Recognizing Leaders in Palliative & End-of-Life Care

In 2016, the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California is proud to honor Gary Johanson, MD and Threshold Choir with the 2016 Compassionate Care Leadership Awards, and Kate O’Malley, RN, MS, CHPN with the 2016 Compassionate Care Innovator Award. These awards recognize individuals and organizations that are changing the way we care for people who are seriously ill or approaching the end of life.

Awards were presented at the CCCC 8th Annual Summit on May 12-13, 2016, in Newport Beach, CA.

Click here to read the full announcement, see what the nominators had to say, and leave your congrats in the comments!

Leadership Awards Categories & Criteria

Individual Award
Honoring an individual who has emerged as a leader in end-of-life and palliative care in California and whose work has resulted in improved care for patients with serious illnesses and their families.Criteria:

  • Nominee is seen as a leader in the field of end-of-life care and/or palliative medicine.
  • Nominee has made a difference in the lives of patients with serious illnesses and their families.
  • Nominee has helped raise public awareness about advance care planning and/or options in end-of-life care.
Organization Award
Honoring an organization in California striving to improve the care provided to patients with life-threatening conditions or near the end of life, whether in a hospital, hospice, nursing home, or at home. Honorees are organizations whose contributions and passion for change are transforming people’s lives.


  • Organization has developed and/or implemented innovative programs to improve the care people receive near the end of their lives, whether in a hospital, hospice, nursing home, or home.
  • Organization has transformed its culture and patient care delivery model to better meet the needs of those with serious or terminal illnesses.
  • Organization, through its influence/advocacy voice, has made a significant contribution to the palliative care field and improved the care of the dying through education, training, outreach to patients and their families to communicate and implement their wishes.
Leadership Awards Process
The Awards Selection Committee reviews the nominations received and selects the winners. The Selection Committee is comprised of a cross-section of CCCC members and past honorees. The selected honorees are contacted by CCCC prior to award announcement. The awardees are recognized at CCCC’s Annual Summit and Awards Luncheon.
Innovator Award Criteria & Process
On occasion, CCCC also presents the Compassionate Care Innovator Award. This award honors a person who has played a key role in improving the quality and implementation of advance care planning and palliative care in our state. The honorees are selected by CCCC’s volunteer leadership, and are recognized at CCCC’s Annual Summit and Awards Luncheon.

Past Winners

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California has seen many individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to palliative medicine and compassionate end-of-life care in California. Here are past winners of the Compassionate Care Leadership and Compassionate Care Innovator awards.

2016 Awardees

INDIVIDUAL: Gary Johanson, MD
Gary Johanson, MDGary Johanson, MD
St. Joseph Health Sonoma County / Annadel Medical Group
For over 30 years, Dr. Johanson has been an esteemed leader, caring physician and tireless community advocate for advance care planning and quality palliative care for people with serious illnesses.A leading palliative care physician, Dr. Johanson has developed and led high-quality palliative and hospice care systems and services in Sonoma County. He is Medical Director of Palliative Care Services and Memorial Hospice at St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County, where his vision and commitment provided the inspiration and guidance for creating a palliative specialty unit and inpatient palliative care program.He is widely known as a driving force for bringing awareness of palliative care to the healthcare community. He has generously worked to educate, promote, and expand advance care planning and quality palliative care through countless trainings, presentations, and publications. He has been actively involved in Sonoma County’s Committee for Healthcare Improvement and its palliative care initiative, the Sonoma County POSLT Coalition, Journey Project Coalition, and My Care, My Plan: Speak Up Sonoma County.

Dr. Johanson is a board certified family practice physician with special qualifications in hospice and palliative care medicine. He is a founding member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM). He established himself as a key resource and expert in end-of-life care with his publication of the Clinicians Handbook of Symptom Relief in Palliative Care, a widely distributed practical reference for healthcare providers treating symptoms in patients approaching the end of life.

