South Florida Hospital News
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July 2004 - Volume 1 - Issue 1


Zachary Morfogen Combines Passion for Art and Hospice

On Saturday evening, March 6, a number of guests packed the Wally Findlay Gallery in Palm Beach for the launch of the National Hospice Foundation (NHF)ís new development campaign, The Art of Caring, which seeks to promote a greater understanding of hospice through the celebration of art. Foundation Governor Kitty Carlisle Hart and Chair Norton Garfinkle were honored at the event.

A few weeks later, the NHF celebrated the permanent installation of five works by respected New York artist Larry Dinkin at The Cove Condominium in Palm Beach. Dinkinís work is displayed in many prestigious museums and in the White House. A set of the images was also presented to the Hospice of Palm Beach County, made possible through the generosity of Dinkin, his wife, Jane, and residents of The Cove Martin and Estelle Karlin. Hospice CEO David Fielding was on hand to accept the prints. In addition, to benefit NHF, one of Dinkinís works will be donated to the first hospice in each of the fifty states at a celebration on October 1 in Washington, DC.

The fundraising campaign, as well as the idea to combine hospice and art, can be largely credited to the leadership of one visionary, who has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to advance the hospice concept: Zachary Morfogen.

As founding chair emeritus of the National Hospice Foundation and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Morfogen noted that "Hospice care combines the science of medicine with the art of compassion and serves to reflect our deepest humanity. Through the power of art, this national initiative will ultimately improve care for those who need it most."

A True Pioneer

Today, there are 3,200 hospices across the U.S., but it wasnít that long ago that the concept of hospice was largely unfamiliar to the general public. What people outside the healthcare and medical communities likely knew about hospices, if they had any familiarity with the concept at all, is that they were places in which terminally ill patients waited to die.

Then Zachary Morfogen came along.

Morfogen, a longtime resident of Boonton, New Jersey and distinguished alumnus of Brown University, was enjoying an immensely successful career in the publishing industry. A managing director at Time-Life with a passion for fine art, he was living and working in a world that many can only dream about. Life Ė the magazine and the living Ė was wonderful, but something was missing.

Morfogen began looking for an opportunity to help the community. He wanted to do something that was life affirming, but didnít know specifically what. His wife, Marilyn, was volunteering her time as a member of the auxiliary at Riverside Hospital in Boonton, a facility her father founded. Morfogen was exploring a variety of volunteer options and soon found himself at St. Christopherís Hospice in London, England, meeting with Cicely Saunders.

Saunders is something of a legend in the hospice world. She began her career as a nurse and eventually became a physician, and today is considered the founder of the modern hospice movement. Since 1948, she had been involved with the care of patients with terminal illness, and, over the years, had lectured and written extensively on the subject.

In 1967, she founded St. Christopherís Hospice as the first research and teaching hospice linked with clinical care. It was a place where patients could go for relief of total pain, with its physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions. Saundersí work greatly advanced the practice of hospice care, and her contributions were so important that the Queen of England made her a Dame of the British Empire.

For Morfogen, meeting Cicely Saunders was a turning point that would change his life forever. "I became committed to celebrating life to the very end," he recalled. In 2000, Morfogen was honored to present Dam Saunders with the F.D.R. Four Freedoms medal at a ceremony in the Netherlands.

Returning to Boonton, he was offered the presidency of Riverside Hospital. He accepted, but only on the condition that he be given the opportunity to establish a hospice. He was granted the opportunity, and soon after becoming president opened the Riverside Hospice in Boonton, the first freestanding hospice in the U.S.

For Morfogen, though, this was only the beginning.

"Caring for patients whose prognosis was only days or weeks, it was difficult to watch them die with pain and with little dignity," he said. "So I made it my mission to do everything possible to enhance the quality of life for the dying,"

Starting a National Movement

Although his efforts proved that one person could indeed make a difference, he also recognized that several people could move mountains. To enact long-lasting change for the better on a national scale, it would be necessary for local hospices would need to rally together, since there is strength in numbers. Crucial to the effort would be the support of elected officials to enact legislation, and the backing of the corporate community. In 1978, at a conference held at Riverside Hospital it was determined that a national organization was needed to work on behalf of hospice. As a result, the National Hospice Organization (NHO; now the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) was established with Morfogen serving as founding chairman. The NHOís first conference was funded by Warner Lambert and held in partnership with Connecticut Hospice, the nationís first hospice provider. One of the fledgling organizationís first orders of business was to pursue legislation to obtain Medicare coverage for hospice care. Thanks to the support of Senators Edward Kennedy and Bob Dole, and with support from Joseph Califano, the legislation passed.

The NHO was accomplishing great things to benefit terminally ill patients, but there was more to accomplish. NHO leadership then focused attention on hospice-related education and research. In 1992, he led the establishment of the National Hospice Foundation (NHF), which sought to inform Americans about the benefits of hospice care.

Over the years, the Foundation has empowered millions of people to make the end-of-life choices that are right for them and their families. Today, the NHF is the principal fundraising partner of the NHPCO, supporting all of the organizations initiatives devoted to the promotion of quality end-of-life care.

During the five years he spent chairing the NHF, Morfogen Ė who with his wife also owns Morfogen Associates, an international arts consulting firm--found ways to combine his love for art and his mission for hospice education. He developed the concept for a touring photographic exhibit entitled Hospice: A Photographic Journey and a television documentary, Letting Go: A Hospice Journey.

In 1997, NHF established its first endowment, the Zachary P. Morfogen Fund for the Arts and Education in Hospice. That same year, he retired as NHF chair.

Heís quick to tell you that his work is far from over. During the mid-90ís, he and Marilyn moved to Palm Beach, and are as active as ever in the promotion of hospice and the arts, working with the Hospice of Palm Beach County and the Norton Museum of Art. The Art of Caring will culminate on April 7, 2005 at a gala in Washington, D.C. Honorary chairs for the event are former President Bill and Senator Hillary Clinton, and former Senator Bob and Senator Elizabeth Dole.

Zachary Morfogen has been honored numerous times for his achievements. One honor that bears mention is the Brown Alumni Associationís William Rogers Award, which Morfogen received in 2001. The award honors an alumnus or alumna whose professional work and service to humanity exemplifies the charge of the Brown Charter to live a life of "usefulness and reputation."

More information is available on the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organizationís website at
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