VITAS Healthcare Employees Share the Company’s 40-Year History of Hospice Care in Newest Video


Miami, FL — The second in a series of 40th-anniversary videos by VITAS® Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, chronicles the personal experiences and memories of veteran VITAS team members who share their invaluable experience in hospice care over the last four decades.

In the two-and-a-half-minute video, six VITAS employees detail early challenges and dramatic advancements in hospice care.

“We are definitely pioneers and we have paved the way.”

VITAS began in 1978 as a nonprofit hospice in South Florida, founded by Hugh Westbrook, a Methodist minister, and Esther Colliflower, a nurse, who shared the belief that America needed more effective, compassionate end-of-life care.

“Forty years ago, hospice was not a word that was common knowledge,” recalls Grace Fernandez, VITAS senior national patient care administrator who acknowledges greater public understanding today of what hospice is and how it is delivered. “We are serving more patients, but the truth is that what we did back then is what we do today… I have known employees who have been with VITAS for 30, 35 years…this is a calling.”

“That is why we all came to work here,” recalls Bob Miller, a former VITAS chaplain who is now executive vice president and chief compliance officer. “We wanted to take care of patients and families.”

Today, VITAS employs over 12,000 hospice advocates who care for more than 18,000 patients daily in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Since its founding, VITAS has cared for 1.5 million patients and has continued to lead and innovate hospice care in the US.

“We are definitely pioneers and we have paved the way for a lot of other programs and health care institutions and other hospices,” says Nancy Auster, RN, an admissions nurse. “They modeled after us. I am so proud of VITAS for that.”

Joining Fernandez, Miller and Auster in the video are Carmen Velazquez, accountant; Maggie Macfarlane, senior director medical claims review; and Peggy Pettit, a former team nurse and now an executive vice president.

Find more 40th anniversary highlights at

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