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


Individual Award

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 Award

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

Share the love!

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California invites you to share your congratulations with Gary Johanson, Threshold Choir, and Kate O’Malley in the comments section below.

8 Responses to “Gary Johanson, Threshold Choir, Kate O’Malley recognized for outstanding service, presented with Compassionate Care Awards”

  1. Edith O'Neil-Page, RN, MSN, AOCNS, CNS for Palliative Care, UCLA

    Congratulations for your wonderful work.

  2. Sue Pearce

    Congratulations to all ! Both Gary and Kate are tireless leaders in healthcare innovation and have given over heart and soul to their respective work. I feel very privileged to have worked with both over the years-certainly a well-deserved honor.

  3. Kate is so deserving of this award!!! She has been and remains such a staunch advocate for and supporter of palliative care, not just in California but nationally. As importantly, she is an engaged coach and mentor for all of us in the field of palliative care and an unflagging champion for this work. Bravo, Kate!!!

  4. Mary Bartley

    Congratulations Dr. Johanson!
    Your advocacy for compassionate care at end of life has never waned. Thank you for all you do in our community to support palliative and hospice care.

  5. Doug Wilson

    What a fine group! More than just proud to be friends, makes me proud to be human 🙂

  6. Vincent Nguyen

    Great choices and well deserved!
    Congrats to all of the award nominees – Dr. Gary Johanson, Kate O’Malley and the Threshold Choir.
    You are an inspiration for all of us in the trenches.

  7. Steve Hadland MD

    Congratulations to all recipients. It has been a privilege to work closely with Gary the past 5 years and I can confirm that this award is richly deserved. Well done, Doc!
    Also would like to acknowledge Kate Munger one of the founders of Threshold Choir for her vision, persistence and deep understanding in helping create and maintain this wonderful service. This beautiful music has comforted many of my patients. They even offered their services to our hospice staff. It was the voice of Heaven.

  8. Eileen Jensen

    Congratulations to Dr. Gary Johanson! Gary has been a leader in Sonoma County for years helping to guide us in understanding and meeting the needs of patients and families as they cope with the many challenges the end of life brings. You have taught us that we need to be in the patient’s world, not try to have the patient adjust to our world. Our wonderful Palliative Care and Hospice Programs are in place because of your expertise and leadership. Thank You!!


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