More about Dame Cicely Saunders and USA connections

Cicely Saunders developed deep and abiding relationships in the United States. In 1964 she was invited by the Episcopal Church Center in New York to write for the Living Church journal on the topic of “Facing Death”. In it she suggested that acceptance of one’s mortality was a route to finding meaning in life itself. The interest this article piqued resulted in a commission from the American Journal of Nursing.
In 1956 Cicely wrote by invitation for the American journal Geriatrics on the concept of hospice as something between a hospital and a home. In it, she noted the international links that had already been established for the concept, especially in the United States. Cicely made three visits to the USA in the 1960s, one of them a cross-continent tour. These trips resulted in her acquiring a host of disciples in the modern hospice movement, including social workers, nurses, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, hospital chaplains and social scientists. They also inspired the opening of the Florence Wald hospice in Vermont, the first modern American hospice. In 1963 Cicely was given an Ella Lyman travel fellowship for 8 weeks and visited colleagues in 18 major hospitals as well as the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. She also developed a long-term and beneficial connection with the American Cancer Society during this period. Her links with Yale University remained strong and she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Yale in 1969.

These visits to the US, the impact of American energy and can-do spirit, and the contact with like-minded professionals made a dramatic difference to Cicely as she progressed with her plans to establish the first purpose built hospice in London – St Christopher’s Hospice – which opened in 1967.

Later, in her work with Michal Galazka, founder of CSI-Americas and a pioneer in international hospice education, groups of overseas visitors to St Christopher’s Hospice and elsewhere in the UK came to learn about palliative care. The emergence of the new field of palliative care as a multi disciplinary specialism has its roots in this cross-Atlantic relationship and is one of the main drivers for Cicely Saunders International-Americas to seek significant new funding for research, education and the continuing refinement and development of best palliative care practice, in the USA, the UK and around the world.

Map of Cicely Saunders travels in the USA (produced by the Cicely Saunders Archives, King’s College London)

More information about the Cicely Saunders Archives, King’s College London can be found here and here.

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