RoundGlass - Death Over Dinner

How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having. We have gathered dozens of medical and wellness leaders to cast an unflinching eye at end of life, and we have created an uplifting interactive adventure that transforms this seemingly difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight and empowerment. We invite you to gather friends and family and fill a table. Click Get Started to plan a test dinner. We call it a test dinner because trying out this process in no way commits you to follow through with an actual dinner. Learn More.

How death came to dinner

On August 24, 2013 we launched Death Over Dinner and in a single night we tracked over 500 dinners in 20 countries. Since then there have been over a hundred thousand #deathdinners around the globe. This adventure began when we learned that 75% of Americans want to die at home, yet only 25% of them do. When we learned that how we end our lives is the most important and costly conversation America is not having. And when we realized that a conversation among loved ones, friends, and even strangers could begin to change these numbers, and bring the conversation about death back into mainstream culture. It all started with a University of Washington graduate course called Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, taught by Michael Hebb and Scott Macklin, which quickly grew into a beautiful website designed by Seattle agency Civilization with content developed by Angel Grant. Our platform has now grown into a global project with an Australian Edition, a Jewish Edition, and even a Doctors and Nurses Edition currently being designed and built. We are thrilled to announce that we are now part of the RoundGlass family of initiatives, which will allow us to expand this project to millions of individuals and dinner tables. This project was created as a gift, an invitation and a simple set of tools to help families and friends address the basic human fact that we are all, at some point, going to die. We suffer more when we don’t communicate our wishes, we suffer less when we know how to honor the wishes of our loved ones. As we build greater comfort and literacy around this important topic, every single one of us wins. You might ask: Why would I have this conversation over dinner? The dinner table is the most forgiving place for difficult conversation. The ritual of breaking bread creates warmth and connection, and puts us in touch with our humanity. It offers an environment that is more suitable than the usual places we discuss end of life. So we raise a generous glass to you and your loved ones and humbly submit version 2.0 of Death Over Dinner!

built by Civilization

Photos by Amanda Ringstad


Dianne Gray

Dianne Gray is the President of Hospice and Healthcare Communications, (, an international firm focused on creating and furthering advocacy projects and education/communications initiatives involving all aspects of end-of-life and palliative care.

Dianne is a nationally recognized speaker, award winning writer/journalist, film producer, master collaborator and project director.  She is also a passionate advocate for improved communication and care for seriously ill patients, their families and the loved ones they leave behind.

In addition to being the President of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, Dianne also participates on the boards of International Children’s Palliative Care Network and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Pediatric Leadership Council. She is also the co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s Parent Advisory Group. Over the past twenty years, she has founded four non-profit organizations, each focused on improving life for seriously ill children and their families. She is currently producing a documentary on end of life care for PBS and is collaborating with other major media partners and hospice professionals to produce a wide array films, books and other exciting projects.

Dianne is an intrepid traveler who enjoys connecting people everywhere. Over the past two years, she’s worked, hiked, adventured, and/or presented in 17 countries and over 100 cities. Wherever she goes, Dianne also sits beside with the ill and the dying, and still sees her family’s ten year pediatric hospice/palliative care experience with her son, Austin, (who died in February 2005) as the gift of a lifetime.

Jonathan Ellenthal

Jonathan Ellenthal is a Partner and President of TEDMED, LLC. As the exclusive licensee of the globally recognized TED brand for the field of health and medicine, TEDMED focuses entirely on innovation and breakthrough thinking in service of a healthier future.

TEDMED holds its flagship event once a year at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The 3-½ day program features brilliant short talks, stunning artistic performances and informal social experiences. Everything is designed to challenge our view of the world and reveal the power of unexpected connections to create important new possibilities.

Jonathan is also the Chief Executive Officer of Walker Digital, responsible for the P&L of all business operations, research and development, and IP portfolio licensing. He serves as Director for many of Walker Digital’s subsidiaries and collaborates with Jay Walker on all new business designs and the strategic direction of the firm.

Walker Digital’s mission is to use the tools of the digital age to create business systems that unlock extraordinary value for consumers and businesses. Since its founding in the early 1990s, Walker Digital has focused on a world defined by universal computing, unlimited bandwidth and continuous network access, asking “how can we reinvent businesses given that reality?

Jonathan has 25 years experience building and leading early stage companies with transformational business concepts to positions of industry leadership and large-scale customer bases. He understands the game-changing potential of innovation but also knows how fragile innovation can be without a high-quality execution to create value.

Prior to joining Walker Digital, Jonathan was the CEO of Synapse Group, Inc., a direct marketing subsidiary of Time Warner responsible for more than 30 million customers. In 10 years, Synapse grew from an idea with seed capital to an industry leader with an exit valuation of $700 million. Jonathan served in a variety of senior leadership roles at Synapse before becoming CEO.

Jonathan is a member of the Board of Directors of Affinion Group, Inc., a customer engagement and loyalty company with more than 70 million customers worldwide. He is a trustee of the Wilton Family Y and a board member of the Fairchester Chapter of YPO.

Jonathan holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He lives in Wilton, CT with his wife Suzanne and their two sons.


Dr. Anthony Back

Anthony Back MD is Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and Cancer Research Center. His research focuses on improving communication between patients, and has been funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others. He was a Faculty Scholar of the Project on Death in America, and received the Pathfinder in Palliative Care Award from the American Cancer Society and the National Leadership Award from the American Academy for Hospice and Palliative Medicine. With his colleagues, he wrote the book Mastering Communication with Seriously Ill Patients: Balancing Honesty with Empathy and Hope ( and was recently featured in a video series produced by the NCI ( He has developed an iPhone app for clinicians that will be released early in 2013 (

Alexandra Drane

Alexandra DraneFounder, Chief Visionary Officer and Chair of the Board at Eliza Corporation

Alexandra Drane has devoted her career to inspiring people to lead healthier, happier and more productive lives through the use of innovative technology, and her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for technology and design have led to the launch of several successful healthcare ventures over the past 20 years.  As a founder of  Eliza, the pioneer and recognized leader in Health Engagement Management, Alexandra has proven herself as a visionary, whose ideas on using technology to engage people in their health – and her belief in adding a touch of joy to the often staid world of healthcare communications – have been adopted by the nation’s top healthcare organizations, with resulting outcomes such as:

  • Increasing the rate of childhood immunizations in underserved areas by 30 percent over a three-year period (This project was acknowledged at the Center for Disease Control’s 41st National Immunization Conference in March, 2007 for the Most Improved Award for Urban Areas)
  • Saving health plan members $11 million over the course of 18 months through proactive outreach that notified members of less expensive prescription drug alternatives
  • Increasing the number of hypertensive members “in control” of their blood pressure by 56 percent
  • Increasing antidepressant medication adherence by 16 percent over a 90-day period
  • Increasing colon cancer screening rates by 66 percent in a commercial population and by 137 percent in a Medicare population
  • Increasing participation in on-line smoking cessation programs four-fold, and more than doubling  participation in on-line weight management and stress management programs

Alexandra also has channeled her passion for engaging people in potentially difficult health-related conversations into another cause she feels strongly about—communicating end-of-life wishes with loved ones. In October 2008, Alexandra co-founded Engage with Grace, a not-for-profit movement that has proven to be a safe place for individuals looking for information, support, and guidance about end-of-life discussions.  Since its launch, through only viral grassroots promotions, it’s estimated that over a million people have accessed the five questions that are at the heart of the Engage With Grace movement. Engage with Grace has been added to the healthcare lexicon as a top-ten phrase and is credited with establishing the first-ever Blog Rally to increase awareness and build community.  In 2010, Alexandra co-founded a non-profit, web-based movement called SeduceHealth that aims to reframe how the healthcare industry communicates with the people it serves by adding greater passion, joy, and inspiration.   Alexandra holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tufts University, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.  She has been named to the Boston Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list and also appears on the Healthspottr Future Health 100 list, which includes some of the most creative and influential people working in healthcare today.  Alexandra sits on the Board of Eliza, the Board of Advisors of TEDMED, the Harvard Executive Sleep Council, and is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (a Harvard Teaching Hospital) in Boston, MA.  She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) and co-chairs C-TAC’s Public Engagement Workgroup. Alexandra is a member of the Health Executive Leadership Network, Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, and is a trustee of several charitable trusts.

