Improving Quality of Life

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and family.

Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient's prognosis. It is appropriate at any age and at any state in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.


The professional Certificate in Palliative Care requires 16 s.h. of credit. The certificate program prepares students to practice as palliative care generalists or champions upon graduation from the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. Students who complete the certificate will possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to serve patients living with serious illnesses across the trajectory of life in a variety of general pharmacy practice environments and non-palliative pharmacy specialties, including critical care, emergency medicine, geriatrics, and cardiology. The program addresses the educational needs of pharmacy students who may provide pharmaceutical care in a community pharmacy setting, a long-term care pharmacy, oncology, cardiology, infectious disease, critical care, transplant, and emergency medicine. The certificate also prepares graduates to pursue advanced postgraduate clinical training in palliative care and hospice, including palliative-care residencies and fellowships.

Check out the animated video below, made by alumni Brandi Loging, PharmD '21 and Steven Landa, PharmD '21, about the importance of palliative care for student pharmacists 
and other health-care professionals from the patient 


Required Courses

This course looks beyond medication and disease-state management to explore the principles and practice of providing whole-person healthcare. Whole-person care is the integration of a variety of resources to support a patient’s mind, body, and spirit in their healthcare journey. Additional topics to be covered include interprofessional care teams, palliative care as a public health need, communication strategies, and self-care.

Requirements: P1 or P2 standing, or permission of the course coordinator.

This course 1) explores the relationship between ethical provision of healthcare and well-being of people living with serious illness and their care team, including healthcare providers, caregivers, and family and 2) prepares students to identify and approach potential challenges and threats to well-being they may face in their personal or professional life. Topics explored via discussion, reflection, and examining multimedia sources include: ethics and laws pertaining to living, receiving medical care, and dying; suffering; dignity; grieving; cultural and spiritual contexts of illness and death; health equity in serious illness care; moral distress; and compassion fatigue. 

Requirements: P2 or P3 standing, or permission of the course coordinator.

This longitudinal course fosters development of pharmacy students as palliative care champions and provides them opportunities to engage in self-directed learning in palliative care to develop skills in leadership, advocacy, self-care, and scholarly inquiry. Students will participate in seminars, book clubs, workshops, and advocacy activities that align with their personal learning goals to develop requisite attitudes, knowledge, and skills to effectively serve as palliative care champions within the healthcare system and their community. Course learning activities focus on developing resilience, authenticity, empathy, self-awareness and self-reflection. Skills of focus include thinking critically, communicating effectively, providing effective feedback, engaging in emotional self-care, developing and delivering education, and navigating conflict.

Requirements: Admission to the Palliative Care Professional Certificate for PharmD students.

The goal of this course is to prepare students to provide compassionate, effective palliation and care for patients living with pain and to influence improvement of pain management in our society. The course focuses on knowledge and skill-building that will be broadly applicable in pharmacy practice.

Requirements: P3 standing or permission of the course coordinator.

This course focuses on knowledge and skill-building to engage in the pharmacist’s role as part of interprofessional teams caring for patients with multimorbidity and serious illness. Students will explore pharmacists’ roles and responsibilities in optimizing medication regimens and palliating common and challenging non-pain symptoms through goal-concordant interprofessional care. Students will develop skills to provide holistic care to patients and families across diverse pharmacy practice settings.

Requirements: P3 standing or permission of the course coordinator.

Rotation Options (One Required)

Clinical experience providing pharmacotherapy for end-of-life care.

Requirements: P4 standing.

Clinical experience in providing pharmaceutical care in outpatient clinic settings.

Requirements: P4 standing.

"My hope is that the certificate students will serve to be change agents in healthcare, and that they will advocate for their patients to receive this care."

James Ray, Associate Professor

Palliative Care Faculty

Where Are They Now?

View Where Some Palliative Care Certificate Grads Are Now


Students may apply in Fall P2 semester. Accepted students will begin the program and the longitudinal course PHAR 8798 in P2 Spring semester.

