Board Member Transitions To New Role At Alive

Judy Orr appointed VP of Mission-based Services

Alive has been dear to Judy Orr for more than 16 years. Touched personally by the care we provide for patients and families, she has been an ambassador for this organization and an advocate for end-of-life planning because she believes the last chapter of life should be embraced, not put out of mind.

Becoming formally involved with Alive was a natural step, and Orr joined the Board of Directors in January 2016. In August, she transitioned to an executive role as vice president of mission-based services. In this new capacity, she oversees a broad array of community-oriented, community-enhancing programs and functions including Alive Grief Support, the Alive Institute (our center for education, outreach, advocacy and innovation), fundraising, communications and marketing.

So many people equate the word “hospice” to “dying,” and it’s true that hospice care comes in at the end of life. But if you ask Orr, another word for it comes to mind: healing.

At its core, Orr’s work focuses on building connections between Alive and the world around us.

She is raising our profile in the public eye to ensure that every family in our service area feels connected to Alive and has the opportunity to experience the care and programs we offer. She’s working to boost philanthropic support, which becomes increasingly important year after year as the need for our services grows. And, through the Alive Institute, she is working to shape the field of hospice and palliative care through education, training and innovation.

Prior to her appointment as vice president of mission-based services at Alive, Orr was a fixture at Vanderbilt University for more than 20 years as assistant vice chancellor for creative services. Marketing and communications have been her life’s work, and Alive has been part of her life’s story. The opportunity to combine her professional strengths with her love for this organization proved irresistible.

“This role seems tailor-made for me. My expertise in public relations and communications developed over time, while my passion for end-of-life issues has been ignited by life experiences. This job uses the totality of my skills, experience and training, and I am energized by the opportunity to devote my work going forward to helping others find peace during the transformative passage that is the end of life,” Orr said.

A Love For Alive From Personal Experience

Alive came into her life in 2001 when her sister Cathie’s health declined rapidly while she battled cancer. Cathie was in her late 50s and Orr became her primary caregiver. Though she had been ill for some time, the sudden collapse of Cathie’s health came as a shock.

“We were just kind of swirled up with amazing people who just immediately knew what we needed and made sure everything was in place,” Orr said.

It was then that a social worker at Vanderbilt Medical Center brought up something to consider.

“Hospice might be the next best step for you,” she said.

Cathie began receiving care from Alive at her apartment shortly thereafter. From the beginning, her care team gave both sisters a sense of calm, security and support.

“We were just kind of swirled up with amazing people who just immediately knew what we needed and made sure everything was in place,” Orr said.

And when Cathie was no longer able to remain in her apartment, Alive Hospice Residence Nashville became her home away from home. Once she moved in, the feeling of peace and security for both patient and caregiver was palpable.

Cathie died Dec. 28, 2001, after seven weeks at the Residence, and what Orr remembers from those days was being able to be a sister again rather than a caregiver.

They sat and talked. They watched birds that visited the feeder Orr set up outside of her room. She helped Cathie write Christmas cards. They enjoyed moments for what they were: precious time together.

Looking back, Cathie “had a beautiful end-of-life experience,” Orr said. So many people equate the word “hospice” to “dying,” and it’s true that hospice care comes in at the end of life. But if you ask Orr, another word for it comes to mind: healing. That was what Cathie experienced, a gift for which her family will always be grateful.

Grief came into Orr’s life again when her brother Steve became ill less than five years after Cathie’s death. Unfortunately, his illness progressed rapidly, and by the time the family asked about hospice, Steve lived only until the next day – though surrounded by loved ones. Most recently, Alive cared for her mother-in-law. The experience with Alive each time was a blessing as our Alive care teams walked the end-of-life journey with her family.

Continuing on her own life’s journey, Orr decided to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree in social work. Her inspiration: the social workers she encountered during Cathie’s illness and during hospice care. It was something she felt compelled to do, and it has proven to be an asset in her new professional role.

Life is Full of Seasons

As she looks ahead, Orr hopes her work at Alive will make an impact in Middle Tennessee by “helping to elevate this part of life for everyone into the valuable and meaningful experience it should be.” She believes that every day is a precious gift, and that there are gifts still to be had at the end of life. It was true for her sister Cathie, her brother Steve, and for her mother-in-law.

“Each of us has our winter and our spring and our summer and our fall, and all of them are beautiful times,” Orr said. “The human condition is a hard one. We’re constantly faced with challenges emotionally, physically and spiritually. If we could just embrace the notion that our days are numbered – why not embrace every one for whatever it has to offer?”

Contact Vice President of Mission-Based Services Judy Orr at: 615-327-1085 or