Jonathan Bush

In 1997, Jonathan Bush co-founded athenahealth as a women’s health practice management company. Today, athenahealth has evolved into a leading provider of cloud-based business services to U.S. medical groups pursuing a vision of an information backbone that makes healthcare work as it should. Athenahealth currently serves over 38,000 providers across its practice management, electronic health record (EHR), and care coordination services. The company is generating over $400 million in annual revenue and growing at approximately 30% each year. The Boston Business Journal recently recognized athenahealth as one of the top 20 ‘Best Places to Work’ and the company was ranked 4th in the Forbes Fast Tech 25, a list of America’s 25 fastest-growing tech companies.

Prior to founding athenahealth, Mr. Bush served as an EMT for the City of New Orleans, was trained as a medic in the U.S. Army, and worked as a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton. Mr. Bush obtained a Bachelor of Arts in the College of Social Studies from Wesleyan University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Angel Grant, Executive Director

Angel is the Executive Director of and Co-founder of She is on the teaching faculty at, and part of the collective.

Angel has been traveling the globe for over a decade teaching yoga practices and sharing talks on how to reduce the many ways we suffer.  She served as Co-founder of Yoga in Common and Yoga in the Forest in coastal South Carolina, and has been leading bhakti vinyasa teacher trainings since 2010. She facilitates workshops, retreats and works one-on-one with people deeply committed to rewiring mental patterns that limit their lives and relationships. Much of her time is spent sharing meditations focused on the dying process, healing addictions and waking up from conditioned mind.

Recent meditations have been held at Peak Mind’s event with the Dalai Lama for his 80th birthday, The NY Academy of Medicine, The Conscious Dying Summit, Newport Academy and Summit Series.

Angel has engaged extensively with at-risk youth, from teaching yoga in socio-economically challenged schools to teaching meditation while living in Pisgah National Forest as part of a wilderness therapy program.

She also founded a project called The Yoga Bus and traveled the country with her two dogs, living in a tiny RV that she helped build from the ground up. The project’s focus was yoga-based workshops for healing traumas of populations who would likely never make it into a studio. She furthered this work in South Africa though TRIAD Trust, an organization centered around HIV education and prevention, in a region believed to have a 40% infection rate.

Abby Schneiderman

Abby Schneiderman, Co-Founder of, is a repeat entrepreneur who loves finding ways to use technology to make people’s lives better. Prior to launching Everplans, Abby was a Principal at Tipping Point Partners, a NYC start-up incubator, where she was part of the team that launched several businesses, including AppOrchard, an iOS consultancy for the enterprise, and Cookstr, a recipe-driven nutritional technology company. In 2004, Abby co-founded Haystack Media, one of the first music social networks.

Gabrielle Reece

Dubbed one of the world’s sexiest athletes, former Women’s Beach Volleyball League star and fitness icon Gabrielle Reece, also known as Gabby, possesses a look that conveys both athleticism and feminine beauty. At 6’3”, Gabby is a dominate force on and off the pro beach volleyball circuit. Her commanding presence, passion for healthy living, and fitness expertise makes her a popular public speaker on the subjects of health and wellness. She routinely provides advice and guidance on fitness, nutrition, and active living, via ( An avid proponent of empowering people to take responsibility for their own health, plus truly authentic example of healthy living, Gabby has become a role model to women worldwide regarding how to achieve peak fitness, good health, and overall wellbeing for themselves and their entire family.

In spring of 2012, Gabby was recently invited to Washington, DC to speak at the annual TEDMED conference on innovations in health and medicine. Gabby also has an ongoing relationship with the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens, an initiative benefitting needy schools through the planting of organic gardens, by which she speaks to children about the importance of eating healthy and regular exercise (www.takepart/teachinggarden). Additionally, to further help reverse the growing obesity crisis, Gabby has recently collaborated with her husband (surfing legend Laid Hamilton) to develop, a website dedicated to providing comprehensive fitness, nutrition, and motivational support to anyone looking to achieve a personal transformation to a healthier lifestyle.Competing at the highest levels of woman’s volleyball throughout most of her life, including competing professionally when five months pregnant in the summer of 2007; Gabby has been a consistent inspiration to women to stay in shape, even during their pregnancy. After a brief hiatus to start her family, in the summer of 2010 Gabby returned to competitive pro beach volleyball’s AVP Tour, including an invitation to be the captain of Team Nike for a 4 on 4 exhibition tournament. Additionally, in the summer of 2010 Gabby was the face of “Lighten Up Your Summer,” a web series with sponsored by Vaseline/ALOE Fresh. (, and in May 2010 appeared as a feature trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

Gabby is also the creator and host of The HoneyLine, a fast-paced, magazine-style broadcast that delivers realistic solutions to women’s questions concerning style, health & fitness, relationship challenges in the home, food and the environment. Gabby enlists the help of her celebrity friends (Sheryl Crow, Courteney Cox, Eva Longoria Parker, etc.) through one-on-one interviews getting the detailed answers to these modern day questions. For Gabby’s HoneyLine appearances with Rachael Ray & Sheryl Crow, please visit

Passionate about fitness throughout her life, Gabby has released and produced her own health & fitness products: “Bell Express 15” Workout Kits, “Gabrielle Reece Fit & Healthy Prenatal Workouts” DVDs and “Gabrielle Reece: The Complete Fit & Healthy Pregnancy Workout” 2 DVD set. The “Bell Express 15” Workout Kits for time-crunched consumer. The “Gabrielle Reece Fit & Healthy Prenatal Workouts”, as well as the “Gabrielle Reece: The Complete Fit & Healthy Pregnancy Workout” covering all three trimesters and the three months post-partum. Workout kits and DVDs, as well as her book “Big Girl in the Middle”, can be found on Gabby’s fitness site and on

Gabby is also Nike’s first female athlete to design a shoe, and Nike’s first-ever female cross- training spokesperson. Working with Tinker Hatfield, designer of the Air Jordan, Nike Launched Gabby’s shoe the Air Trainer in 1994, the Air Patrol in 1995, the Air GR in 1997 and the Air GR II in 1998, her shoe eventually became the first women’s shoe to outsell the Air Jordan.

Gabby has most recently developed 48 functional training workouts specifically for women at These workouts are designed to assist with everyday living, and have been developed to progressively allow women to advance form a beginner level to high-intensity sports performance conditioning over 120 days. As part of an overall healthy lifestyle program, Gabby has also provided comprehensive nutrition guidelines to assist woman in maximizing their results from their fitness program. Both the functional workouts and nutrition guidelines are free services available at

Beyond Gabby’s own websites, her health and fitness tips have appeared in Shape magazine, Conde Nast’s magazine, and Elle magazine. She was also a monthly contributing editor to Yahoo Health for several years, and has written for “The Huffington Post” and the “Los Angeles Times Magazine”. Gabby will soon be a contributor to Sharecare, the leading question-and-answer platform that allows experts to answer health and wellness questions.

In addition to providing extensive magazine content, Gabby has hosted ‘Insider Training’ on the Fit TV/Discovery channel, where she provided an inside look at professional athletes’ exercise regimens and what they eat ( Gabby has also been a featured host of ESPN and NBC’s “Gravity Games”. Early in her television program hosting career, she won a huge following by taking risks road-lugging, white water kayaking, drag racing, surfing, and sky diving on “MTV Sports” and “The Extremists with Gabrielle Reece”, and she was a commentator at the 1998 Goodwill Games.

Gabby’s skills cross over onto the big screen where she played a pro beach volleyball player in ‘Cloud Nine’ with Bert Reynolds (2004), a guest star in ‘North Shore’ (2004) and as a physical trainer in the film ‘Gattica’ (1997). She has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated for Women, Travel & Leisure Golf, Women’s Sports & Fitness, Outside, Elle, Shape, Self, Harpers’ Bazaar, Volleyball, Fitness, Life, Vogue, Experience Life and People, and has regularly appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and Chelsea Lately, as well as other top tier entertainment shows. Gabby is currently considering several invitations for various television hosting roles scheduled for 2013.

