The Social Work, Hospice, and Palliative Care Network—an international group that promotes knowledge advancement and best practices for hospice and palliative care social workers—chose Norris Professor Kim Acquaviva to receive its 2022 Project on Death in America Career Achievement Award.
Acquaviva, a member of the nursing faculty since 2019, is an expert on aging, human sexuality, health policy, hospice, and palliative care, a celebrated teacher and author, and an internationally recognized advocate for LGBTQ+ communities’ access to compassionate and equitable palliative and end-of-life care. She gained international fame when she and her late wife Kathy Brandt—a well-known advocate for hospice care—chronicled Brandt's illness and death from cancer across their social media accounts. The New Yorker made a film about Acquaviva and her family in 2021.
"There is a stigma around talking about death, sharing pictures of death, because most people don't know what it would look like. It's scary. And Kathy said, 'Let's just put things out there. Let's be fully transparent and share this with people.' And so we starting putting it out on social media."-Kim Acquaviva, the Betty Norman Norris Professor of Nursing and an end-of-life care expert
"There is a stigma around talking about death," Acquaviva said in the documentary, "sharing pictures of death, because most people don't know what it would look like. It's scary. And Kathy said, 'Let's just put things out there. Let's be fully transparent and share this with people.' And so we starting putting it out on social media."
The SWHPN Award for Career Achievement originated with the Open Society Institute's Project on Death in America's (PDIA) initiative to understand and transform the culture and experience of dying and bereavement. The Award honors individuals who make outstanding professional contributions to the palliative care field, have had a national or international impact for at least 15 years, and have dedicated themselves to advancing the development and improvement of psychosocial palliative care for individuals with chronic illness, who are on hospice care, or those who are confronting grief, loss, and bereavement.
- Read In Her Own Words, an essay by Kim Acquaviva (Virginia Nursing Legacy)
- Read On Words: What 'Death' Means to this End-of-Life Expert, Whose Wife Just Died (UVA Today)
- Read Living While Dying (Pulse)
- Listen to A Charlottesville Woman Shares Her Death Online (NPR/WVTF)
Acquaviva spent the early years of her career as a healthcare social worker caring for hospice patients and their families before she transitioned into academia, interdisciplinary research, and policy work. In 2013 she was appointed by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services secretary to serve a three-year term on the National Advisory Council on Aging, the federal advisory council for the National Institute on Aging within the National Institutes of Health. As the former chair of the Friends of the National Institute on Aging, Acquaviva provided testimony on NIH appropriations to both the House and Senate subcommittees on labor, health and human services, education, and related agencies.
Acquaviva taught at George Washington University for more than 15 years before arriving at UVA School of Nursing in 2019 where she teaches health policy to both undergraduate and graduate students and is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Interprofessional Collaborations.
A Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice in social work, Acquaviva's book LGBTQ-Inclusive Hospice and Palliative Care: A Practice Guide to Transforming Professional Practice (Harrington Park Press: 2017), received the American Journal of Nursing’s Book of the Year Award in the palliative care and hospice category. She is currently at work on the second edition of her book, to pe published by Columbia University Press, and hosts a regular podcast called Em-Dash.
Acquaviva will receive the SWHPN award at the group's 2022 General Assembly in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on April 25.