• Researcher Profile

    Susan D. Block, MD

    Susan D. Block, MD
    Institute Physician

    Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Harvard Medical School


    Psychosocial Oncology (Adult)

    Office phone: 617-632-6179
    Fax: 617-632-6180
    Email: susan_block@dfci.harvard.edu

    Preferred contact method: email

    View Physician Profile

    Research Department

    Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care


    Psychiatry, Palliative medicine, Adult psychosocial oncology, Symptom management, End-of-life care

    Area of Research

    Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    450 Brookline Avenue
    Shields Warren G411
    Boston, MA 02215


    Susan D. Block, M.D is an Institute Physician in the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Womens Hospital and Co-Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care, a national center of excellence in palliative care education. Dr. Block received her AB from Stanford University, her MD from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and completed residencies in both internal medicine and psychiatry at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She is board-certified in both fields and in palliative medicine. Throughout her career, Dr. Block has had a strong interest in improving care of patients with life-threatening illness and in medical education reform. She has been a leader in the development of the field of Palliative Medicine nationally and has been responsible for the development of innovative educational programs for medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty. She runs national and international faculty development programs for palliative care clinicians, is active in research focused on mental health, communication, and cancer outcomes, and on medical education, serves on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching, mentoring, and research, and has led the development of palliative care and psychooncology services at DFCI and BWH.

    Recent Awards

    • American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Distinguished Service Award, 2002
    • Jack Maatsch-Association of American Medical Colleges Award for research in medical education, 2002
    • Association for Academic Psychiatry, Outstanding Psychiatric Educator Award, 1998
    • American College of Psychiatrists "Creativity in Psychiatric Education", 1997


    Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care

    Many deficiencies have been noted in end-of-life care. Medical education and postgraduate training offer few opportunities for physicians to learn how to care for patients with advanced illness. However, through understanding the status of palliative care education, physicians' attitudes and practices in relation to end-of-life care, and their experiences in caring for patients who die, we can develop new ways to improve physician education and patient care. To that end, we are conducting the following studies:

    Physicians' emotional reactions to their patients' deaths. In this study, we are using both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the experiences of medical students, interns, residents, and attending physicians who are caring for dying patients.

    Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice Outcome Evaluation.
    We are conducting an intensive long-term evaluation of the impact of a two-week faculty development program on physicians' competencies in palliative care, education, and organizational change.

    Through the Center for Psychooncology and Palliative Care Research, we are also developing a series of studies focused on mental health issues at the end of life, caregivers of dying patients, and the bereaved, as well as the impact of physician factors (e.g., beliefs, knowledge, attitudes) on the quality and outcomes of care at the end of life. Finally, we are developing and validating performance-assessment measures for specialist training in palliative care.

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