Robin B. Kanarek is a registered nurse, an educator, a philanthropist and a passionate advocate for palliative care. In her role as president of the Kanarek Family Foundation she is helping the general public as well as healthcare professionals increase their awareness and understanding of palliative care and its benefits to patients with a serious or life-threatening illness. By encouraging patients to ask for palliative care, she is helping make it more accessible.
Robin became a champion for palliative care for deeply personal reasons; her son died at the age of 15 after a five-year battle with leukemia. He received excellent medical care during his illness but did not receive palliative care—care that would have addressed his psychological and spiritual needs as well as other essential quality-of-life matters. Six years after David’s death, when Robin was introduced to palliative medicine through her work at Fairfield University School of Nursing in Connecticut, she realized how immensely helpful it would have been for her son—and the entire family—had any one of the many healthcare professionals with whom they were interacting during his illness suggested or offered it. Since then, in her typical high-energy make-it-happen style, she has moved forward with an ambitious approach to get the word out about palliative care through speaking engagements, media opportunities and the work of the Kanarek Family Foundation.
Robin’s voice as a nurse, and as a mother who experienced her son’s devastating illness and demise, fuels her exceptional ability to spread the message of the benefits of palliative care. Her son’s all-too-brief life is the basis of her advocacy and her philanthropy, which she hopes will serve as David’s legacy.
In the depth of winter,
I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
In 2006, Robin and her husband, Joe, established the Kanarek Family Foundation 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. The Kanarek Family Foundation is working to change that and here are a few of its many accomplishments.
Since 2007 the Foundation has helped support nursing education programs at Fairfield University including providing a significant grant to launch the Master of Science in Nursing Leadership program;
In 2011, the Foundation funded a five-year program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to create an advanced communication skills module for nurse practitioners caring for pediatric patients and their families. To date, more than 70 nurse practitioners have completed the groundbreaking program;
In 2017, the Foundation opened (and continues to support) The Kanarek Center for Palliative Care Nursing Education at Fairfield University's Egan School of Nursing;
Starting in 2020, the Foundation will be working with Christina Puchalski, MD (George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health) and Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN (City of Hope, Los Angeles) to develop an
Interprofessional Spiritual Care Education Curriculum for Pediatrics.