California born, Gabby is a mix of her mother from Long Island (where her height comes from), and her father from Trinidad (who died when she was five). Her trademark piece of jewelry, copied on a tattoo inside her right ankle, is a stylized sterling silver cross worn by her father. Raised on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Gabby didn’t take up volleyball until in the 11th grade when she and her mother moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. Gabby won an athletic scholarship to Florida State University where she majored in Communications and played two seasons of volleyball before accepting offers from the modeling world in New York. She was only a sophomore at Florida State University when Elle named her “One of The Five Most Beautiful Women in The World”. Despite the allure of high paying modeling jobs, Gabby returned to the FSU campus and set two school volleyball records in solo blocks (240) and total blocks (747). Both records still stand today. In 1997, Florida State University inducted Gabby into the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

A Florida State star turned pro, Gabby trained hard to hone her skills in 2-person beach volleyball and competed domestically in the 1999-2000 Olympic 4 on 4 Challenge Series, and the 1999-2000 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. In 1997, competing with the best global beach volleyball players ever assembled, Gabby’s 4-person team took first place at the first-ever Beach Volleyball World Championships. 1997 was Gabby’s fifth season as a team captain in the 4-person Women’s Beach Volleyball League (WBVL), and her fourth captaining Team Nike. Named the Offensive Player of the Year in 1994-95 and WBVL blocks leader, Gabby led the WBVL in kills four straight years in a row from 1993-1996.

Women’s Sports & Fitness named Gabby one of the ‘20 Most Influential Women in Sports’ (August 1997). Regarding their choice of Gabby for the issue’s cover, the magazine’s editor wrote, “Because I believe she represents, finally, the answer to all the image-questing pendulum swinging of the decades gone by. Who is the female athlete? She is everything once thought to be an inherent contradiction. She is strong and beautiful, sweaty and feminine, tough and ladylike.”

Laird Hamilton

World renowned waterman Laird Hamilton is known as the guiding genius of crossover board sports, and is largely considered the primary influence behind many surfing innovations, including, tow-in surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, and hydrofoil boarding. Surfer Magazine has labeled Laird as, “the sport’s most complete surfer, displaying almost unnerving expertise in a multitude of disciplines, and flat out surfing’s biggest, boldest, bravest, and the best big wave surfer in the world today, bar none”.

At 6’3”, 215 pounds, with an uncommon combination of balance, flexibility, and strength, Laird Hamilton has transcended the sport of Surfing to become an international fitness Icon. His first book, Force of Nature – Mind, Body, Soul, and, Of Course, Surfing (published by Rodale Books in 2008)has become the go-to manual for people looking to make a healthy lifestyle change. In just its second week of release, it appeared 7th on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Many professional athletes, such as NBA star Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls basketball team, now go to Laird for training guidance, including instruction on a unique underwater resistance training workout he has developed. Laird, along with his wife Gabby Reece, have recently developed their own line of premium nutrition supplements, marketed under the name TRUition, as well as also recently launched a popular fitness, nutrition and motivational support website which offers comprehensive guidance on healthy living, and has quickly developed a strong worldwide following.

Laird’s passion for fitness extends to the sport of cycling, and in 2009 he participated in the RACE ACROSS AMERICA. His participation in this 3,000 mile cross-country bike race benefitted such charities as Beautiful Son Foundation for Autism, Pipeline for a Cure for Cystic Fibrosis, and Muscular Dystrophy. In addition, Laird has also pledged his support to the Surfrider Foundation’s Not The Answer Campaign, and he is featured in both their 30- and 60- second PSAs urging President Obama and Congress to reinstate the moratorium on offshore drilling.

As an icon for adventure sports and advocate for ocean conservation, Chanel recently announced Laird’s selection as an ambassador for their new J12 Marine Watch. John Galantin, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chanel Inc., remarked: “Laird’s daring spirit and love forthe ocean are in perfect harmony with the inspiration behind the J12 Marine watch. We are excited for him to bring his energy, original style and fearlessness to this iconic watch.”

In addition to being surfing’s highest profile big wave surfer and Chanel spokesperson, Laird’s international visibility has grown over the years due to many movie, television and other media appearances. Laird had a small, but dramatic role in the feature film The Descendants, directed by Academy Award winner Alexander Payne, opposite George Clooney. In late 2009, Laird guest-starred opposite comedian Jay Mohr on CBS’s Gary UnMarried, as well as other guest starring television roles. He was featured in an ABC Nightline News profile in 2010. Previously, Laird has also sat with Leslie Stahl for a 60 Minutes segment highlighting his artistic and athletic exploits.

Beyond Laird’s dramatic role in the Descendants, Laird has also been featured in many surfing movies and documentaries. Laird was a featured surfer and an executive producer on the Summer 2004 theatrical film, ‘Riding Giants’, by Sony Picture Classics. The film looks at the history of big wave surfing. Laird was also featured in the film, ‘Step Into Liquid.’ Other theatrical credits include Laird doubling as James Bond in the MGM film ‘Die Another Day’ and serving as the stunt coordinator for the film’s big wave sequence.

Laird has also been featured on TV as a host on Fox Sports Net’s, ‘Planet Extreme Championships’ (2000), on the Outdoor Life Network (1999), and in ‘The Extremists’ (1996-97), where he took incredible risks while air boarding, rock climbing, kite surfing and jet-ski surfing. He is featured in the documentary film ‘Endless Summer II’ (1994). Laird’s filmmography also includes ‘Waterworld,’ (stuntman), ‘North Shore,’ ‘Night Waves,’ ‘Totally Committed,’ and ‘Five Summer Stories.’

‘Path of Purpose’, a short documentary about Laird’s endeavor with his tow partner, Dave Kalama, to help fund and raise awareness for Autism, premiered on the Sundance Channel in July 2008. The last surf release, entitled ‘Water Man’, and distributed by Video Action Sports, premiered in film festivals in Spring 2008. The film garnered attention by winning awards at the film festivals and taking home Best Cinematography at the 2008 Surfer Poll Awards.

Photo shoots with sponsors have taken Laird around the world from the Caucasus mountain range to snowboard, a jungle preserve in Indonesia with a world-class surf break just offshore, to the Great Barrier Reef. He can be seen profiled on the CBS News show ‘60 Minutes’ and on the cover of magazines such as National Geographic, Outside, The Surfer’s Journal, Men’s Journal, Surfer, Surfing, and in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, People, Life, Time, GQ, Interview, L’Uomo Vogue (Italy), Paris Match (France), Surf (Germany), High Wind (Japan) and Sailboarder.

Laird has been credited with the huge growth in popularity of Stand-Up Paddle Surfing, most often referenced simply as “SUP.” As such, Laird has also been profiled in both Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal about his role in the evolution of stand-up paddling and paddle surfing. Time Magazine has said of Laird’s influence: “It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the

modern explosion began, thanks to big wave surfer and exercise guru Laird Hamilton picking up SUP and publicizing it as a simultaneously adventurous, peaceful and a solid form of core conditioning for surfers and non-surfers alike.” With his vintage humility, though, Laird remains reluctant to call himself a trendsetter. The Wall Street Journal notes: “Mr. Hamilton declines to call himself the inventor of the sport because Pacific Islanders— and Italy’s Venetians—for centuries have stood in boats using paddles or poles.”

During his on-going big wave surfing career, Laird has received multiple awards and special recognition. In 2004, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association named him “Waterman of the Year”. He was named “Breakout Performance of the Year” at the Surfer Poll Awards in 2000 and was honored with overall “Rider of the Year” in France 2000 (M6). Laird was also awarded “Feat of the Year” at ESPN’s Action Sports & Music Awards in 2001, and People magazine named him “One of the 50 most Beautiful People” in 1996.

Laird is famous for doing all things extreme, and his cultivation as the world’s premier big wave surfer and renowned waterman began early. Laird is the elder son of 60’s surfing legend, Bill Hamilton, and is a throwback to that time when surfers prided themselves on being an all- around waterman.’ His mother, Joann, gave birth to him in a “bathysphere” with reduced gravity as part of an experiment at the UC Medical Center in San Francisco. Joann was also a surfer and decided to move the family from California to Hawaii when Laird was just a few months old. They lived on Oahu’s North Shore and later in a remote valley on Kauai, not far from one of the world’s best surf breaks. He learned to surf between the ages of two and three on the front half of a surfboard, and at age eight, his father took him to the 60-foot cliff at Waimea Falls where Laird looked down, looked back at his dad, and jumped. ‘He’s been bold since day one,’ says Bill, ‘and hell-bent on living life to the extreme.’

