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VITAS History

VITAS was founded in 1978 as Hospice Care Inc., one of the nation’s first hospice programs. But our story really begins in 1976, when Hugh A. Westbrook, an ordained United Methodist minister, and Esther T. Colliflower, a registered nurse, saw a void in the treatment of people with terminal illnesses.

Read more about Hugh and Esther’s contributions to hospice care and the VITAS story.

In the more than 30 years since Hugh and Esther formed their partnership, we have continued to be a leader in the American hospice movement. We remain committed to finding and closing gaps in treatment. VITAS works to ensure that terminally ill patients and their families of all walks of life have ready access to compassionate and effective end-of-life care. 

Read about VITAS' first patient, Emmy, and the lessons she taught us.

As a hospice pioneer, VITAS was instrumental in leading a bipartisan effort to add hospice to the healthcare payment system. As a result of these efforts, Medicare pays for hospice services. Many states have established Medicaid coverage for hospice, and virtually all private insurers and managed care plans provide coverage for hospice care.

Today, VITAS is America’s leading provider of end-of-life care, working in cooperation with hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, assisted living communities, insurers and community-based organizations throughout the nation.