Leadership Fellowship

The goal of this 18-month fellowship is to improve palliative and end-of-life care (PELC) for patients and families, especially diverse and under-served populations, through the development of a cadre of MSW PELC leaders. Leadership training will focus on skills to develop programs, train new PELC social workers, conduct research, and advocate for increased access to PELC services, including adequate pain and symptom management, for the most vulnerable populations.


The need for social worker leaders in PELC will see a sharp increase over the next few decades, a demand anticipated and informed by demographic and health-care trends across all socioeconomic groups. Recent reports by the Institute of Medicine and the National Association of Social Workers have documented a growing shortage of social workers, especially those trained in PELC and the provision of services for older adults. As the population ages, there will be a greater need for PELC specialists and programs that serve patients in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and community-based agencies.

Goals of the Program

  • To provide an innovative training program to enhance social work leadership in PELC across the care delivery system by enhancing critical thinking, knowledge, and skills to social workers currently in PELC practice
  • To strengthen social work advocacy on behalf of patients and families by increasing competency in leadership practice in organizational settings
  • To strengthen social work influence in the delivery of care and the environments of care
  • To create leadership practice that is sensitive to the needs of diverse communities

The Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care

The Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) at New York University is a leader and innovator in the education, development, and mentorship of social workers in palliative and end-of-life care (PELC). The Zelda Foster Studies Program was established in 2006 by the SSSW and the family and friends of Zelda Foster. The mission of the program is to develop and mentor social work students and MSWs in PELC. Zelda Foster, an early PELC pioneer, developed and mentored many current leaders in PELC social work. The Zelda Foster Studies Program includes an MSW fellowship and a post-master’s certificate program.

The Fellowship Training Elements

Social workers in leadership positions or who have the potential for leadership will be selected for this fellowship which will include: 30 hours of intensive training over five days at NYU Silver, one year of individual mentorship with a PELC social work leader, and a capstone project.

Individual Mentorship, Leadership Goals, and Capstone Project

Each fellow will identify a substantive area of interest in PELC leadership that is congruent with the goals of the Fellowship for their capstone project. Fellows will be matched with mentors with expertise in their area of interest to develop and implement their projects. One year of monthly mentorship will be provided.

The capstone projects give fellows an opportunity to add to the knowledge base of PELC and to make a contribution to the field. The capstone project can be done at the fellow’s site of employment or outside of the work setting. Examples include: research (qualitative or quantitative); innovative program development; scholarly writing; curriculum development; and advocacy/education.

Fellows will work with their mentors to develop leadership goals within their site of employment.

Who Should Apply

This highly competitive program will select up to twenty (20) MSWs who have at least five years of post-master’s experience in PELC. Applicants from across the country are encouraged to apply.

The Zelda Foster Studies Program defines PELC as work with individuals and families facing life-limiting and life-threatening illness and the bereaved. Social workers from a broad spectrum of agencies, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, HIV/AIDS programs, and home care programs, are encouraged to apply. If you are uncertain if your experience fits the qualifications, please contact Dr. Susan Gerbino at susan.gerbino@nyu.edu.

Training Dates for Cohort 6 (starting in Fall 2020)

  • October 19-21, 2020
  • 2-day training on April 2021 (exact dates TBD)
  • Evening conference calls throughout the year of mentorship
  • April 2022 capstone presentation and graduation (evening event, date TBD)

Training Dates for Cohort 5 (started in Fall 2019)

  • October 15-17, 2019
  • 2-day training on April 20 and 21, 2020
  • Evening conference calls throughout the year of mentorship
  • April 2021 capstone presentation and graduation (evening event, date TBD)


  • $5,500
  • Competitive scholarships will be available especially for those applicants from organizations where little funding is available for professional development, and for those applicants traveling from out of state. Tuition costs should not deter you from applying.

The Zelda Foster Studies Program is funded with support from:


291 Foundation
Ernst & Paula Deutsch Foundation
The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation
Jewish Foundation for Education of Women
The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation
The Y.C. Ho/Helen and Michael Chiang Foundation
The Foster, Katz, and Shapiro Families
Friends and Colleagues of Zelda Foster