Dr. Kori Novak is an accomplished Senior Executive with more than 18 years of success spanning healthcare, sports management, and criminal justice. Leveraging extensive experience as a CEO for various organizations Dr. Novak’s broad areas of expertise includes elder care, hospice services, healthcare strategy and public affairs.
Throughout her executive career, Dr. Novak has held leadership positions where she was responsible for achieving change and driving successful collaborations within and outside her fields of expertise. In addition, she is a professor at various universities and is a Sr. Researcher in Gerontology at Oxford University and a Sr. Fellow of Sociology at the School of Law and Social Science at the University of Suffolk in the UK. She has been a guest lecturer and keynote speaker for several domestic and international associations/Congresses revolving around Gerontology, Health Care and Criminal Justice.
Dr. Novak attained her Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Ethno-Geriatrics and end of life care (Thanatology) from Stanford University School of Medicine, her Ph.D. in Human Services and Gerontology with Summa Cum Laude honors from Capella University, her MBA with a concentration in Marketing, Public Relations, and Healthcare Administration with Magna Cum Laude honors from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, and her BA in International Relations and Russian with Cum Laude honors from the University of Denver.
She currently lives in California with the loves of her life, her rescued Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu Winston and Abigail.
Hanh: [00:03:02] can you explain a little bit about prison, hospice? What is it like and how is it different from let’s say regular?
Kori: [00:03:11] Sure. So hospice just for anybody who may not be familiar is really about living, not about dying. And patients are put in hospice when they have a terminal illness or a terminal decision, at least six months or less left in their life. And so, the same is in prison.[00:03:33] It’s for terminal patients. However, unlike hospice on the outside, where you have social workers, you have spiritual counselors and volunteers who come to your home or help you in the hospital. You can’t leave right there. And so, we actually train other inmates to care for those prisoners that are in the hospice.
Hanh: [00:05:04] What negative impact does it have on hospice patients that non incarcerated hospice patients would not have?
Kori: [00:05:12] There really is no negative impact. That’s the really beautiful thing about hospice is it’s all about the patient and their family.
Kori: [00:05:21] And. Walking with them through that final journey and that there’s no physical negative impact. Hospice is free. To anybody that needs it, Kate or Medicare will take care of it. Hospices are just really about in a prison. That’s very unusual. We’re seeing that again, changes a prison. Now the only negative. Uh, aspect is when you don’t have the sheer amount of money that payer pays for prison healthcare. And that’s one of the things that I always say when I talk about prison, hospice is whether you want to [00:06:00] listen to me because you’re a humanitarian and you care about no one dying alone.
Hanh: [00:06:43] So how has the pandemic change? How prison has this look?
Kori: [00:06:47] it’s made it busier, unfortunately. Well, sanitary places in the first place. And a lot of these people are immune compromised simply because they’re in prison.
Kori: [00:07:00] It’s not like a lot of these inmates took part in their wellness programs in the community before they got locked up. And then when you cram them in to small spaces, which we all know social distancing is one way that we can keep ourselves safe and healthy. (End)
Hanh: [00:12:36] So as a culture, what do you think we gain from studying and understanding them better? Because there is a huge paradigm that you have to break through. Can you elaborate on that?
Kori: [00:12:48] I believe that as a culture, if we are focusing on the least of these, which oftentimes is incarcerated individuals, it makes us a more humane culture. It actualizes us, it forces us to admit that we’re not perfect. And that we make mistakes, but there’s grace in mistakes. You can get past mistakes for a while there, especially in the nineties, we talked a lot about rehabilitation.
Kori: [00:13:17] Is it truly rehabilitation? I really believe. Yeah, it’s not a matter of going through classes or learning this or that. It’s a matter of touching someone’s heart. A lot of times I’ve gone into prisons with men who are 50, 60 years old. And one of the first things I’m teaching them about hospice is the difference between good touch, bad touch. (End)
Hanh: [00:15:43] Why do you think the baby boomers should care about the aging incarcerated people? How they’re being treated?
Kori: [00:15:51] It really comes down to financial. Concerns baby boomers are one of the best generations that have really thought about their future and put money away, have focused on making sure they’re financially stable as they enter retirement years. (End)
Hanh: [00:19:28] So what changes specifically do you think needed to be made? I think you’ve listed several. You want to do a deep dive on that?
Kori: [00:19:35] Sure. I, you know, I really think that. Prisons, both federal and state in the short term need to really look at their costs. They need to, anybody who works in a prison is going to say the same thing. They’re going to say. Yeah, we’re overcrowded run on a shoestring budget. So I would encourage them to look into hospice. There’s a few other people like me that can go into a prison and help you set up the prison policies and procedures, teach people how to actually do hospice care and then implemented. Even if there’s a partial hospice or you get in touch with somebody on the outside and you work with somebody on the outside of their hospice, it’s it makes such a difference. (End)
Hanh: [00:23:31] Absolutely. I’m so glad that you have this mission, this message to share. It sounds like we just got to increase the awareness and education and get more people understanding the problem. And much of your work is centered around a mission of no one deserves to die alone. So why is that a topic that is so important?
Kori: [00:23:53] I believe that when you’ve seen someone die violent death, but you’ve seen somebody just pass peacefully, you realize that. It’s a sacred time and it doesn’t matter who you are, but no one should inter that by themselves. And I don’t think anybody wants to enter that time by themselves. In my research. One of the things I asked, one of the questions I asked was what are you most fearful about as you’re entering prison? And I thought I knew the answer. I thought it would be being shamed, being raped, being beaten up all these things that you see on TV. That was not the number one answer. The number one answer was, I’m afraid I’m going to die in prison and the stigma dying alone.
Hanh: [00:28:10] Thank you. Thank you so much for just having the heart to serve folks. And it takes a very special heart to do that
Oxford Phenomenology Network: https://torch.ox.ac.uk/phenomenology#quicktabs-theme_term_quicktab=4
Personal Website: https://korinovak.com/