When he was twenty-two years old, Laird entered a speed-sailing competition in Port Saint- Louis, France, defeated the heavily favored French champion, and broke the European speed record of 36 knots. Even though Laird had a professional career as a speed-sailor, his true passion remained with big wave surfing. Looking for a way to ride even bigger and more powerful waves, he and his friends developed a method that involves using a high performance Wave Runner to tow each other into waves that are too big to paddle into on their own. So steep and furious, Laird was forced to fashion footstraps on his board to keep from getting bounced off, which enabled him to do mind-boggling acrobatics never before thought possible. “Jaws Maui,” a book published in 1997, features spectacular photography of Laird doing aerial liftoffs and 360’s.

Today, Laird spends winters surfing the outer-reefs in Hawaii with his friends and uses his years of knowledge of working with different board designs to catch the giant waves he’s famous for mastering. Beyond the prototypes Laird develops for himself, Laird uses his design expertise to help produce highly demanded commercial stand-up boards with several leading surfboard manufactures. Laird’s passion for the extreme only continues to grow, “Bigger. Higher. Faster. I

want to ride bigger waves. I want to try and invent some new sports, combine some existing ones. I want to be creative,’ says Laird. With an eye on taking his extreme boarding talents to dry land, Laird is currently refining an electric powered off-road skate board already capable of speeds over 50 miles per hour. What lies next is for Laird Hamilton is still uncharted waters.

Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza

Deo is the co-founder and executive director of Village Health Works, a grassroots non-profit organization providing comprehensive health care—everything from clinical prevention and treatment to agricultural development to education—in rural Burundi. Deo is the protagonist of The New York Times bestseller Strength In What Remains, which depicts Deo’s journey from being a medical student in Burundi, to a struggling immigrant in New York City, to an Ivy League-educated global health practitioner and doctor-in-training. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 International Medal Award of St John’s University and the 2010 Women Refugee Commission’s Voices of Courage Award.


After surviving a massacre at a Burundian hospital, where he was a third-year medical school intern, Deo fled to New York in 1994, arriving penniless and without one word of English. Despite the hurdles— low-paying work as a grocery store delivery boy, illness, and homelessness— he eventually enrolled at Columbia University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and philosophy. After graduating from Columbia, he attended the Harvard School of Public Health, where he met Dr. Paul Farmer and began working at the medical non-profit organization Partners In Health. He left Partners In Health to continue his medical education at Dartmouth Medical School.


Deo left medical school to address the urgent need for accessible, comprehensive, and modern health care in his home country. He founded Village Health Works (VHW) to build a more just, peaceful, and prosperous society in Burundi and beyond. Today, VHW serves a government-mandated catchment area of 150,000 people, in addition to thousands of recently repatriated refugees from Tanzania. VHW operates the nation’s premier health center, agricultural development programs, educational services, women’s income-generating activities, and a number of other community development programs.

Shirley Bergin

Shirley Bergin is a Partner & Chief Operating Officer of TEDMED, LLC. and is an active member of the TED community. She is an accomplished business leader with experience working with leading digital enterprises such as AOL, InterActiveCorp, Cendant Corporation and, and with global brands including Pfizer, Mars, Unilever and Nestle. Shirley has developed and executed innovative business and marketing strategies across a variety of verticals for start-ups and established firms alike, successfully reinventing and introducing brands and building large online communities.  As COO of TEDMED, Shirley is responsible for leading the day- to- day operations – including all Marketing responsibilities and the Great Challenges Program.

Prior to TEDMED, Shirley Bergin was the Chief Marketing Officer of Walker Digital, responsible for all marketing supporting the patent portfolio and new business inventions. She oversaw the product design and development teams, ensuring that as new businesses are invented they are properly developed and launched into the marketplace.

Prior to joining Walker Digital, Shirley was an EVP, GM for the largest privately owned marketing services company in the U.S., Ryan Partnership. Shirley was a founding partner for the Digital division and was responsible for establishing and overseeing a multidisciplinary team of technologists, project managers and strategic marketers. Shirley led the strategy and managed the client relationships across a diverse base of client accounts ranging from Consumer Packaged Goods to Entertainment brands.

Yael Cohen

Yael Cohen is the founder, president, and CEO of Fuck Cancer, an innovative health organization aiming to activate Gen-Y to engage with their parents about early detection, preventative lifestyles and communication around cancer.  A former finance professional, Yael launched FCancer in 2009 after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to marshal strength for her mom, Yael decided to use the “F” word to fight the “C” word.

Yael herself serves as an advocate for a range of health and health care issues and through her work with FCancer, she is changing the way people talk about cancer by creating a human, authentic movement. Now at three years old, FCancer creates unique tools and campaigns that people can relate to, using technology, humor, and celebrities to enable their community to engage with cancer on a different level.

Yael is not only versed in health care issues, but has also become a recognized leader in philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. As ELLE reports, Yael is “harnessing her generation’s secret weapon – social media – by building an online community for friends and family… ‘We are the first generation with the technology to change the whole world.’”

In 2011, Yael was named (alongside Bill Gates and Bono) as one of the “12 people who are transforming philanthropy” by Canada’s The Globe and Mail. In 2012, Yael was named one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” featured as one of ELLE’s “2012 Genius Award” recipients, one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women” by the Financial Post, and one of Vancouver’s “Forty Under 40” by Business In Vancouver Magazine.

Yael has also been awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and has been a featured participant prominent events including the Summit Series (Washington, D.C. and Miami), the Clinton Global Initiative, Big Omaha, TEDWomen, TEDx Vancouver, the United Nations Nexus Conference, and TEDMED.

Frank Ostaseski

Frank Ostaseski is a Buddhist teacher, international lecturer and a leading voice in contemplative end-of-life care.

In 1987, he co-founded of the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in America. In 2004, he created the Metta Institute to provide innovative educational programs and professional trainings that foster mindful and compassionate care of the dying.

His public programs throughout the United States and Europe have introduced thousands to the practices of mindful and compassionate care of the dying, In 2001, Frank was honored by the Dalai Lama for his years of service to the dying and their families. In 2003, he was named one of America’s 50 most innovative people in America by the AARP magazine. He is the former spiritual advisor to the Esalen Institute.

His work has been widely featured in the media, including the Bill Moyers television series On Our Own Terms, the PBS series With Eyes Open, The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Global Spirit production The Art of Living and Dying and in numerous print publications. He is the author of the Being A Compassionate Companion audio series.

Frank has served as a consultant to several healthcare organizations and foundations including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Fetzer Institute and others. He is a frequent keynote speaker at many conferences and prestigious medical and educational institutions including:

  • Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA.
    • Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MI.
    • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Alexandria VA.
    • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH.
    • National Hospice Association, Ljubljana, Slovenia
    • Naropa Institute, Boulder, CO.
    • University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
    • National Congress of the Italian Society of Palliative Care, Trieste, Italy.

The Metta Institute® has two primary projects.

  • The End-of-Life Practitioner Program provides an unparalleled educational opportunity for healthcare professionals and other caregivers. It prepares participants with the knowledge, skills and presence needed to address the psycho-social and spiritual dimensions of dying. Frank leads the trainings with faculty members Ram Dass, Rachel Naomi Remen MD, and others.
  • The Heavenly Messengers: Awakening Through Illness Aging and Death is a collaboration with the Spirit Rock Meditation Center. The multi-year training includes 5 meditation retreats complemented by home study and community service. The program offers practice and study of classical Buddhist teachings and contemporary approaches to illness, aging, death and the skills needed to compassionately companion others facing these experiences.

David Ewing Duncan

David is an award-winning, best-selling author of eight books published in 19 languages; he is a journalist and a television, radio and film producer and correspondent. He is a correspondent for The Atlantic and the chief correspondent for NPR Talk’s Biotech Nation. David writes for The New York Times, Fortune, Wired, National Geographic, Discover and many other publications. His most recent book is When I’m 164: The new science of radical life extension, and what happens if it succeeds.

