San Marcos,
19:28 PM

What Gives Your Life Meaning?

By David Ogul

A new initiative at CSUSM poses a simple and yet impactful question: What gives your life meaning? The answer is as unique as the individual responding.

Led by the California State University Institute for Palliative Care, the What Gives Your Life Meaning? (WGYLM) campaign aims to raise awareness of palliative care and its role in improving the quality of life for patients with serious or chronic illness.

The 10-day event series, hosted in partnership with CSUSM faculty, includes a resource fair, art projects, a movie night and several discussions and lectures.

“It is a way to educate students and the community about palliative care, health care choices in general, and the emotional issues involved,” said Dr. Sharon Hamill, professor of psychology, who also serves as the Institute’s faculty director for the CSUSM campus. “When there is an illness in the family, it’s a family affair. It’s not just about the person who has the illness. Knowing about the resources that are available and knowing about your options is vital. It’s also important for students to be educated about palliative care because illness can strike anybody at any time.”

In Professor Catherine Armas-Matsumoto’s communication course on interviewing, for example, students have been questioning their peers about their thoughts on what gives their lives meaning. Subjects are also asked about advance directives.

“Overwhelmingly, students do not know what an advance directive is,” Armas-Matsumoto said. “When it is explained to them and when they think about it for a few minutes, they realize that maybe this is something they should look into.”

The WGYLM campaign has been months in the making.

“What the faculty at CSUSM are doing with What Gives Your Life Meaning? is creating an exciting experience that will be replicable at other campuses to engage students and the community,” said Helen B. McNeal, who serves as the Institute’s executive director. “And, as usual, CSUSM is raising the bar for how our other partner campuses can engage students and community members. They are helping the Institute achieve our mission and ensuring that everyone understands what palliative care really is and what its benefits are.”

What is Palliative Care?

Since launching in 2012, the California State University Institute for Palliative Care has had a profound impact in both the region and the nation thanks to a number of initiatives, including a series of online courses for hundreds of healthcare professionals who are helping thousands of patients lead more comfortable lives.

But if CSUSM has its way, the best has yet to come.

“We’re just getting started,” Hamill said. “We’re building a comprehensive network within the community to work collaboratively on programs that improve the quality of life, not only for patients, but for their families too.”

Palliative care is an extra layer of support for a person with a serious or chronic illness that focuses on providing patients, and their families, with relief from the symptoms and stress of that illness, improving their quality of life.

What palliative care is not is hospice care, although some palliative care patients are living with an incurable disease. Palliative care has been shown to extend the life of a patient, improve his or her quality of life, and reduce stress on caregivers and families.

The CSU Institute for Palliative Care is a statewide initiative aimed at providing education for current and future health care professionals, as well as community members, ensuring that patients and their families get the benefits of palliative care. A $750,000 grant from the California HealthCare Foundation, a gift of $450,000 from Archstone Foundation, and $1.2 million donation from San Diego philanthropist Darlene Shiley provided initial funding for the Institute that now includes centers at seven CSU campuses.

Cal State San Marcos has been the home of the Institute since its launch and is a vital partner campus. Projects that CSUSM faculty have been involved in creating include:

  • Healing Through Art, a program that trains artists and others how to use art to facilitate healing and emotional expression, has been delivered at Camp Pendleton to aid Marines suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
  • Inter-professional practice experience for students planning to enter careers in healthcare so that they may learn how to work collaboratively as a team while providing palliative care to patients and their families.

Upcoming Events for What Gives Your Life Meaning?:

The Public Art Project and Resource Fair

Thursday, April 23 at 11:30 a.m.

University Student Union, arcade

The Resource Fair will have 22 agencies presenting information on palliative care and healthcare choices. Topics include palliative care services, hospice, bone marrow, organ donations and more. Students can make potential connections for volunteer opportunities. In addition, colorful chalk drawings will depict responses to “What Gives Your Life Meaning?” and attendees will be encouraged to create an individual reflection on the topic for incorporation into a permanent CSUSM display.

Free Movie Night: Finding Joe

Thursday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m.

The McMahan House

In the early 20th century, while studying world mythology, Joseph Campbell discovered a pattern hidden in every story ever told and he called it “the heroes journey." A truly inspirational film, Finding Joe takes viewers on the ultimate heroes journey: the journey of self-discovery. This movie cleverly echoes the theme of the What Gives Your Life Meaning? campaign.

My Voice, My Choice

Tuesday, April 28 from noon to 12:50 p.m.

Academic Hall, room 102

Caroline Boaz, a registered nurse and School of Nursing faculty member, will demonstrate the importance of advance directives not just for the elderly but also for students. Empower yourself and take charge of your life!

For more information on the WGYLM campaign and the CSU Institute for Palliative Care, located at CSUSM, visit the Institute's webpage.