Meet Alumnus Keith Midberry | Thanatology M.A.'16
"My thanatology degree coupled with my military background prepared me well to hit the ground running in my position as the first Veteran Liaison for Frederick Health Hospice"
- Thanatology (C)
- Psychology & Counseling
Tell us a little bit about your educational and career background.
My father was a WWII veteran of the European theatre and both my sons are graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
I earned a Bachelor of Science Health Care Management from Southern Illinois University and a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration from the George Washington University. I completed the Master of Arts degree in Thanatology from Hood College in 2016.
I spent 4 years in the Navy and 22 in the Coast Guard, retiring as a Coast Guard Officer. My entire military career was in healthcare and, after retirement, I worked several years in correctional healthcare before working for 14 years for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in Rockville. I retired from that position to accept new position as Veteran Liaison for Frederick Health Hospice in January 2017.
Why did you choose Hood College Graduate School and the Thanatology Program?
I can still remember the day in 2014 that I found out about the Hood College Thanatology program from a work colleague. She casually mentioned she had class that evening at Hood College and I asked what she was studying. When she said Thanatology, I responded the same way most people do when I say it – “what’s that?!” From the Greek word for death - thanatos, Thanatology is the study of death, dying and grief.
Most people who choose this field of study have some type of personal connection or experience. The suicide of my grandfather and the more recent suicide of my younger and only brother clearly impacted my decision to study Thanatology.
Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds such as healthcare, counseling and spiritual arenas. Many will say that felt “called” to the program. I soon learned that Hood College was a premier school with the only on-site MA Thanatology program in the country. That program has since been discontinued, but Hood still offers the Thanatology certificate program.
How has your Hood College graduate degree helped further your career and/or your life?
My professors and the caliber of my fellow students were top notch and the six one-credit weekend courses taught by adjunct professors from around the country were icing on the cake!
The availability of evening and weekend classes accommodated my work schedule, allowed me to complete my degree in 2 ½ years, graduating in May 2016. My Thanatology degree coupled with my military background prepared me well to hit the ground running in my position as the first Veteran Liaison for Frederick Health Hospice (formerly Hospice of Frederick County).
What did you enjoy about Hood College? Do you have a favorite memory?
One of my courses was an introduction to hospice and during my last course a staff member from Frederick Health Hospice came to my counseling class soliciting volunteers to assist with Camp Jamie, a weekend grief camp for kids that have lost a parent or loved one.
That experience was very rewarding and inspired me to become a hospice volunteer in the fall of 2016 where I became aware of of a new position opening for a full time Veteran Liaison.
While I can’t think of one specific memory that stands out as my favorite, I have a most positive overall memory of my entire Hood College experience - I am glad to be an alum!
You experienced a significant career change after earning your Thanatology degree. What advice would you give to students considering a significant career change?
Never say never! While compensation is clearly a factor, it should never be the primary motivator for any profession or career, you will only chase the money once.
I have twice taken significant pay cuts to work in an environment that provided a new or better sense of purpose and fulfillment. I have been blessed to have had several careers, each helping to prepare me for the next.
I like the words of the philosopher Epictetus - “One must not tie a ship to single anchor, nor life to a single hope!”
* View short video clip showcasing Keith's involvement with the "We Honor Veterans program at Hospice".