MSW Fellowship

First established in 2008 with donations from Zelda Foster’s family, friends and colleagues and supported by an initial, three-year grant from the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Zelda Foster MSW Fellowship in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (PELC) prepares NYU MSW Silver students to provide high-quality, evidence-informed services in palliative and end-of-life care.

A four-year program, the Fellowship begins in the final year of the MSW program and continues for three years at the post-MSW level. It includes a specialized field placement, two years of post-graduate mentoring, and funding for professional development. Students at NYU Silver entering their final year of the MSW program are eligible to apply. Each year, up to 12 final-year students will be selected as Zelda Foster MSW Fellows.


The World Health Organization defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative Care is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. End-of-Life Care refers to programs that care for the dying such as hospice.

The need for social work 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.

Fellowship Training Elements – Final Year of the MSW Program

Fellows will be placed in PELC settings for their field placements, which include hospitals, out-patient cancer centers, hospices, pediatric units and nursing homes. There is also some funding for conference attendance in year one, both for the Fellows and their Field Instructors.
All Fellows are required to attend monthly two-hour seminars at the School, which will supplement field learning. Agencies must agree to release students for these seminars and the hours are counted as part of the field placement hours. The seminars include case consultation, reflective writing, support and didactic lectures from guest speakers on topics such as Pain and Symptom Management and Advance Care Planning.

Fellows are required to take the following electives:

  • Introduction to Palliative Care Social Work – one-credit elective
  • Grief, Loss and Bereavement – three-credit elective
  • Advanced Policy (Aging) or Advanced Policy (Health) – three-credit required course

Fellowship Training Elements – Post-Graduate Years

After graduation, all Fellows who are committed to remaining in PELC will be matched with a mentor for two hours of individual mentorship a month for two years. The goal of the mentorship program is to provide support, guidance and help with professional and career development. Zelda believed new social workers in PELC need mentoring due to the special challenges of this work. Mentors receive special training and supervision and are required to have at least five years of post-MSW experience in PELC. Fellows receive funding for professional development in the field during the three post-graduate years of the Fellowship. This financial support enables new graduates to pursue advanced training and conference opportunities that are often not open to new employees.