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Our History

Identifying an Unmet Need

In 1993, a close friend of Dr. Paula Rauch was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had specific questions about how to best understand the needs of her two young children during this difficult time and turned to Dr. Rauch for help. She wondered how her children would react to her illness and which behaviors might signal reason for concern. She was simply seeking guidance about keeping her healthy, well-loved children on track. 

When Dr. Rauch was unable to find an expert to address these concerns, she drew on her own experience caring for seriously ill children and their families. She collaborated with her friend to design an individual plan for each child. Together, they integrated information about each child (e.g., temperament, vulnerabilities, past experiences) with principles of child development to identify ways to communicate with and support her friend’s children during this challenging time. 

The PACT Program Launches

For Dr. Rauch, this experience exposed the unmet need for specialized guidance during a parent’s serious illness. Thanks to leaders in the MGH Department of Psychiatry and the MGH Cancer Center, in 1997 Dr. Rauch received support to develop and begin to provide this unique care. The program started with only a few hours per week of individualized guidance and staff education. Continued commitment from the MGH, along with vital philanthropic support and an expanding team of dedicated clinicians, have catalyzed the growth of the PACT program into a nationally and internationally recognized model for parent guidance and clinician education.


1997: Dr. Rauch launches the Parenting At a Challenging Time (PACT) Program.

2001: A generous gift from Jack Connors allows the program to expand the clinical team.

2003: Dr. Rauch receives the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center’s Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Award, which brings regional visibility to the program.

2004: The Institute of Medicine report, “Meeting Psychosocial Needs of Women with Breast Cancer” identifies communication with children as essential to psychosocial care, citing PACT as a national example.

2005: Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child When a Parent is Sick, an internationally renowned guidebook for parents co-written by Dr. Paula Rauch and Dr. Anna Muriel, is published.

2006: The Robert & Marjorie Korff family bestows a transformative endowment gift on the program in honor of the late Marjorie E. Korff, a beloved mother, daughter, and wife. Her family chooses to honor her legacy as a deeply loving mother by funding parent guidance for future families facing challenges accompanying a parent’s cancer. The program is re-named the Marjorie E. Korff PACT Program.

2009: Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Vernon Cancer Center launches a PACT program with guidance, training, and supervision from the MGH PACT team.

2010: Dr. Rauch helps the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale University open a PACT program.

2013: Ten years after joining the PACT Program, Dr. Cynthia Moore is named Associate Director; she brings a commitment to clinical research and education as well as expertise in complicated grief.

2014: In response to the Boston Marathon bombings and supported by a grant from Fidelity Investments employees, the PACT team creates the Patriots’ Day Project: a collection of resources for parents and educators to support children during crises. Community Crises and Disasters: A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Children of All Ages is published.

2015: The Mary & Marvin Davidson family, Arthur Epstein, and the Good Samaritan Foundation together endow the Timothy Christopher Davidson Chair of Psychiatry for the clinical leader of the Korff PACT Program. This generous gift enables Dr. Rauch, the inaugural incumbent, to devote more time to PACT’s work with families facing the challenges of parenting with a life-threatening illness.

2017: The Lynch Foundation provides a three-year grant to develop a PACT curriculum for training social workers, nurses, oncologists, and psychiatrists throughout the world.

2018: PACT begins a collaboration with Stanford University to bring the program to the Stanford Cancer Institute.

Today: The PACT Program celebrates over 20 years of clinical care.