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Palliative Cake

A doctoral student in the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health, Brianna Morgan uses art to honor the field of palliative care and as a coping mechanism for life’s many stressors. She is a Gerontologic and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner with nursing experience in critical care and neurology, and her doctoral work seeks to improve strengths-based palliative care for people living with mild cognitive impairment by describing inner strength

By Brianna Elizabeth Morgan BA MSN C’08 Nu’12 GNu’15

It all started with a tweet. In January 2020, a Twitter user challenged academics to “Alter one letter of a concept in your discipline.”

Academic Twitter took to the challenge with fervor and hilarity ensued. Dark matter became dank matter. Liver transplant became lover transplant. A fellow palliative care nurse researcher and pun enthusiast, Elise Tarbi PhD CRNP Nu’12 GNu’15 GR’20, quickly took to the task at hand and transformed palliative care into the much more delicious alternative, palliative cake.

Palliative care is specialized health care for persons impacted by serious, life-limiting illnesses that is focused on improving quality of life and reducing suffering. There have been many studies demonstrating the value of palliative care, but palliative care researchers often strive to answer the question “what’s in the special sauce of palliative care?” Therefore, we felt palliative cake was an especially fitting alteration.

Shortly after this exchange, our annual palliative care research con- ference was cancelled due to the first lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. I created this watercolor tribute to Elise’s tasty pun as a way of honoring the field of palliative care and coping with my sadness during the pandem- ic. During a time when we have lost so much—lives, time, opportunities—art allows me to relieve stress and find hu- mor even in the darkest moments of my profession. And at the end of the day, I find that most people could benefit from a little palliative cake.


Brianna Morgan is supported by the NINR Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Award (F31NR020140-01) and a P.E.O. International Scholars Award.