(TED Books) He also wrote Experimental Man: What One Man’s Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World (Wiley). He is the founding director of the Center of Life Science Policy at UC Berkeley. He has been a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and a contributing editor for Wired, Discover and Conde Nast Portfolio. He is a former special correspondent and producer for ABC’s Nightline and a correspondent for NOVA’s ScienceNOW! David’s work has won numerous awards, including Magazine Story of the Year from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His articles have twice been cited in nominations for National Magazine Awards, and his work has appeared twice in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. David lives in San Francisco and is a member of the SF Writer’s Grotto. His website is

James Andrews

James Andrews is the founder of Social People a strategic communications agency that helps brands navigate the social/mobile web in order to build better connections with their audiences. With staff & resources in San Francisco, New York, Atlanta and Dubai their clients have included Nike, Turner Broadcasting, Equinox Fitness, BPG/Dubai, Lexus, Beats By Dre, The Grammy Awards, and Actress Jane Fonda.

Before launching Social People, Andrews was Vice President, Ketchum Digital and directed global social media brand strategies for, FedEx, GeekSquad, Nokia, Wendy’s and Newell Rubbermaid. As an internationally respected digital thought leader, Andrews, a globally recognized leader in social media helped form a Social Media practice in the Ketchum Brazil office and has been a keynote speaker in Sao Paulo, London, Dubai and Norway. In 2009, Andrews created #BeatCancer an online campaign to raise awareness and micro fund raise for Cancer research. #BeatCancer garnered the 1st ever Guinness World Record for social media mentions and most importantly raised $70,000 for cancer charities in 24hrs via Twitter. Andrews has been working in the area of interactive/new media and non-traditional marketing for 20 years holding senior titles at Urban Box Office, Columbia Records, Ecko Unlimited and Isobar/Carat. His experience with the world’s largest brands, personalities and organizations places him in a unique category of entrepreneurs that understand the convergence of new media, content, social activism and digital lifestyle.

James Andrews was named to the 2012 Ebony Power100 list and blogs at Fast Company as well as Huffington Post. No stranger to being in front of the camera, Andrews can be seen as a contributor on CNN, Fox and CNBC discussing current news and social media stories. Andrews does most of his personal blogging and “lifecasting” at where you can read his musings on life, business, social technologies and pop culture.

James Andrews attended UCLA, grew up in Silicon Valley, and lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children. Andrews is a board member at GCAPP, a non-profit focused on adolescent pregnancy prevention started by Jane Fonda.


Christian McGuigan

McGuigan is currently Director of Social Action Film Campaigns at Participant Media, a Los Angeles-based global entertainment company specializing in socially-relevant documentary and narrative feature films, television, publishing and digital media.  At Participant, Christian is responsible for developing and executing social action campaigns associated with each film with the express goal of driving impact through meaningful social change.  Recent campaigns have addressed issues including mandatory minimum drug laws, freedom of political expression, civic action in the digital age and fair sentencing of youth.

As part of his duties in Social Action,Christian writes and produces original video content for each campaign.

Prior to joining Participant, Christian worked as an independent producer for film, television and commercial projects in New York and Los Angeles and has handled business and legal affairs on numerous feature films. Most recently, Christian produced the short film, Rez, winner of the 2011 NYU Spike Lee Production Fund Award.   Christian earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Dallas and a JD from Chapman University School of Law.

Marcus Osbourne

Marcus Osborne serves as Vice President, Health & Wellness Payer Relations for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.  In that role, he is focused on furthering Wal-Mart’s stated goal of improving the healthcare industry in the U.S. by increasing access, quality and affordability in the system for consumers and payers.  Prior to joining Wal-Mart in 2007, Marcus was a Senior Management Consultant with Alliance Consulting Group in Boston, Massachusetts.  He also served as the Chief Financial Officer of the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative.

Marcus attended the Harvard Business School and received his Masters in Business Administration, graduating with honor.

Dr. Shauna Shapiro

Shauna L. Shapiro, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University, licensed clinical psychologist, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness.  Dr. Shapiro has conducted extensive research investigating the effects of mindfulness and has published over 70 articles in addition to co-authoring the critically acclaimed professional text, The Art and Science of Mindfulness, with forward by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Dr. Shapiro lectures and leads mindfulness training programs internationally and has been invited to present for the King of Thailand, the Danish Government Centre for Development of Human Resources, Andrew Weil’s Integrative Medicine Program, and the World Council for Psychotherapy, Beijing, China.

Lewis A. Lipsitz, M.D.

Lewis A. Lipsitz, M.D. currently serves as Vice President for Academic Medicine and Director of the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA, where he holds the Irving and Edyth S. Usen and Family Chair in Medical Research. He is also a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Gerontology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A graduate of Franklin and Marshall College, Dr. Lipsitz earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a master’s degree from Harvard University. He completed his residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in geriatrics at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Dr. Lipsitz’s research interests include falls, fainting, blood pressure regulation, cognitive dysfunction, and improving chronic care for elderly people. He has published more than 250 original research papers, review articles, and textbook chapters, and co-edited “Quality Care in the Nursing Home” and “Geriatric Diabetes.” In recognition of his achievements in teaching, mentoring, and clinical care he was awarded the prestigious William Silen Lifetime Achievement Award in Mentoring from Harvard Medical School and the Joseph Freeman Award from the Gerontological Society of America in 2010.

Chanel Reynolds

Chanel Reynolds is the founder of Get Your Shit Together. Since the launch of in January of 2013, Chanel has dedicated herself to demystifying life and death planning. She believes we can alleviate unnecessary suffering, and create stronger, richer lives when we plan for our eventual death. With a real and honest voice, she shares her struggles of becoming a widow and single mom when her husband was killed in an accident in 2009. The difficulties in getting her own shit together after this tragedy resulted in a website devoted to offering free, easy, and encouraging advice to others.


Since moving to Seattle in 1993, she has been an Interactive Strategist and Program Manager with leading creative agencies, producing digital experiences for clients such as Nike, Samsung, Microsoft, Tom’s of Maine, and Starbucks. At the same time, she has also kept one foot firmly planted in the arts and non-profit world, with film and documentary work, contemporary arts center launches, management of non-profit organizations, and work as a self-defense instructor and international adventure travel guide.


The response to Get Your Shit Together has been overwhelming: The project has been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and on CBS, ABC, and NPR. It has inspired an open source life and death planning movement that has already reached millions worldwide.

Get Your Shit Together will be launching an expanded and updated version of the website soon, full of new information on life and death planning. Chanel is also very excited to be working on her first book.

Matt Wiggins

Matt Wiggins comes from a long line of Irish potato farmers who have been telling stories around the dinner table for generations. During the mid-18th century famine, the Wiggins’ mastered a system for analog problem solving that has been embedded in the family skill set and is primed for use in our technology addicted modern culture. That system is called face-to-face conversation.

Recognizing that there is no bigger threat to the health of our national economy than rising Medicare costs, Matt has dedicated his energy to helping solve these problems using the entrepreneurial approach that has worked for him in his career. The question framing his current work and exploration of new solutions: “What is healthy?”  Matt hopes that 2013 will be the year he and his 81 year-old Grandpa Tony are able to launch the highly-anticipated Medicare Boxing League (MBL), but is fine settling on helping operate the largest Bundled Payments program under the newly created Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, with his brother Charlie and dad, Steve.    The Wiggins Family reunion, held annually on a remote lake in Minnesota, is a by-blood-or-invite-only “TED meets Davos meets Burning Man” for people who care as much about transforming the American healthcare system as they do about the Vikings. Invitations available upon request.    You can connect with Matt through his website,

Dave Lingwood

Dave Lingwood is one of the four members of the MTV show The Buried Life. As part of their efforts, Dave has been travelling the world for the past six years asking millennials the tough question, “What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?” He is reachable on Twitter, @dave_lingwood.

Nicole Patrice DeMember

Nicole Patrice DeMember is an internationally known entrepreneur, investor and advisor that works with high profile startups and NGOs. Born in Detroit, Nicole has always had a passion for music, and has played a pivotal role in the electronic dance (EDM) and hip-hop industries. In 2000 she founded an influential recording studio called Effigy Studios—that eventually sold to Eminem—and GrooveTickets, one of the first online ticketing companies. She has since gone on to become one of the most prominent voices in the worldwide tech and startup community, working with companies such as Founder’s Fund, advising for startups like CulturePath and LauchRock, and co-founding Toi, a global creative agency and incubator that focuses almost exclusively on startups and their needs. She likes 5am runs, good food, and conversation with intelligent humans. Nicole lives in San Francisco, CA, when she’s not somewhere else (which isn’t often).

Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt, Co-Chairman, Health 2.0 Founder & Author, The Health Care Blog

Matthew Holt has spent 20 years in health care as a researcher, forecaster, and strategist. He learned from some of the best in forecasting, policy and survey organizations, like Institute for the Future and Harris Interactive. But these days he’s best known as the author of The Health Care Blog and as Co-Chairman of Health 2.0. For that he’s been mostly self-taught!

Health 2.0, the movement, is all about the new technologies improving health care, including cloud, web, mobile and sensors. Health 2.0 the company–which Matthew co-founded with Indu Subaiya in 2007– puts on the Health 2.0 Conference, now on three continents. It also hosts the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge, runs Code-a-thons, has its own media channels, Health 2.0 News & Health 2.0 TV, and operates the Health 2.0 Advisors market intelligence service.

The Health Care Blog is one of the best known and most read blogs in health care, focusing on all aspects of health care policy, business, politics, technology and much more. Matthew started it in 2003 and was the (somewhat lonely) sole author for most of its first five years. Today several well known health care names are regular THCB contributors, and the site has on the way to 100,000 visitors most months. Matthew’s still allowed to write sometimes–if he asks the editors nicely.

Stephanie Gailing

PROJECT MANAGER Stephanie Gailing is a wellness advisor, educator, and writer. Author of Planetary Apothecary: An Astrological Approach to Health and Wellness, Stephanie has been featured in publications including Marie Claire, Yoga Journal, Martha Stewart Living, and The Global Times. Stephanie earned her Masters Degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University and Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University. She currently calls Seattle and New York City home.


Civilization is the creative agency that provided the branding, direction and design for this site. Civilization believes believes in design as a means of social change, and are passionate about communicating the greater social, cultural and environmental value of a project. Michael Ellsworth, Corey Gutch (Principals / Creative Directors) and Gabriel Stromberg (Art Director) merge influences and perspectives from their diverse backgrounds to create compelling visual design and responsive, accessible websites for clients involved in cause, culture and community.

Dr. Susan L. Mitchell, MD, MPH

Dr. Susan L. Mitchell, MD, MPH. a geriatrician and health services researcher, is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Senior Scientist at the Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research in Boston. She is a graduate of the University of Ottawa Medical School, and has a Master’s degree in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She is a member of the Association of American Physicians. Dr. Mitchell’s research focuses on decision-making, health outcomes and resource utilization for older persons with advanced dementia. She is currently the Principal Investigator on several large NIH funded grants that aim to improve the end-of-life experience for patients with advanced dementia and their families.

Amanda Ringstad

A native of the Northwest, Amanda Ringstad draws from her formal fine arts education to offer a photographic vision blending her fondness for color with natural subjectivity. Her still life photography seeks to breathe new life into everyday objects. She currently lives and works in Seattle, Washington.

Scott Macklin

Scott Macklin can often be found looking for an espresso.  He hails from a family consisting of preachers and teachers where evening meals consisted of conversations relating to the eschaton and how one comports oneself in oder to live a repsonse-able life.  Though he learned that these are not mutually exclusive categories, he swore he would never commit his vocation to work in either church or school settings.     Now, after earning advance degrees in Philosophical Theology and spending over 15 years in Higher Education, he has accepted his fate as being doomed, and has dedicated his work to connecting formal and informal educational settings through a community-centric story making approach.  Central to his work is the notion of storytelling where stories are forged in the process of deep hanging out; where a story is made in collaboration with a community of practice; where one engages in the act of making the story “with” people from a particular community not just “about” them.   This past year, Scott has taken up the task of learning how to better layer flavors when making a paella and how to strum the rhythmic structures on his jarana when playing songs like “Guacamaya” in the Son Jarocho tradition of  convivencia and participatory music making.   If you ever need company when in search for an espresso give him a shout.  You can get a glimpse of some of his work at:

Cynthia Andrews

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2010 with a degree in Art History, Cynthia Andrews decided to head for the Pacific Northwest. Shortly after her arrival in Seattle, she began to investigate the prospect of graduate school. She soon applied to the Communication Leadership program at the University of Washington, where she is now working towards a Master of Communication in Digital Media. This program’s emphases on emerging technologies and social intelligence have prepared her for her current role as the community manager for Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death (LHD). Beginning as an intern, Cynthia has proven her ability to engage the LHD’s audience while maintaining the voice of the brand and is now the considered an integral part of the Team.

Bess Lovejoy

Bess Lovejoy is a mortality-obsessed writer, researcher, and editor based in Seattle. Her writing about death and other subjects has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, The Boston Globe, The Stranger, and other publications. Her book Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses arrives Spring 2013 from Simon & Schuster.

Greg Lundgren

Greg Lundgren is a Seattle-based artist, designer and founder of Lundgren Monuments. He designs memorials, cremation urns and caskets with a modern sensibility with an emphasis on large-scale cast glass. He curates group exhibitions, writes children’s books and is a leading advocate for re-imagining the cemetery and our cultural attitudes towards death and cultural legacy. His work can be viewed at:

Jeff Weiss

JEFF WEISS founded CCI, Inc. in 1986. CCI runs exclusive ongoing forums where CEOs and senior executives from Global 1000 firms and large healthcare systems can explore strategies and growth.  CCI is partnered with McKinsey & Co., Deloitte, and Ernst & Young.

In 1983, Jeff co-founded the Southern California Technology Executives Network (SO/CAL/TEN), a CEO development organization composed of 210 technology chief executives and sponsored by leading venture capital, investment banking, major law and search firms.  SO/CAL/TEN was recognized by Inc. and Fortune as one of the first and most successful high tech networking organizations.


Previously, he was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Bio-Behavioral Sciences at the UCLA Medical School and served as Director of the Department of Behavior Medicine at the UCLA/San Bernardino County Medical Center, where he taught Family Medicine and Introduction to Psychiatry to UCLA/UCR Medical Students.  He is a licensed psychologist specializing in behavioral medicine, achievement motivation and career strategy.


Previously, Jeff was a Director of E-Biz (an Internet startup), City of Hope Medical Center, High Technology Group, Lorien Systems (a systems integrator) and Chrysalis (a homeless employment organization).  He was also a Trustee of the California School of Professional Psychology and on the Board of SO/CAL/TEN.  He is currently a Trustee of the California Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, and a Director of the South-Central Gifted Scholars Foundation, which provides mentoring and scholarships to minorities in Los Angeles.  Jeff also co-founded, and is on the Board of C-TAC, the Coalition to Transfer Advanced Care, a coalition of leading delivery systems, managed care and academic not-for-profits developing a new model of quality cost effective care for advanced illness and end of life.


He received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an MS in Organizational Development from the California School of Professional Psychology, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tennessee Medical School.

Lesley Hazleton

Lesley Hazleton, aka The Accidental Theologist (, writes about religion, politics, and existence. Her latest book is The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad. Her end of life focus? “To die fully alive.”

Leigh Calabrese-Eck

Leigh brings her experience developing engaging messages and campaigns to the often staid world of healthcare communications. In her role at Eliza Corporation, she champions the company’s mission to help people become their happiest, healthiest selves by engaging them where they are in life. Eliza – which has been named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s “100 Brilliant Companies” – draws on its database of more than 800 million interactions with folks about their health to better understand what makes people tick and create programs with measurable and sustained impact.

Leigh also supports Engage With Grace, a not-for-profit movement aimed at helping people understand, communicate and have honored their end-of-life wishes, as well as SeduceHealth, a non-profit, web-based movement that aims to reframe how the healthcare industry communicates by adding greater passion, joy, and inspiration.

Leigh holds a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Emerson College in Boston. Her current health goal is to learn to hula-hoop vigorously yet elegantly.

Suzette Sherman

Suzette Sherman is an internet entrepreneur based in San Francisco, and the founder of Through SevenPonds, Suzette has created an online community space with one purpose in mind: changing the way we think and feel about death. By informing the public about everything end-of-life, Suzette seeks to empower others with current information on death and dying, one of the last taboo topics in America.

Suzette’s online business was inspired by her grandmother Ida’s post- modern perspective on her own death. Over two decades ago, Ida was diagnosed with stomach cancer — but she decided not to have an X-ray or operation. Ida felt she was ready to die, and was adamant to do so not in a hospital, but at home.

