Palliative and End-of-Life Care Certificate


Session I: November 5-8, 2020*
Session II: April 29– May 2, 2021

*Due to ongoing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 program of the End-of-Life Care certificate will be conducted online.

Social workers encounter situations of life threatening illness, death, dying and bereavement in every setting in which they work. The Certificate in Palliative and End-of-Life Care provides an opportunity for social workers to deepen clinical and leadership skills in palliative care and participate in relational ways of learning in a community of colleagues with an outstanding faculty of leaders in the field.

There are a growing number of individuals and families in need of palliative care. Clinical social work interventions have never been more needed, yet there is a lack of highly-trained clinical social workers prepared to effectively address the complex needs of those facing the end of life. The person who is ill, their family, social supports, health care providers, and clergy members all benefit from the skills of social workers specially trained in this area.

Your application packet must include the following:

  • Application form (available online only)
  • $40 nonrefundable application fee (included in the application form above)
  • Current résumé
  • Personal statement (two to three pages) responding to the following:
    1. Your professional and personal reasons for working in end of life care.
    2. The influences on this choice of practice.
    3. What you hope to gain from this program.
    4. How you will meet the clinical requirements of the program.
    5. How you will incorporate the above in your current workload.
    6. Your willingness to use a consultative clinical supervisor appointed by the program.
    7. The issues you would like to work on.
  • Two letters of reference (from professional colleagues familiar with applicant's clinical work)


Application materials must be received no later than August 15, 2020.

Online applications must be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa only). All online applications will receive confirmation of receipt by email; if you do not receive confirmation that your application was received (within 48 hours), please contact us

  • Master’s degree in social work or psychology
  • At least two years of post-master’s experience
  • Applicants must be in current practice in palliative or end of life care

The program’s intensive coursework takes place during two weekends, six months apart. During the six months between classes, students participate in clinical advisement sessions at which they will work on clinical case studies (patients and families) and further integrate learning. Two students are paired with experienced clinical advisers and, each month, receive two hours of clinical advisement via telephone, for a total of 12 sessions. The program's primary focus is on interactive learning, which enhances professional use of self, deepens clinical skills and promotes leadership in the field.

This course offers 13 courses and 12 clinical advisement sessions, which makes it the most comprehensive program in the country. The academic content includes psychodynamic and developmental theories in palliative care and bereavement, childhood bereavement, spirituality, legal and ethical issues, pain management, systems change, and working with LGBT and other marginalized populations. Graduates of the program have gone on to assume leadership in palliative care, write grants, develop programs, provide clinical supervision, teach, and engage in research and writing for publication.

Esther Chachkes, D.S.W., LCSW, Program Director

Esther Chachkes is retired as the Director of Social Work and Therapeutic Recreation at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. She led the task force to implement a Palliative Care Consultation Program at the hospital and was the recipient of a United States federal grant to train psychosocial volunteers to assist during disaster events. She was also a member of the Medical Center’s Ethics Committee, serving as staff to the Chair. Over the past 25 years, she has held leadership positions in numerous organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers, Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the Society for Social Work Administrators in Health Care. She is a Fellow of the NY Academy of Medicine and was inducted into the Academy of Women Achievers of the YWCA of the City of New York.  She is a clinical associate professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work, teaching in the school’s postmaster’s certificate program in palliative and end of life care. She also teaches in the Smith College School of Social Work’s postmaster’s certificate program in palliative and end of life care and Directs the Field Program. She is currently Director of Mentorship in the Zelda Foster Studies in Palliative and End of Life Care at NYU Silver School of Social Work, 

