Harvard Medical SchoolCenter for Palliative Care

Our Mission

The Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care (HMS CPC) aims to ease suffering and enhance the quality of care for patients and their families dealing with life-threatening and/or serious illness, through fostering leadership and supporting outstanding educational programs in palliative care. By educating future generations of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals, the Center serves as a national and international resource for the best practices in palliative care education and practice.


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Kristen SchaeferKristen Schaefer, MD

Director of Medical Student and Resident Education

Director, Supportive Cardiology Initiative, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School


Educational and Professional Experience


B.S. Princeton University


M.D. Harvard Medical School


Internship in Primary Care Internal Medicine, UCSF/ San Francisco General Hospital


Residency in Primary Care Internal Medicine, UCSF/ San Francisco General Hospital


Clinician Educator in General Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine


Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Current Teaching and Research Interests

Dr. Schaefer has extensive experience teaching both specialty and generalist palliative care at the undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education levels, with a focus on improving and advancing serious illness communication training for non-palliative care fellows and practicing clinicians. She directs the required Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) Medicine Residency Communication in Serious Illness workshop and Objective Structured Clinical Exam, and co-leads intensive, interdisciplinary communication training workshops for oncology, nephrology and cardiology fellows at BWH and Partners HealthCare. Dr. Schaefer completed a Harvard Medical School (HMS) Curtis Prout Fellowship in Medical Education in 2013, leads a required 4-hour introduction to palliative care using interdisciplinary palliative care faculty pairs as small group facilitators, is core faculty in the biweekly/monthly longitudinal Developing Physician course, and co-leads faculty development initiatives in her role as co-Chair of the HMS Academy Communication, Compassion and Empathy Interest Group. Finally, Dr. Schaefer is an active palliative care clinician, and leads a clinical and quality improvement initiative at BWH to improve access to palliative care for patients with advanced heart failure.

Dr. Schaefer has been a PCEP faculty member since 2008, and is a course director (with Eva H. Chittenden, MD, FACP), for the HMS Center for Palliative Care Practical Aspects of Palliative Care and Palliative Care for Hospitalists and Intensivists courses. Dr. Schaefer's current research includes a national survey study with Mary Buss, MD to measure cardiology fellows' training in palliative and end-of-life care, a study of the effect of a mentored home hospice visit on medicine residents' ability to discuss and recommend hospice to patients, and a pilot randomized, controlled trial with Arden O'Donnell, LCSW of a social work led outpatient advance care planning intervention for recently hospitalized patients with heart failure. Dr. Schaefer is board certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and was recently named a Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.