NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year
End-of-Life Care Advocate
Empowering doctors and patients to make directed, compassionate decisions during life’s final stage.
Dr. Chandana Banerjee always knew that she wanted to work with vulnerable populations. That’s what led her to NYU, and then to a position at a Managed Care company. But her father’s unexpected death, following a simple hernia surgery, turned her world upside down. “What bothered me most,” she says, “was how he died—confused and disoriented and probably uncomfortable.” Banerjee saw with sudden clarity that the most vulnerable population of all—people near life’s end—had no allies in the medical world.
Driven to fill this medical void, Banerjee dropped everything to pursue medical school, ultimately focusing on an oft-neglected discipline: palliative care. “The prevailing attitude,” Banerjee says, “is that once a prognosis of death is given, medical care is over.” With residency experience and clinical degree in hand, Banerjee joined the staff of the renowned cancer institute, City of Hope, where she set to work empowering doctors and patients to make directed, compassionate decisions during life’s final stage.
Dr. Banerjee has been tireless. At City of Hope, she has created a fellowship in Palliative Medicine and guided policy that supports patient control over end-of-life decisions—including the decision to die. In 2018 she established an annual End of Life Symposium that has already trained over 15,000 individuals. She has been widely recognized as an advocate and thought leader in end-of-life care, but she’s eyeing bigger goals: “We need permanent structural change in medical training,” she says, “and a focus on the entire circle of life and death.”
Photo Credit: Smeeta Mahanti