Terry Altilio, LCSW

Terry Altilio is Coordinator of Social Work for the Division of Palliative Care at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center. She is a recipient of a Mayday Pain and Society Fellowship Award 2006 and a Social Work Leadership Award from the Open Society Institute’s Project on Death in America which supported a social work post graduate fellowship and a social work listserv, both of which are continuing programs. In 2003, she received the Social Worker of the Year award from the Association of Oncology Social Work and a Professional Volunteer Recognition Award from the American Cancer Society. In 2009 she was elected to the National Academies of Practice. In 2013, Terry was selected to receive the Project on Death in America, Career Achievement Award from the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Network.
In addition to direct work with patients and families, she lectures nationally and internationally on topics such as pain management, ethics, language, palliative care and psychosocial issues in end of life care. She lectures in the post masters Palliative and End of Life Care Program at New York University School of Social Work and Smith College School of Social Work teaching Pain and Symptom Management and Ethics and is faculty in the Institute for Palliative Care at California State University San Marcos. She has co-authored publications on pain and symptom management, language and psychosocial issues in palliative care and caregiver advocacy. She is co-editor with Shirley Otis-Green of the inaugural Oxford Textbook of Palliative Social Work published in February 2011.   

David Browning, M.S.W., LICSW

David Browning is an educator and consultant in healthcare ethics and communication whose work focuses on challenging conversations and the everyday ethics of clinical practice. He is co-founder and senior associate at the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice at Boston Children’s Hospital, and was previously director of the Initiative for Pediatric Palliative Care, a national educational project focused on improving care for seriously ill children and their families. 

Daniel S. Gardner, Ph.D., LCSW

Daniel S. Gardner is an Associate Professor at the Silberman School of Social Work and Chair of the Health concentration. He has over 30 years of clinical practice, administrative, policy, and research experience in health and mental health, specializing in social work practice with individuals, families, and communities living with chronic and advanced illness. He is a Hartford Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work, a founding board member of the Social Work in Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN), Research Director of the Hartford-Silberman Center of Excellence in Gerontological Social Work at Hunter College, and a Fellow of the Social Research, Practice & Policy Section of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

His community-based research explores adaptation to serious illness in later life, with the goal of improving palliative and end-of-life care for older adults and their caregivers. His current research examines access barriers to pain and symptom management among low-income, minority older adults in East and Central Harlem, NYC.

Susan Gerbino, Ph.D.

Susan Gerbino, Clinical Professor, NYU Silver School of Social Work, directs the Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of- Life Care (PELC), which includes training and mentoring across the career trajectory from M.S.W. student to advanced PELC professional. She has worked in PELC for 40 years and has a private practice working with people with life-limiting illnesses and the bereaved.

She received the 2014 Career Achievement Award from the Project on Death in America and the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network, the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award from the NYU Silver School of Social Work and the 2015 Quality of Life Award from the American Cancer Society and the Association of Oncology Social Work.

Christine Wilkins, Ph.D., LCSW

Christine Wilkins, Ph.D., LCSW is the advance care planning program manager at NYU Langone Health (NYULH) where she oversees system-wide advance care planning as an integral component of quality patient care. At NYULH, Wilkins has led the implementation of the New York State electronic Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (eMOLST), the development of the Advance Care Planning Navigator in the electronic health record promoting coordinated care for all patients especially those with serious illness and advanced frailty. Wilkins is a graduate of the University of Malta, University of Toronto, and NYU Silver School of Social Work. She has published and presented on advance care planning, palliative care, hospital social work, social work with groups, and domestic violence. She is faculty at NYU Silver School of Social Work, and NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She is the inaugural social work representative on the National POLST Program board, and member of the NYS MOLST executive board.   

Barbara A. Reich, J.D.

Barbara Reich is a Professor of Law at Western New England University School of Law.  She joined the law faculty in 2005 and teaches Torts and a variety of health law subjects. She has served as a member of Mercy Hospital's Ethics and Social Justice Committee and Ethics Consultation Committee and as a member of Baystate Medical Center's Institutional Review Board.  Before joining the faculty at Western New England University, she taught a variety of health law and bioethics courses for eight years at the University of Florida’s Colleges of Law, Medicine, and Health Professions as a Lecturer in Law. Barbara also has prior experience as a member of a hospital ethics committee and institutional review board at Florida’s teaching hospital.

She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Union College, summa cum laude.   She then spent two years in private practice in Washington, DC, specializing in pharmaceutical and medical device law.  Her research interests include legal and ethical issues in end-of-life decision making; comparative end-of-life law; pediatric health issues; racial disparities in the delivery of health care, clinical research ethics, and the impact of politics in science and medicine.

