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Caroline Walker 2015-2016

Caroline Walker, a graduating senior at Vanderbilt University has been named one of two recipients of the 2015 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship.

The title of Walker’s project is “Dignified Life and Death: A Global Approach to End of Life Care.” Rooted in a strong conviction that every life is of infinite worth from its very beginning to its very end, Walker plans to engage in a meaningful study and discussion on the issues surrounding end of life care from moral and ethical aspects to its technological and economic facets.  She plans to travel to 15 different countries to immerse herself in hospital, hospice, non-profit and other culturally specific end of life care organizations to answer her guiding questions: how do various cultures around the globe view death as well as a person’s dignity at the end of life and what are the features that make them different?

Walker stated: “Though issues around the end of life must be confronted by every single person, if not for a family member or patient then for themselves, it is an often avoided topic.  Of course this makes perfect sense initially as it is a topic that cuts to the core of who we are as human beings and why we are on this earth for a finite amount of time.  It forces one to deal with uncomfortable subjects around inconvenience, suffering, loneliness and loss.  Furthermore in a western society which values independence, choice and control so highly, it forces one to question whether or not these aspects are what give us worth or if one’s value is something innate.  It is my goal that a study of many different cultures may initiate an exchange of ideas which result in creative solutions to the approach to end of life care across the world in dealing with these difficult questions and in caring in a dignified manner for those in the last precious stages of life.”

“It is unbelievably humbling to have the opportunity provided by the Keegan Fellowship to study these issues which I am so passionate about as well as a great privilege to have the opportunity to share in the precious moment’s of a person’s last weeks or days.  I hope that I might grow through this experience in understanding and compassion both for the dying and for all people during this year abroad and I simply thank the Keegan family and committee so very much for the opportunity and their confidence and support in this endeavor.”

 Walker, a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and an Ingram Scholar will be graduating in May from the School of Arts and Science with a double major in History and in Medicine, Health and Society though she regards her most defining qualities as sister, daughter, granddaughter, and friend.