David Haugh: Providing Compassion and Caring for Families in Grief

UVA Today is highlighting the winners of the 2012 Leonard W. Sandridge Outstanding Contribution Awards, the highest U.Va. honor staff receive for their dedicated service to the University. Today: David Haugh of the U.Va. Medical Center. To see all of the stories, click here.

May 18, 2012 — David Haugh's tact, sensitivity and compassion serve him well as he guides families through the difficult period that follows the loss of a loved one. And he brings that same grace to every aspect of his job as decedent affairs coordinator at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

"He has one of the most difficult roles that one can have in a hospital," wrote nominator Jane Erwine, special projects manager. "He consistently demonstrates composure, compassion and genuine respect in all interactions and processes dealing with death. … He goes above and beyond to make sure that the family directions and needs are met, while ensuring that all details and procedures are accurately followed."

Haugh's nominators described how he has designed and implemented tools that make dealing with death easier for both families and Health System employees. "David routinely provides physician education both to new residents and to existing ones with ‘in the moment' training," wrote nominator Maggie Short, an administrator. "David developed a website that Medical Center physicians and staff can all access which has proven to be very beneficial."

Many have noticed and benefitted from Haugh's thoughtful approach to his job, Short noted. When she was Haugh's manager, Short regularly heard from physicians and local funeral homes who wanted to express how much they appreciated Haugh's "management of difficult processes with great sensitivity," she wrote.

Nominators saluted Haugh's collaborative approach, his attention to detail and his outstanding leadership. But it is his unwavering empathy and understanding despite the extraordinary stresses of his job that drew the most praise.

"David's work touches over 800 patients and families per year and 3,500 to 4,000 nurses and therapists, 750 post-graduate trainees and 750 attending physicians. His guidance in policy development is invaluable, but it is his personal interactions with families and care providers that set him above the rest," wrote nominator Jonathon Truwit, chief medical officer. "His tireless efforts to ensure quality care post-death provides comfort to our community and for those calling upon us to care for loved ones."

– by Josh Barney