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UVA nursing professor pushes Charlottesville hospice facilities to be more LGBTQ inclusive

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 5:58 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -Through personal tragedy and professional triumph, a University of Virginia School of Nursing professor is helping to make the final moments of life a little more equitable for all.

In 2017, Kim Acquaviva, now a professor at the UVA School of Nursing, published a book about LBGTQ hospice and palliative care inclusion.

“The number one question I got asked from people when I told them I was writing a book was, ‘what’s so special about LGBTQ people? Everyone dies,’”Acquaviva said.

Through her research, and that of peers engaged in similar work, she uncovered a series of discriminatory actions LGBTQ people face when seeking hospice care.

“Things such as referring to transgender patients as “it” or saying openly homophobic things,” Acquaviva said.

In 2019, Kim’s 53-year-old wife, Kathy Brandt, was diagnosed with stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. It was the same disease that claimed the life of her mother years earlier, all of which made her professional work become all too personal.

“I was almost ashamed to admit, and so was she, we did not want hospice care,” she said.

At 4:51am on August 4, 2019 Kathy passed away. She left behind a wife, a son, and a lasting impact on the Charlottesville area hospice community, starting with their diversity and inclusion statements.

“So we added things like sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, marital status, citizenship, diagnosis or what their condition is, veteran status, source of payment,” Hospice of the Piedmont CEO Ron Cottrell said.

After reading Kim’s book and getting to know the couple, Ron also implemented more anti-bias training for staff through their education institute.

“Our job is to meet them where they are, to bear witness to their journey. So, it’s not to bring our judgement, it’s not to bring our experiences,” Cottrell said.

While death is a fate that every human shares, hospice facilities in the area are now a step closer to making those final moments of life more comfortable for all.

“All of them. All of the folks locally have really committed to making meaningful change, trying to make things better, not just instituting a one hour training but trying to think about ways to make things better in meaningful ways. That makes me so happy,” Acquaviva said.

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