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Nakia Dawson, Clinical Secretary, Palliative Care

While no one is a stranger to the violence that occurs in the New Haven area, perhaps no one knows the impact it has on families and the community better than Nakia Dawson, Clinical Secretary for The Palliative Care Service at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

In addition to her role as Clinical Secretary for Palliative Care, she is founder of The Bereavement Care Network (BCN), a network that reaches out to the families of homicide victims in New Haven.
A lifelong resident of New Haven, Nakia's passion comes from a family member and close friend that were both victims of homicide.

Many families do not have the money to pay for funeral costs, as they may not have life insurance and the deaths are unexpected. BCN reaches out to these families to help pay for funerals, or other arrangements that are needed. The staff of six also provides families with emotional support and connections to various resources. Most of the money comes from fundraisers, or out of pocket. They also have a partnership with McClam Funeral Home, since they arrange funerals for 80% of the homicide deaths in New Haven.

"I have been where these families are and have felt what they feel. After serving as a bereavement coordinator with another organization, I knew that there was a greater need out there and that I needed to do more to help these families," said Nakia.

In her role with The Palliative Care Service at Smilow Cancer Hospital, Nakia handles new patient referrals, setting up appointments for patients, and making sure they receive their prescriptions. She sees patients come in with varying stages of disease, and cancers. The service, directed by Jennifer Kapo, MD, focuses on symptom management and quality of life issues for adult patients with serious chronic, progressive or terminal illnesses. Nakia explained that her work with BCN and the Palliative Care Service are intertwined. They both can deal with heartbreaking loss, although the causes are different.

Dr. Kapo commented, "We are extremely fortunate to have Nakia as a member of the Palliative Care Team. Through her BCN work, she has a special expertise in dealing with patients and families faced with overwhelming tragedy. The patients and families who contact our palliative care service benefit from her calming, comforting and kind approach. As we expand our service to include bereavement services, I am looking forward to Nakia's input in building a comprehensive program that will support families and loved ones after a death. I am thrilled that she is part of our team."

For more information about BCN, and how to volunteer, please contact Nakia at or (203) 589-5538.