Public Health

Front & Center: The Essential Work of Caregivers

May 22, 2020  • Aspen Ideas: Health

They have always been there – family members caring for ill loved ones; domestic workers; direct care workers in homes and nursing homes – but COVID-19 has allowed us to witness the extraordinary contributions of caregivers as never before. These same workers who used to be invisible to many are now front and center and, along with doctors and nurses, are confronting unprecedented times. The sacrifices are enormous; the stress, at times, unimaginable. But if caregivers are supported and protected, the solidarity and victories are incredibly rewarding. What is it like to be a caregiver during the pandemic? What protections are needed for those caring for the sickest and most vulnerable people? Above all, what does “essential work” really mean, and how do we ensure that recognition and protections for caregivers and essential workers carry on once the current crisis has abated?

Watch Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, discuss these critical questions and more with Lucy Kalanithi, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. This conversation took place on May 21, 2020, as part of the Aspen Ideas: Health 20/20 digital series.

About the Speakers:

Ai-jen Poo
Executive Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-jen Poo is an award-winning organizer, social innovator, author, and a leading voice in the women’s movement. She is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Director of Caring Across Generations, Co-Founder of SuperMajority and Trustee of the Ford Foundation. Ai-jen is a nationally recognized expert on elder and family care, the future of work, gender equality, immigration, narrative change, and grassroots organizing. She is the author of the celebrated book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America.

Lucy Kalanithi
Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University

Dr. Lucy Kalanithi is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and an advocate for culture change around healthcare value. She is the widow of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, author of the New York Times-bestselling memoir When Breath Becomes Air, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and for which she wrote the epilogue. A graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, the University of California-San Francisco’s Internal Medicine Residency and a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, Lucy is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society and an honoree of Mass General Cancer Center’s “the one hundred.” Her new podcast, Gravity, explores narratives of suffering and is in development. Lucy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her kindergartener, Cady.

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