Eleanor Jones, M.Ed.
Director of Honoring Choices® Virginia
Eleanor Jones, M.Ed. is the new Director of Honoring Choices Virginia, starting April 2019. She has spent fifteen years in the field of adult learning and training in the United States and overseas. She has a passion for empowering adults to find their voice and use it. Eleanor has degrees from George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University as well as her CELTA from the University of Cambridge. She is excited to bring her experience and passion to her new role at Honoring Choices Virginia. When not at work, Eleanor enjoys spending time with her family and being outdoors as much as possible..
Laura A. Pilati
Community Engagement Specialist
Laura serves as Community Engagement Specialist for Honoring Choices Virginia. For over a decade, she has worked with small and grassroots-based community organizations to build relationships and support volunteers and community workers with the aim of developing more inclusive, impactful programs and initiatives. As a trained birth doula and trust builder, Laura brings a deeply humanistic approach to her work. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Mary Washington and earned her Master of Nonprofit Studies degree from the University of Richmond. Laura lives in Richmond with her husband and growing family.
J. Brian Cassel, PhD
VCU Medical Center, Research and Evaluation Advisor
Brian is Assistant Professor in the division of Hematology/Oncology and Palliative Care and Palliative Care Research Director at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been conducting health-focused program evaluation and research since 1991. His current research interests include the outcomes of specialist palliative care services and the processes and outcomes of advance care planning. As a faculty member of VCU’s “Palliative Care Leadership Center” he has helped to train more than 150 palliative care teams from all over the US. In 2012 he was a Fulbright Scholar at the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London, UK.
Candace Blades, JD, BSN, RN-BC
VCU Health, Honoring Choices Virginia Coordinator
Rebecca Gruszkos, LCSW, ACHP-SW
Bon Secours Virginia Medical Group, Honoring Choices® Virginia Faculty
Becky is a licensed clinical social worker with advanced certification in hospice and palliative care. She worked in palliative care settings in both northern and central VA for nearly 20 years—serving both in hospice and inpatient Palliative Medicine. She is a certified First Steps® ACP Instructor and Organization Faculty member with Honoring Choices® Virginia. As part of her role with Bon Secours, Becky is also a certified instructor for Last Steps® ACP / POST, serves on the Virginia POST Executive Committee, and is the Co-Regional Coordinator for POST in central Virginia. Becky currently serves as the Advance Care Planning Manager for Bon Secours Virginia Medical Group.
Debbie Griffith, RN, CCRN
HCA Virginia, Honoring Choices® Virginia Faculty
Debbie is a Registered Nurse at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital where she serves as the Critical Care Special Projects Coordinator and as the key coordinator for Honoring Choices. She began working in critical care in 1980, and is now a certified Critical Care RN. Ms. Griffith graduated from East Orange General Hospital School of Nursing in New Jersey. She is also a certified facilitator in First and Last Steps Advance Care Planning and an Instructor and Organizational Faculty member in First Steps ACP. Debbie lives in Hadensville, Virginia with her husband and family.
What Others are Saying About Us:
“My sister, Dad and I worked with a nurse at VCU’s Center for Advanced Health Management, who had completed the Honoring Choices training, to do advance care planning for my dad over the summer. Lisa was great … she made a tough process very manageable. Thanks to the Academy for doing this important work! While we’ve got a road ahead of us, completing Honoring Choices gives us a point of reference as we navigate the future.”
“By promoting and facilitating these conversations, Honoring Choices helps families and physicians understand and honor individual patient’s choices about their care. We have already seen that this can make the time spent together in the final days of life better for all.”
“The Honoring Choices facilitator training helped both me, as a physician, and [our] residents learn new skills for addressing end of life issues with patients and their families. We were taught specific tools for asking questions about sensitive issues and feelings in an unbiased and nonjudgmental manner. These are skills only briefly covered in a traditional medical school curriculum and will be useful throughout their careers.”
“My patient is …homebound and because of his multiple chronic medical conditions he has difficulty getting out to medical appointments. He resides alone and his two living relatives live out of state. He wanted to participate in an Honoring Choices discussion because he knew he needed to make some important decisions for his future care and felt this was particularly necessary with his family being out of town. Having gone through the process he now feels that both of his agents understand much better his wishes and their roles. He says that they now know when to get involved and ask questions.”
“Since my time as an Honoring Choices facilitator, I have experienced how the gift of a conversation benefits patients and families as they prepare for the unexpected. During conversations, I see people journey from apprehension, in discussing a topic that emulates vulnerability, to a place of ‘rightness’ once they have found their voice and expressed their desires. Families have said that knowing their loved one’s wishes gives them peace even though the situation they are preparing for will bring pain. To me, this program is beneficial because it offers clarity in the midst of impending heartache.”
“Honoring Choices has been invaluable to overall patient care and family experience. This is one of many stories: I sat down with a patient and his large family for the Honoring Choices conversation. He had CRF [chronic renal failure] and ESRD [endstage renal disease] and (eventually transitioned) to hospice. His transition was smooth, the family experience was wonderful, and his expressed wishes were well-respected. I know Honoring Choices has improved overall patient and family satisfaction.”