Annual PHorum

Every year, VNA Health presents its annual PHORUM: PERSPECTIVES IN HEALTHCARE, a free community education program that examines and discusses healthcare critical to the communities of Santa Barbara County by bringing together healthcare experts and stakeholders, community leaders, and the public at large to participate in a meaningful, progressive dialogue about relevant and timely healthcare issues. Through the years, the needs of our communities (nationally, regionally, and locally) have evolved, and VNA Health designed PHORUM to address those needs.



Launched in 2014, during the early years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the first year of PHORUM brought together leaders of local health care providers and partners to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by Santa Barbara in response to the newly passed legislation. The inaugural discussion panel represented different healthcare sectors including hospitals, physician group practices, private practice, publicly-funded health care programs, and home care.

Given the broad impact of the ACA, the 2015 PHORUM participants agreed to continue the ACA conversation and to reflect on what worked well, what challenges still existed, and what the overall impact of the ACA had been, is and will continue to be on healthcare in Santa Barbara.

VNA Health shifted the focus of 2016 PHORUM to industry changes that alter the way home health care is organized, accessed, and reimbursed; and how these impact the dynamics of population health in Santa Barbara. VNA Health invited VNAA President & CEO Tracey Moorhead to present key trends and policy initiatives with a focus on integrated approaches to medical, behavioral, public health, and social services, and utilization of data to track quality and provide efficient, targeted, and effective patient-centered care in the home. VNA Health also increased the diversity of participants included in this year’s panel discussion to include leaders from public health, neighborhood clinics, and population health.

The 2017 PHORUM addressed a critical question that impacts everyone: “What matters most when you are dying?” Healthcare professionals know that advanced directives and end-of-life care planning are a difficult but necessary conversation to have with patients and their families; yet this conversation is usually had at the point of crisis, which ultimately diminishes the full benefit of hospice care. To provide community-wide education and guidance concerning these important matters, VNA Health invited Dr. Lani Leary, a leading expert in working with the chronically ill, dying, and bereaved, to discuss the choices people have and make about how they live and die. Following the keynote was an intimate Q&A with Dr. Leary by Michael Kearney, MD, Medical Director of the Palliative Care Consultation Service at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Associate Medical Director at VNA Health, internationally recognized educator, and renowned author in the field of end-of-life.

In December 2017, the Santa Barbara community was deeply impacted physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the tragic losses as a result of the Thomas Fire and the subsequent January 2018 mudslides in Montecito that killed 21 people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.

Prior to these disasters, the planned program for the next PHORUM was designed to focus on Music Therapy utilized at end of life from the perspective of hospice care. In response to our community’s urgent need for comfort and healing, VNA Health has chosen to broaden the subject matter of this year’s program to help our community deal with any kind of loss. Therefore, the 2018 PHORUM presented “Music is Medicine – Comfort & Renewal After Loss,” and featured feature a keynote performance by Gary Malkin, a multiple Emmy, Clio, and ASCAP award winner whose work as a music and health innovator has redefined the role music and sound can play in healthcare, education, and mindfulness programs. Music is the universal language of emotion; and music therapy offers emotional support and provides an outlet for reflection and expression of feelings, ultimately improving one’s quality of life.

The 2019 PHORUM presented “Validating Dreams & Visions of the Dying” to examine an element of dying that oftentimes seem strange or even scary – end of life experiences, dreams and visions. The keynote speaker was Dr. Christopher Kerr, CEO & Chief Medical Officer for the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Kerr studies the dreams of terminally ill patients who reported having dreams or visions of lost loved ones and described their dreams as feeling “more real than real.” End-of-life experiences are intrinsic to the process of dying, and have been reported throughout history and across cultures. Yet, the dreams and visions of the dying have been dismissed by the medical community as confusion or hallucinations. No one had ever asked dying patients directly about their visions or attempted to quantify their end-of-life experiences—until now. Dr. Kerr and his research team interviewed more than 1,400 terminally ill patients, and they are the first to quantify and document end-of-life dreams and visions directly from patients during their final days.