Applicants must be in good academic standing, as defined in the Student Handbook, and have a Pharmacy Cumulative GPA ≥ 2.7. Beyond this minimum Pharmacy Cumulative GPA, the Palliative Care Certificate Admission committee reviews applications holistically. Admitted students demonstrate:

  • Preparedness to engage in a challenging certificate curriculum without compromising their success in the PharmD program.
  • Understanding of what palliative care is and the program’s requirements. 
    In general, admitted applicants have taken ≥ 1 palliative care elective prior to admission, attended certificate information sessions, volunteered in palliative care or hospice settings, and/or experienced serious illness in their personal/familial lives.

Application overview and timeline:

  • 3rd Monday in October: Applications due.
  • 1st Week of November: Interviews occur.
    Applicants will be notified by email if they are selected for an interview with Palliative Care Certificate admission committee members.
  • 3rd Friday of November: Applicants will be notified of admissions decisions.
    Accepted students must confirm their intention to enroll in writing by Nov. 30 and will attend orientation prior to the end of Fall semester.

How to Apply

Applicants should complete the Palliative Certificate Application, which requires the following:

  • A letter of intent.
    Letters of intent should be formatted with 1-inch margins and 11-point font; they should not exceed 2 pages in length.
  • Current CV.
  • Unofficial University of Iowa transcript.
  • Contact information (name, email address, phone number) for the applicant’s College of Pharmacy faculty mentor.
  • Contact information (name, email address, phone number) for one professional reference outside the College of Pharmacy, such as an employer, previous professor, coach, colleague or supervisor of a volunteer experience.

During the 3rd week of October, the applicant’s PharmD faculty mentor and professional reference will be emailed a reference survey to complete on their behalf. Applicants should discuss their application with their references. 

“The certificate program set the foundation and provided me with the resources I needed to achieve all I did in residency. Because of the certificate program, I was able to start two new rotations during residency, adult palliative care and pediatric palliative care; neither team currently has a pharmacist at our hospital. This allowed me to evaluate the addition of a pharmacist as part of my year-long residency research project.”

Jillian Ginger, PharmD, Class of 2019

James Ray with Palliative Team

Certificate Program Fee

Program Fee: $1,000

One-half of the program fee will appear on each student’s university bill in Fall P3 semester, with the remaining half assessed on their Fall P4 semester bill; any available scholarship programs for the Palliative Care Certificate Program fee will be announced on the Palliative Care Certificate website.

Academic Progression

Students enrolled in the Palliative Care Certificate must pass all required palliative care courses and remain in good academic standing in the PharmD curriculum.

  • If a student goes on academic probation, voluntary withdrawal from the PC certificate may be advised or required by the Student Success and Progression Committee (SSPC).
  • In the case of academic deceleration or if the student has more than one semester on probation, the student will be automatically dismissed from the Palliative Care Certificate program.
  • In the case of dismissal from the Palliative Care Certificate, all Palliative Care Certificate program payments made to date would be forfeited by the student. 

Participating Faculty

James Ray_sm_headshot

James Ray

PharmD, CPE
Clinical Associate Professor
Residency Program Cordinator

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, Adult Inpatient Supportive and Palliative Care Consult Service
(He, Him, His)

College Welcomes Clinical Assistant Professor Lorin Fisher

Lorin Fisher

Clinical Assistant Professor
Residency Program Director 

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, Adult Supportive and Palliative Care Clinic
(She, Her, Hers)


Kashelle Lockman

PharmD, MA
Associate Professor of Instruction
Director, Palliative Care Certificate

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist,
Adult Supportive and Palliative Care Clinic
(She, Her, Hers)


Michelle Schmidt

PharmD, BCGP
Adjunct Assistant Professor

Clinical Pharmacist Practitioner - Palliative Care
Iowa City VA Health Care System
(She, Her, Hers)

Additional Faculty

Additional faculty, including our current Palliative Care and Pain Management pharmacy resident and interdisciplinary faculty, will teach throughout the certificate curriculum to provide a variety of perspectives to pharmacy students.