What they say about Gary:

“Gary is an exceptional leader who has consistently contributed his expertise, dedication and advocacy to improve care for people who are seriously ill or approaching the end of life.”  – Mary Maddux-Gonzalez, MD, MPH, Redwood Community Health Coalition

“His calm approach and his ability to meet patients and families where they are in the grieving process allow him to build relationships that value justice, service, excellence, and dignity.His many years of experience and gentle demeanor support families to be able to hear difficult messages and experience true compassionate care.”  – Todd Salnas, St. Joseph Health

“Gary has devoted his passion, time and energy to people with serious and terminal illness over a long and productive career. He is a true leader who has made a difference in the way we provide care to some of our most seriously ill and vulnerable citizens. He has made a profound difference in the lives of thousands of patients, families, and caregivers.”  – Brad Stuart, MD

ORGANIZATION: Threshold Choir
Threshold Choir Threshold Choir

Threshold Choir sings for and with those at the threshold of life and death. A calm and focused presence, with gentle voices, simple songs, and sincere kindness helps soothe and reassure patients, family members, and caregivers facing life-threatening illnesses or nearing the end of life.

With its own unique culture and patient care delivery model, Threshold Choir contributes to the care of individuals with serious illness through bedside singing. Choir members sing softly with calming rhythms and encouraging words in an act of presence with patients and their families at a significant and challenging stage of life.

Founded in 2000 in Berkeley, California, with a group of 15 voices, the Threshold Choir has grown into a national and international network of a cappella choirs with over 120 chapters and 1,300 members. Though rooted in their local communities, each Threshold Choir chapter shares a repertoire of beautiful, meaningful, and soothing songs and a desire to provide comfort and peace to those nearing life’s threshold.

What they say about Threshold Choir:

“Over the past 15 years, three to four lovely women from the Threshold Choir have showed up at our front door twice a week to offer the gift of song to the residents living with terminal illness in our Guest House. They only stay a short while, but they leave behind a lasting impression on both residents and caregivers; we are all healed by their wholehearted presence.”  – BJ Miller, MD, Zen Hospice Project

 “I have many beautiful memories of the performances given by Threshold Choir over the years… their impact reaches across and within our palliative and hospice communities and also beyond those borders.”  – Nate Hinerman, PhD, University of San Francisco

“It takes more than a village to help our struggling culture relearn how to respect and value the act of dying. The Threshold Choir has been a leader in this area, helping people who are scared and confused by the death of a loved one learn to hold on to what is precious, and let go of what is not needed, and use their voices to create a healing community—in a moment and over time.”  – Redwing Keyssar, RN, Seniors at Home

Learn more about the Leadership Awards criteria here.

Thank you to the California HealthCare Foundation for sponsoring the the Compassionate Care Leadership Awards honorarium and travel expenses.

Kate O’Malley, RN, MS, CHPN Kate O'Malley

It is safe to say that advance care planning and palliative care in California would not be nearly as advanced or of such high quality, and that hundreds of thousands of seriously-ill patients and their families would not have the access to the compassionate care that they have today, without the dedication and efforts of Kate O’Malley.

For the past 11 years, Kate has served as a senior program officer with California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) where she manages projects focused on improving care and lowering system costs for high-cost populations, especially toward the end of life. In philanthropy, Kate has integrated her experience in nursing, geriatrics, education and project management to improve palliative care access and end-of-life care in California.

From the very early days of POLST implementation, through the current efforts to launch an electronic POLST registry, Kate has served as one of the POLST program’s most important cheerleaders, facilitators and supporters. Countless important palliative care projects have been initiated and successfully completed due to Kate’s leadership at a state level. She is someone who generates ideas and creates partnerships and alliances, and her inclusive, generous style of leadership has had a lasting impact on the field of palliative care in California.

Some of Kate’s professional highlights include working with World Health Organization experts to develop a nursing curriculum for Kenya, traveling through central California as a mobile health clinic nurse, visiting elders in their homes in San Francisco’s Chinatown, working with national health care teams to spread the On Lok model, and organizing the “Culture Change Caravan” bus tour.

What they say about Kate:

In California we are blessed to have many superb leaders in palliative care and through collaborative effort to have one of the most advanced, progressive and active states when it comes to promoting palliative care. One big reason for the success of these efforts and for their number and effectiveness is the support, guidance, and leadership of Kate O’Malley.”  – Steven Pantilat, MD, UCSF

Kate is known to all professionally in our state as a staunch supporter of this field, and her advocacy has been critical to the progress in our state. She is consistently dedicated to the highest quality, to networking and mentorship so that the field can expand to meet the enormous demands.”  – Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN, City of Hope

“Over our many years of working together on projects related to POLST, advance care planning and quality care for the seriously ill, I have seen first-hand that Kate’s passion for this work comes from her deep desire to improve the lives of others.”  – Judy Thomas, JD, Coalition for Compassionate Care of California

