The Advance Care Planning and Healthy Living Through Faith (ACP-HLTF) Program aims to reduce racial disparities in advance care planning and to nurture the capacity of the African American Advance Care Planning/Palliative Care (AA ACP/PC) Network to lead efforts to overcome racial inequities across healthcare. 

Our long term goal is to see the AA ACP/PC Network become a dense community of clinicians, clergy, and scholars whose joint work improves the health and health care experiences of African Americans across the life span, with particular attention to the end of life. We seek to be a center of scholarship and relationship-building for those interested in race, justice, and health care at the end of life and to spearhead efforts that encourage both academic and community innovations in this domain.


The Advance Care Planning and Healthy Living Through Faith Program will:  

  • Offer learning resources for African American clergy and congregations about the basics of advance care planning, palliative care, and hospice.
  • Provide a deeply vibrant theological vision of what it means to live and die well, work alongside health care professionals, and within health care to bridge the gap between a spiritual and a medical understanding of healthy living and faithful dying.  
  • Maintain and strengthen the African American Advance Care Planning/Palliative Care Network, a group of advance care planning and palliative care experts advocating for greater access and participation of African Americans and other communities of color.
  • Map the research landscape around advance care planning for African Americans and other communities of color, including connecting with lead researchers, articulating the most pressing research questions that are being (or need to be) pursued, and identifying key opportunities for research collaboration.

Faculty Director: Patrick T. Smith, PhD, MDiv, MA
Associate Research Professor of Theological Ethics and Bioethics; Duke Divinity School
Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

Affiliated Duke Faculty:

  • Farr Curlin, MD: Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities and Co-Director of the Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative, Duke Divinity School
  • David Emmanuel Goatley, PhD, MDiv: Research Professor of Theology and Black Church Studies, Director of the Office of Black Church Studies, Associate Dean for Vocational Formation and Christian Witness, Duke Divinity School
  • Kimberly Johnson, MD: Professor of Medicine, Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Principal Investigator of Reducing Disparities in the Quality of Palliative Care for Older African Americans Through Improved Advance Care Planning, Director of the Duke Center for REsearch to Advance Healthcare Equity (REACH EQUITY), Duke University School of Medicine
  • Brett McCarty, ThD: Assistant Research Professor of Theological Ethic, Associate Director of the Theology, Medicine and Culture Initiative, Duke Divinity School; Assistant Research Professor of Theological Ethics; Assistant Professor in Population Health Sciences, Duke School of Medicine

Since December 2015, the John and Wauna Harman Foundation has supported multiple projects led by Dr. Richard Payne and colleagues at the Center for Practical Bioethics (CPB). The initial project, Improving Advance Care Planning in African Americans – An Urgent Need, and subsequent ones had the aim of increasing African American participation in advance care planning activities throughout the life span. These projects have cultivated partnerships between health care professionals and clergy and lay people in predominantly African American religious congregations and nurtured the African American Advance Care Planning/Palliative Care (AA ACP/PC) Network. 

In honor of Dr. Payne, who passed away in 2019, the Harman Foundation and the Center for Practical Bioethics are supporting the migration of this legacy of work to the leadership and guidance of Dr. Patrick T. Smith at Duke Divinity School beginning the summer of 2021.  Dr. Smith looks forward to extending the legacy of this work in a way that honors Dr. Payne, a singular witness for healing and justice with respect to health of African Americans and other communities of color.    

Postdoctoral Job Opening: We are looking for a great candidate to help steer this important work. Learn more and apply here:

https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/18610