awarded NIH grants to study the efficacy and impact of health management interventions and has published multiple articles on the theory and outcomes of evidence-based practice. She is currently engaged in research to improve treatment adherence to prevent hospital readmission for those with COPD and CHF. Dr. Butterworth is the founder of Q-consult, LLC, which provides consulting, training and outreach services to health care organizations, and is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.