2015 Awardees

INDIVIDUAL: Judith Redwing Keyssar, RN
Judith Redwing Keyssar, RNJudith Redwing Keyssar, RN

Seniors At Home
Jewish Family and Children’s Services
Redwing Keyssar, RN, has over 25 years of experience in oncology, critical care, and palliative and end of life care. She is an author, a teacher, a national presenter, and a frequent contributor to the public debate about palliative care. In 2007, Redwing joined with the Jewish Family and Children’s Services to establish the Palliative Care End-of-Life Care Program (PEOL), as an expansion of its continuum of senior services. The PEOL is one of the only community-based interdisciplinary palliative care teams that functions under a social service model, as opposed to a medical model – and is available to anyone in the community, not just hospital patients.

Redwing has also played a major role in development of the California State University Institute for Palliative Care to address the educational needs of the current healthcare workforce as well as future healthcare professionals. Her book, Last Acts of Kindness: Lessons for the Living from the Bedsides of the Dying, won a 2011 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year award.

ORGANIZATION: Collabria Care
Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day ServicesOrganization Award
Collabria Care

Formerly known as Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services

Napa, California
Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services (NVHADS) is committed to providing exceptional health care and expert resources as they care for the whole person and their family – body, mind, and spirit – through chronic conditions, illness, death and bereavement. NVHADS provides services through an array of preventative healthcare programs, targeted services assisting Napa County’s most underserved populations, and partnerships with other community organizations. NVHADS has increased the dialogue around end-of-life issues, improved patient experiences and outcomes, raised awareness and influenced attitudes about palliative care in Napa County. In their 36th year of service, they remain steadfast in their commitment to providing the most compassionate and professional care to those in need, and to continuing their community leadership role through education and innovation.

INNOVATOR: Kathy Glasmire
Kathy GlasmireKathy Glasmire

Center for Healthcare Decisions
For more than 30 years, Kathy Glasmire has been a leader in engaging the public in advance care planning (ACP) and promoting quality, compassionate end-of-life care. During her career, Kathy set the tone for local coalition and public engagement activities in California. For many of us, she was a mentor who taught us the real meaning of public engagement. She also played a key leadership role during CCCC’s early years.

From 1997 to her recent retirement in 2014, Kathy was associate director of the Center for Healthcare Decisions, where she played a primary role in many innovative initiatives. These included Partners in Caring, an annual seminar for faith leaders, which is serving as a model for CCCC’s faith leader outreach, as well as ACP workshops for senior and healthcare organizations and a lunch-and-learn program for the workplace. Kathy was also responsible for developing ACP materials such as Finding Your Way and the Talking It Over discussion guide, and coordinating a Sacramento coalition to promote ACP and implement POLST. Read more…

2014 Awardees

image of Dr. Jeff Yee

Jeff Yee, MD

Woodland Healthcare
Woodland, California
For over 20 years at Woodland Healthcare, Dr. Yee has provided comprehensive, compassionate care to seriously-ill and medically-fragile adults. He cares for patients across the continuum of care – in clinics, the hospital, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and in the home. In addition to being the physician leader of Woodland’s Palliative Care Program, Dr. Yee is a leader of Yolo County’s POLST coalition and an advocate for advance care planning. As a POLST physician champion, he has developed a range of POLST training materials for healthcare professionals and has provided POLST education to more than 300 medical staff.

He continues to work within Woodland Healthcare and the local community to promote quality care, with coordinated transitions of care for his patients. In addition, he focuses on developing collaborative and team approaches to care in order to benefit patients and families.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care is proud to recognize Dr. Yee as a leader in providing comprehensive, compassionate care to seriously-ill adults, promoting advance care planning and implementing POLST in Yolo County and throughout the state.

ORGANIZATION: Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance
image of Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance staff

Palliative Care Team
Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance

Torrance, California
The Palliative Care Team at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance is leading the way in innovative palliative care including pediatric care, education and nurturing whole person care for the patients, families, community and providers. The work that Dr. Glen Komatsu, Chief Medical Director for the Palliative care Team, and his staff are doing in education, training and outreach is truly innovative and has the ability to transform palliative care. In addition, their program is driving significant change within the culture of Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center.

Their work includes launching an Institute for Palliative Care Education to address requests for education and training and are planning future trainings for subspecialty palliative care teams as well as general community education on advance care planning. The Institute is also used to train volunteers for the No One Dies Alone program – a program where volunteers serve as bedside companions to patients with no family available.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care would like to recognize the Dr. Komatsu and his team for their work to provide quality, compassionate care to both seriously-ill children and adults and to improve and expand palliative care throughout their community.