Ida’s choice for a good death was a sign of things to come; a perspective that understood and anticipated the movement now taking place. Ida’s ashes were scattered in Michigan, at a family lake called Seven Ponds — hence, the inspiration for Suzette’s online business’s namesake. Today, SevenPonds connects and educates readers around the world on everything needed to create a positive, contemporary end-of-life experience.

Suzette possesses a deep knowledge and understanding of the death care industry. After almost two decades of researching, attending conferences, and speaking with industry experts about death and dying, she has also become a veritable authority on the complex and ever-changing subject of end-of-life.

In addition to her deep-running passion for opening up the conversation on death, Suzette is best known for her work in branding and design; she has combined her experience and knowledge of the two for various projects rooted in ecological design. In 1992-1993, she was featured in the 47th edition of Who’s Who In America for her seminal research in design and ecology. She was also the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Research Grants in 1993 (with the Environmental Defense Fund in New York City in particular), and again in 1991 with the New York Council for the Arts. She has received numerous awards for her work, and been selected as a judge based on her knowledge of ecological design. Suzette has also served as a past Board Member and the Learning Chair of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO).

Currently, Suzette is working on a book entitled Opening Our Hearts, which is a compilation of real end-of-life stories, from real people. She has also lectured and appeared on TV to discuss “Changing the Last Taboo – Death,” which analyses the specific reasons why the Boomers are now choosing to talk about the most profound part of life, death.

Michael Hebb

Michael Hebb , founder of Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, has been staging convivial gatherings and redefining hospitality/tablemaking since 1997; co-founding the City Repair project with Mark Lakeman; and co-founding family supper, ripe, clarklewis, and the Gotham Bldg Tavern in Portland OR with Naomi Pomeroy. His expansive multidisciplinary dinners have taken place on five continents, have been exhibited in several museums and featured in the NY Times, W, Art Forum, The New Yorker, GQ, The Guardian and dozens of international publications. Michael strongly believes that the table is one of the most effective (and overlooked) vehicles for changing the world.

He is also the founder of One Pot – a creative agency that specializes in the technology of the common table, and the ability to shift culture through the use of thoughtful food and discourse based engagements and happenings. One Pot has worked closely with thought/cultural leaders and many foundations/institutions including: The World Economic Forum, The Republic of Gabon, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative, X Prize Foundation, FEED Foundation, Architecture For Humanity, and Summit Series. Michael is the founding Creative Director of The City Arts Festival, the founder of Night School @ The Sorrento Hotel, and is currently a Teaching Fellow at UW’s Master of Communication in Digital Media department. His writings have appeared in GQ, Food and Wine, Food Arts, ARCADE, Seattle Magazine and City Arts. Michael and Dr. Shauna Shapiro are currently writing a book focused on mindfulness, neuroscience, and table ritual.

Kirsten Murray

Kirsten is an architect, principal/owner of Olson Kundig architects and co director of storefront Olson Kundig.  In addition to her work with the firm, she is involved in various artistic educational and community pursuits and is actively involved as a board member of the Henry and Arcade.  She hopes to practice architecture and design as long as her eyes hold out,  mentor younger designers to new heights and enjoy a late retirement followed by a few years of dotage, just enough time to paint, write and sort things out before a quiet and unremarkable passage.


