Robin Bennett Kanarek was a registered nurse working with patients suffering from chronic medical conditions when her 10-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia. As David endured grueling treatments, Robin realized how often medical professionals overlook critical psychological, emotional, and spiritual support for people with life-threatening illnesses. Living Well with a Serious Illness is the culmination of decades of Robin's work to advance the field of palliative care.
In addition to her roles as a mother, nurse and palliative care advocate, Robin serves as president of the Kanarek Family Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those affected by serious, life-threatening conditions through promoting, integrating and educating the medical industry and the public about palliative and supportive care in all areas of health care.
In 2006, Robin and her husband, Joe, established the Kanarek Family Foundation (KFF) in honor of their son, David. Its mission is to improve the quality of life of those affected by cancer or other life-threatening conditions through the promotion, education, and integration of palliative care into all areas of American healthcare. Despite the fact that palliative care is a recognized medical specialty in the U.S., it remains unknown and largely misunderstood, even within the medical community. KFF is working to change that, and here are a few of its many accomplishments.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
KFF underwrote the creation of an advanced communication module for nurse practitioners caring for pediatric patients and their families at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City. Their renowned COMSKIL training program prepared physicians, surgeons and fellows on how to navigate through difficult health communication scenarios with their cancer patients through educational modules and simulation. The Kanareks recognized that advanced nurse practitioners in a pediatric setting required similar training. KFF provided the funding to create a unique and innovative program as a result of their own personal experience losing their son to cancer.
George Washington University and the Institute for Spirituality & Health (GWISH)
KFF subsidized the development and implementation of a pediatric Train-the-Trainer interprofessional spiritual care education curriculum (ISPEC-pediatric) in palliative care. This is
the first spiritual support training program for healthcare providers caring for seriously ill children.
KFF is a leader in this initiative and provides valuable input and research into the family’s perspective of spiritual distress in a child. The program was officially launched in January 2022 with the help of ISPEC founders Christina Puchalski, MD (George Washington University) and Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD (City of Hope, Duarte, CA).
KFF has supported work at Fairfield’s Egan School of Nursing for many years. KFF was a lead contributor to its Nursing Learning Resource Center, an advanced simulation lab, and underwrote both the integration of pediatric and adolescent palliative care into the nursing curriculum, as well as the revision of the MSN program to a Master’s in Nursing Leadership, an advanced education nurse generalist degree. Perhaps most significantly, KFF enabled the creation of the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care (KCPC). The Center offers a comprehensive, integrated curriculum that provides students and nursing professionals the education to be leaders in palliative care.