INNOVATOR: Betsy Carpenter
image of Betsy Carpenter

Betsy Carpenter

Portola Valley, California
Betsy Carpenter has dedicated much of her life to promoting advance healthcare directives, the legal document that explicitly states and individual’s desires for end-of-life treatment. Betsy’s passion stems from intimate personal experiences with the deaths of loved ones and a personal battle with node-positive breast cancer. She has served as a Kara grief counselor – Kara provides grief support for children, teens, families and adults – and has worked to promote advance directives at El Camino Hospital. Betsy has given hundreds of presentations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and has been a volunteer lecturer on advance care planning and ethical decision making at the end of life at Stanford Medical School.

Betsy is widely recognized by physicians, nurses and members of the community for her depth of knowledge about palliative care and her passion for and skill in compassionate end-of-life planning. The Coalition for Compassionate Care would like to recognize Betsy Carpenter as a tireless advocate, educator and counselor for advance care planning and palliative care and the impact she has made in her community.

2013 Awardees

INDIVIDUAL: Sister Elizabeth Davis, SNJM
Image of Sister Elizabeth

Sister Elizabeth Davis, SNJM

Mercy Retirement & Care Center
Oakland, California
Residents and staff at Mercy Retirement and Care Center have known Sister Liz, as she is called, for more than 19 years. During that time, she has provided a caring presence for the residents who are seriously ill or approaching the end of life – as well as their families. Sister Liz has been instrumental in developing the Palliative Care Program at the Mercy Center, and the Palliative Care Certificate program for staff.

ORGANIZATION: Laguna Honda Palliative Care & Hospice Program
an group photograph of the Laguna Honda Staff

Laguna Honda Palliative Care & Hospice Program

Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center
San Francisco, California
Laguna Honda Palliative Care & Hospice has transformed end-of-life care in the San Francisco Bay Area, served as a training site for hundreds of healthcare professionals and introduced the concepts of hospice and palliative care to an urban nursing home that serves economically disadvantaged and culturally diverse populations. In its nearly 25-year history, the program has been a model for programs around the state and the nation.

INNOVATOR: Joanne Hatchett, RN, MS, FNP
Joanne HatchettJoanne Hatchett, RN, MS, FNP
Woodland Healthcare
Woodland, California
Joanne Hatchett is a talented and skilled clinician, dedicated educator, and a palliative care pioneer in her community. Joanne has single-handedly had the largest impact of any individual on POLST education in California.

In her local community, she developed and now coordinates the Bridge Program for Palliative Care, an interdisciplinary program for chronically ill patients in Yolo County. This program provides advance care planning and pain and symptom management to hospitalized and nursing home patients as well as chronically ill outpatients. On a statewide basis, Joanne has made major contributions in the area POLST education. Her greatest contribution, however, was creation of the standardized POLST curriculum. This curriculum is used by CCCC to teach healthcare professionals about POLST and how to have “the conversation.” Through her efforts both as a curriculum author and as faculty for the trainings, over 600 POLST trainers have been given the tools to spread POLST throughout the state.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care would like to recognize Joanne Hatchett for her work to provide quality, compassionate care to the seriously ill and for developing tools and resources to expand palliative care throughout the state and the nation.

2012 Awardees

an image of Dr. Mahdi with a big bushy mustache

Terek Mahdi, MD, CMD, FAAFP

Inland Empire Palliative Care Coalition
Riverside, California
Dr. Mahdi was one of the first healthcare professionals in California to recognize the vital role that Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) could play in improving end-of-life care and has been a leader in the movement to make it a reality in our state since 2005. He has worked tirelessly to implement POLST throughout California – and especially in the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties). Dr. Mahdi also established the Inland Empire Palliative Care Coalition in 2006 as part of his efforts to improve care for the seriously ill, bringing together palliative care practitioners from throughout the region.

ORGANIZATION: George Mark Children’s House
an image of the George Marks Children's House

George Mark Children’s House

San Leandro, California
George Mark Children’s House is the first freestanding, independent pediatric palliative care facility in the United States. George Mark Children’s House exists to serve families with children who have a serious medical illness and who are seeking family-centered medical care that emphasizes quality of life in a compassionate, supportive atmosphere. They strive to be an extension of the child’s own home: a place where kids can be kids and families can be families.