Read Watch Listen
  • We’re Bad at Death. Can We Talk?
    Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Mass General and Harvard Med School, says, “For years the medical profession has largely fumbled the question of what we should do when there’s nothing more we can do…Two interventions have consistently been shown to help patients live their final days in accordance with their wishes: earlier conversations about their goals and greater use of palliative care services…”
  • The 9 Things No One Tells You About Scattering Ashes
    A look at what one woman wishes someone had told her before she spread her husband’s ashes around the world. A must read if you’ll ever have a first time with cremated remains.
  • 12 Life Lessons from a Man Who’s Seen 12,000 Deaths
    Bhairav Nath Shukla has been the manager of Mukti Bhawan, one of the guest houses in Varanasi where people come to die, for 44 years. Here are the powerful recurring life lessons he’s learned from those 12,000 deaths.
  • One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die
    B.J. Miller, a doctor and triple amputee, used his own experience to pioneer a new model of palliative care at a small unique spot in San Francisco, Zen Hospice. He says it’s about wresting death from the one-size-fits-all approach of hospitals, but it’s also about puncturing a competing impulse: our need for death to be a hyper-transcendent experience. “Most people aren’t having these transformative deathbed moments. And if you hold that out as a goal, they’re just going to feel like they’re failing.”
  • A Call for Physicians to Agree: Death Is Not the Enemy
    A surgical resident talks about her experience of an elderly woman with cancer, who no longer remembered her name, and calls out for the system to catch up to the needs of patients.
  • The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
    Bronnie Ware is a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies and gives us the top five.
  • The Environmental Impact of Cremation and Funerals
    A staggering article and infographic explaining what really goes into cremation and burials.
  • Skipping Chemo for an End of Life Road Trip
    “A tiny woman at 101 pounds and under five-feet tall, an exhausted Norma looked the young doctor dead in the eye and with the strongest voice she could muster, said, ‘I’m 90-years-old, I’m hitting the road.”
  • Ten Commandments for the Concerned Caregiver
    Rabbi Earl Grollman gives practical and compassionate instructions for caregivers during prolonged illness and after death.
  • When Someone You Love Dies and You Don’t Know What to Do
    An anonymous person called out for help on Reddit, “my friend just died. I don’t know what to do”. While there were countless responses, one stood out, beginning like this: All right. Here goes. I’m old. What that means is I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not.”
  • The Sanity of Grieving When a Child Dies
    People need to be allowed to grieve when grieving is in order, and certainly when a child dies. A brother begins this moving piece like this: “Whenever I tell someone about my sister, it’s as if I’ve injured them. Often, people avert their gaze, stutter “I’m sorry” and change the subject. No one likes hearing about dead kids.”
  • The Final Word On Her Life
    Jane Lotter writes her own raw and poignant obituary before using Washington’s Death With Dignity Act to die peacefully.
  • Letting Go: What Medicine Should Do When It Can’t Save You
    Atul Gawande illustrates how modern medicine is good at staving off death with aggressive interventions—and bad at knowing when to focus, instead, on improving the days that terminal patients have left.
  • ‘Pre-Hospice’ Saves People Money By Keeping Them At Home Near End of Life
    “Transitions is for just that point where people are starting to realize they can see the end of the road,” said San Diego physician Dan Hoefer, one of the creators of the program. “We are trying to help them through that process so it’s not filled with chaos.”
  • Last Day, from Charlotte’s Web
    Charlotte faces her death and consoles WIlbur with elegant practicality. EB White uses this beautiful story to illustrate the power of relationship along with the cycle of life and death.
  • 6 Things to Remember After Losing a Parent
    Simple advice on grieving and moving forward after the death of a parent.
  • A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost
    “Composting makes people think of banana peels and coffee grounds,” Ms. Spade said. But “our bodies have nutrients. What if we could grow new life after we’ve died?”
  • 15 Gentle Pieces of Advice When Someone You Love Receives a Terminal Diagnosis
    “When you’re the family member or friend of someone who receives a terminal diagnosis, life as you know it can change overnight. We asked people who have been through it themselves—sometimes on multiple occasions—to share their advice for navigating these difficult times.”
  • My Own Life
    Oliver Sacks learns he has terminal cancer and begins his reflection in this piece like this: “A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver”.
  • To Radiate
    Our dear friend Ethan Lipsitz reports on his experience of radiation treatment  while making his own radiance and light visible for all of us to join in with him.
  • Planning Makes Life (and Death) Easier
    A candid (and beneficial) take on getting affairs in order for aging parents.
  • When a Physicist Adds Comfort
    In this inspiring piece, Aaron Freeman creates a beautiful scene of a physicist consoling friends and family at a funeral by scientifically explaining how the deceased loved one is not actually gone.
  • Checklist of Tasks for Planning Ahead
    When a loved one dies, the last thing most of us want to do is consider and handle logistics. To be aware of this checklist long before anyone close to you dies makes things easier.
  • From a Living Funeral to Death Over Dinner
    In this brilliant article, Richard Harris captures the heart of the deathoverdinner movement by sharing glimpses of dinner participants’ stories and a brief recap of the living funeral friends gave founder Michael Hebb for his 40th birthday.
  • Why You Want a Physicist at Your Funeral
    In this inspiring piece, Aaron Freeman creates a beautiful scene of a physicist consoling loved ones at your funeral by scientifically explaining how you are not actually gone.
  • What to Expect When Your Loved One is in the ICU
    “It starts with the shock that someone you love is sick enough to be here. The sight of your parent, partner or child under harsh lights, possibly bandaged and bruised, attached to tubes, drains, IV lines, maybe even a ventilator. The unfamiliar sounds of beeps, buzzes and emotional outbursts from nearby rooms mixed with rare periods of somber silence… You’re in the intensive care unit – so how do you cope and best support the patient at the center of it all?
  • ICU Waiting Room Survival Tips
    When Dr. Richard Senelick’s wife was in the intensive care unit for three weeks, he scribbled, “One hour in the hospital is like a full day anyplace else.” In this article, he shares seven helpful tips for making it through the experience.
  • A Doctor’s Letter to Families of Her ICU Patients
    “You wondered, “Why is she so inappropriately jolly considering my dad has a tube down his throat?!” What you don’t realize is I’m singing to calm my nerves, to keep myself relaxed. Your dad almost died before I let you back. I’m concerned for him, but I don’t want you to see that on my face. I don’t want you to worry about him. That’s my job. I just want you to love him… Sometimes we have to laugh. It’s the only thing we know to do. We’re afraid if we cry, we won’t be able to stop.”
  • When Dying Is Not the Enemy
    Ram Dass on his mother’s death, and reflecting on what it might be like to live in a culture where death is not seen as a failure.
  • At the End of Life, What Would Doctors Do?
    “At a minimum, our heightened awareness and willingness to talk about illness, dying, caregiving and grieving will lead to much better end-of-life care. However, the impact on American culture needn’t stop there. Like individuals who grow wiser with age, collectively, in turning toward death, we stand to learn a lot about living.” – Dr. Ira Byock
  • Grandma is Dead: 5 Tips for Talking with Kids about Death
    While talking to children about death isn’t something most of us are excited to do, this article makes it much easier. It also brings into focus why some things we may default to saying while trying to protect the kids may not be best for them in the long run.
  • The Coffin Club
    In this fantastically light and fun video, we see a group of older people in New Zealand who were fed-up after attending so many funerals that rarely reflected the vibrant lives of friends and family they were meant to honor, so they created what they call a Coffin Club.
  • What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death
    Stanford internist Lucy Kalanithi is the widow of neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at age 36. In Lucy’s 2016 TEDMED Talk, she shares the perspective their family gained during Paul’s difficult transition from doctor to patient.
  • Let’s Talk About Dying
    We can’t control if we’ll die, but we can “occupy death,” in the words of Peter Saul, an emergency doctor. He asks us to think about the end of our lives — and to question the modern model of slow, intubated death in hospital. Two big questions can help you start this tough conversation.
  • The Water Ballet
    Briar Bates wanted her friends — mostly artists, but non-dancers — to perform a joyful and awkward water ballet titled “Ankle Deep” in the kiddie wading pool at Volunteer Park in Seattle. (And they did.) The idea hit her while lying in bed, fighting through the pain of a ravenous cancer which doctors had diagnosed only a few months earlier.
  • Congratulations – You Gonna’ Die
    British philosopher and Zen Scholar Alan Watts delivers a series of humorous but very thoughtful musings on death with his typical dry wit.
  • How Can We Prepare for a Graceful Death?
    At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? BJ Miller is a palliative care physician who thinks about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients.
  • Franny’s Last Ride
    Mike DeStefano struggles with how to give support to his wife, who is dying in hospice. Mike died of a heart attack on March 6, 2011. This footage is of him at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, where he told one of the most searingly beautiful stories ever told at the Moth – a beautiful, bittersweet story about taking his dying wife on a motorcycle ride.
  • Having a Child Diagnosed With a Life Limiting Illness
    In this short video, Dianne Gray talks about loss of a child to a terminal illness, and how to live amidst it.
  • My Mushroom Burial Suit
    A powerful provocation from artist Jae Rhim Lee. Can we commit our bodies to a cleaner, greener Earth, even after death? Naturally — using a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms. Yes, this just might be the strangest TEDTalk you’ll ever see
  • Man’s Home is Haven for Dying Kids
    “Mohamed Bzeek has taken on a very special task in life: he’s a foster father to terminally ill children who have been abandoned by their parents. Normally, these children would end their lives in a hospital, alone and abandoned. But thanks to Mohamed, they get the love, strength, warmth, and joy they deserve in their final months and days.”
  • What Happens When Death Is What’s For Dinner?
    Breaking bread has historically been a step toward social progress, says Death Over Dinner founder, Michael Hebb. How can we use the power of home and hearth to change healthcare?
  • Engaging with Grace on the End of Life Issue
    Have you talked with the people you love?  Truly passionate talk about from Alexandra Drane sharing a personal story to illustrate how important it is to die the way we want and be cared for the way we want.
  • Is There Such Thing as Moving On
    Kelley Lynn talks about the things people say to you after you suffer a loss. She shares about the loss of her husband and the idea of moving on.
  • Doing What it Takes to Cope With Grief
    “When Amy Green’s young son was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, she made up a bedtime story for his siblings to teach them about cancer. What resulted was a video game, “That Dragon, Cancer,” which takes players on a journey they can’t win. In this beautiful talk about coping with loss, Green brings joy and play to tragedy. “We made a game that’s hard to play,” she says, “because the hardest moments of our lives change us more than any goal we could ever accomplish.””
  • The Coffin Club
    In this fantastically light and fun video, we see a group of older people in New Zealand who were fed-up after attending so many funerals that rarely reflected the vibrant lives of friends and family they were meant to honor, so they created what they call a Coffin Club.
  • The Only Reason We’re Alive
    Spoken word poet In-Q, accompanied by gorgeous animation, expresses the bittersweetness of life, aging, and death in the context of love like no other.
  • The Intersection of Living and Dying
    During the past 20 years few people have changed the conversation about the intersection of life and death more than Mitch Albom. “Tuesdays With Morrie” author talks with Jane Pauley on a wide-ranging chat about a life well-lived, beginning with a time when he sat down for weekly conversations with a professor from his college days who was facing his terminal diagnosis.
  • Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy
    Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.
  • 59 Year Old Chimp Says Goodbye to Long Lost Friend
    In this short video, we see the potency of heart to heart connection and feel the undeniable importance in getting to share a goodbye.
  • Culture of Dying
    Stephen Jenkinson explains how our culture taught us to deny death and sadness. He thought-provokingly tells how to turn this around. Please listen from 8:30 – 25:00.
  • Make End of Life More Humane
    “Dr. Atul Gawande began researching hospice and end-of-life care options because he says he didn’t know how to broach the subject of death with his terminally ill patients. “Our system of medical care has successfully created a multi-trillion-dollar system for dispensing lottery tickets — the lottery ticket that you could get this longer life,” he says. But he says it has not prepared people for the likelihood that physicians aren’t good at preparing patients whose lives will not be prolonged by medical treatment. “So we’ve failed to meet the other needs people have, other than just prolonging life.””
  • What Doesn’t Kill You
    Tig Notaro was diagnosed with cancer. A week later she went on stage in Los Angeles about her string of misfortunes. Listen from 3:04 – 15:35.
  • Just Show Up
    Sheryl Sandberg gives a vulnerable interview about what life looked like after her husband died suddenly.
  • The Bitter End
    “We turn to doctors to save our lives — to heal us, repair us, and keep us healthy. But when it comes to the critical question of what to do when death is at hand, there seems to be a gap between what we want doctors to do for us, and what doctors want done for themselves.”
  • Mortician Explores Many Paths For Sacred Transition Of Death
    Mortician Caitlin Doughty has traveled around the world exploring the ways other cultures approach death and talks about many of them as well as the differences in America.
  • A Nurse Reflects on the Privilege of Caring for Dying Patients
    Brown says that being with people who are dying is a profound experience. “When you’re with people who die … and being in their homes and seeing their families… it makes me realize this is why we’re here; this is what we do; this is what we give to each other.”
  • Last Day, from Charlotte’s Web
    Charlotte faces her death and consoles WIlbur with elegant practicality. EB White uses this beautiful story to illustrate the power of relationship along with the cycle of life and death.



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