Barbara Reich was a past Visiting Scholar at Exeter University School of Law in the United Kingdom and Queen's University School of Law in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  She also recently completed an appointment for Spring 2017 as the Schulich Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  She is currently at work on a book, titled Intimations of Mortality: Decisionmaking at the End of Life, to be published by the Cambridge University Press.

Rev. Louis Serio, MDiv, JD, BCC, ACPE

The Rev. Louis Serio is the regional director of spiritual care for Trinity Health of New England. He oversees the Spiritual Care Departments at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, MA, Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, MA and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, CT. At Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT, he leads a Center of Clinical Pastoral Education. He is a certified spiritual care educator through the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE, Inc.) and a board certified interfaith chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains. He holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Andover Newton Theological School and a JD from Western New England University, School of Law. He is an ordained United Church of Christ Minister.
He has previously worked as an interfaith chaplain at level one Trauma hospitals in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Kansas, Missouri, and West Virginia. He has worked as a hospice chaplain for Beacon Hospice and Amedisys and is an adjunct professor at Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA.

Colleen Shannon, M.S.W., LICSW

Colleen Shannon, M.S.W., LICSW, is the associate program director at The Children’s Room, the largest non- profit organization in Massachusetts solely dedicated to supporting grieving children, teens and families. At The Children’s Room, Colleen developed and now oversees all of the center’s adolescent, school and community-based programs. Colleen was instrumental in developing the center’s clinical internship program and she currently serves as a field adviser and clinical supervisor to masters-level social work students. 

She has worked exclusively with children, adolescents, adults and families coping with loss for the past 12 years and her experience includes work in medical, community-based and bereavement camp settings. Colleen presents locally and nationally on topics pertaining to childhood bereavement and her research interest includes sibling bereavement and families experiencing the loss of a child with special needs. Colleen is part of a specialty group practice in Newton, Mass., where she works with children, adolescents and families who are navigating life-limiting illnesses, bereavement and trauma.  

Lisa Zeitz, LMSW

Lisa Zeitz, L.M.S.W., began her career at NYU Medical Center in pediatric oncology.  There she established new programs to support critically ill children and their families.  Zeitz went on to work in a variety of settings, specializing in supporting patients and families as they face end of life struggles and challenges.

 After work in outpatient hospice, she has spent the last 17 years at the Bereavement Center of Westchester, in particular managing a bereavement program for young families, the Tree House.  This program provides support to families with children between four and eighteen who have suffered the death of a parent or child.  In addition, she presents widely on children , families and grief.  Zeitz also teaches at the undergraduate and graduate level on loss and bereavement. She has also trained in mindfulness work and conducts trainings and workshops for groups in meditation techniques.

Application fee:

$40 (due with application materials)

2020-21 Tuition

Tuition is paid after you have been accepted.
Option 1:
Full Payment of $3,100 due by September 28
Option 2:
1st payment of $1,550 due by September 28
2nd payment of $1,550 due by March 28

If you are interested in a payment plan, please contact the Office of Professional Education at

Refund Policy

The $40 application fee is nonrefundable. Because program decisions are based on class size, tuition refund deposits cannot be considered.


Smith College School for Social Work reserves the right to cancel any program which is undersubscribed. In the case of cancellation, all tuition fees paid will be reimbursed in full. The School also reserves the right to modify certificate content as appropriate.

The Palliative and End of Life Care Certificate carries up to 45 CEs for social workers.

The Smith College School for Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and is therefore authorized to provide CEs as a postsecondary institution accredited by CSWE in many states. Courses offered through the School's Program of Professional Education are awarded continuing education credits in accordance with Continuing Education Regulation 258, CMR, 31.00 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Smith College School for Social Work, Office of Professional Education SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0169. If outside these states, please contact your licensing board for accreditation information regarding your state.

Association of Social Work Boards database of social work licensure requirements.

This program is wheelchair accessible. For disability access information or accommodations requests, call 413-585-2407.

To request a sign language interpreter, call 413-585-2071 (voice or TTY) or send email to: at least 10 days before the event. 


Contact Esther Chackes, Director of the Palliative and End-of-Life Care Certificate, at