Lessons learned from end-of-life care

Matt Liquori '18

HOMETOWN: Bethel, Conn.
MAJOR: Biological Sciences
FACULTY: Carol Weisse, professor of psychology and director of Health Professions

When Matt Liquori '18 first walked into the Joan Nicole Prince Home the summer following his junior year, he was unsure what to expect. The home, a few miles from campus, is where terminally ill patients go to spend their final days.

“I thought it would be very sad and depressing,” said Liquori, who was considering a career in medicine. “Instead, I learned to appreciate the joys of everyday life. To get to know people and watch how they find joy and happiness in the smallest of things under the most difficult circumstances is something I still think about today.”

Liquori is among more than two dozen Union students selected as CARE (Community Action, Research and Education) fellows. The experiential learning program trains students to serve as surrogate family members to hospice patients in community-run residential homes for the dying.

Students volunteer up to 30 hours a week for eight weeks, supplementing that front-line experience with coursework and research on death, dying and palliative care.

Carol Weisse, professor of psychology and director of Health Professions designed the program with assistance from Kathryn Martin ’16 and Dr. Geri Aitken ’88 who helped develop the curriculum.

“Health care is very focused on cure,” Weisse said. “But this experience forces students to step back and realize there isn't always a cure, but that doesn't mean there's nothing we can offer to alleviate your pain, your suffering. There is healing that happens at the end of life, and being present, comforting and attentive is a form of medicine, and it does provide healing.”

A biology major from Bethel, Conn., Liquori was a guard on the men’s basketball team. After graduation, he spent nine months as a Minerva Fellow working at the Engeye Health Clinic in Uganda. The program allows graduates to work in developing countries while paired with a social entrepreneurial organization. They then return to campus for a month to share their experience with current students.

Liquori has put medical school on hold while he works as a biotech production specialist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, about 30 minutes from campus in Rensselaer County.

The life lessons he learned from the dying endure.

“The experience helped me to understand people better,” he said. “I’ve become a more compassionate person because of it.”

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