Samira Beckwith

Editor’s Note: We are profiling the McKnight’s 2020 Women of Distinction honorees daily through the program’s July 28 online awards ceremony. To register or learn more about this digital celebration, the Forum the next day (which offers three free continuing education credits July 29) and the program in general, visit this website.

Many people develop their life purpose and professional direction during the college years. For Samira Beckwith, that concept took on a special meaning. When she was in graduate school, she received a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease. 

Her numerous days in the hospital, many clinic visits and various doctors’ appointments brought her to the realization that conventional medical practice had not advanced enough with regard to pain control, symptom management and empathy.

It was then that she promised herself to help others live better lives, particularly when serious illness or end-of-life issues are involved. What has ensued is a four-decade-long career that has lifted the profile, discourse and skills of end-of-life care.

Beckwith became the president and CEO Hope Healthcare in 1991, when it was serving 100 hospice patients a day in the Fort Myers, FL, area. Now, the company provides care and services for 4,000 Floridians daily across six Florida counties. The group employs nearly 1,000 and marshalls the energy of almost 1,100 volunteers.

Hope became only the second organization in the state to offer a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly,  or PACE. Beckwith also helped develop and implement an innovative national pediatric palliative care program for children: Partners in Care: Together for Kids, or PIC-TFK. In addition, she champions a Meals on Wheels program that offers wide support in rural communities, a Parkinson’s disease program that has grown to more than 3,800 members, and various other palliative care and grief support programs.

She is notably a tireless advocate at the local, state and national level. Her influence includes having advised at least three Florida governors, as well as terms as the president of state hospice, palliative care and PACE groups, and service on the boards of many additional entities. She also has provided expert testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

In many ways, her entire career has been testimony to the resolve of an affected leader determined to make a difference.

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare. Silver sponsors are OnShift and PharMerica, and the Signature sponsors are Acadia Pharmaceuticals and Enquire.