Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?

Drawing on Her Own Life to Comfort Terminally Ill Patients and Their Families

By Lawrence Lerner

Taji Reisch remembers a pivotal moment when her past and present, and her personal and professional lives, collided.

It was January, and she was doing fieldwork for her Psychology senior honors project at Broadway House, a long-term care facility in Newark for people living with HIV/AIDS, most of whom struggle with substance abuse, depression, and other ailments.

One morning, she came upon a frail female patient who was on the floor, crying loudly as she struggled in vain to get dressed. The woman reminded Reisch of her own mother, who had battled drug addiction throughout her childhood—same wobbly walk, same big presence.

“I wasn’t sure how I’d react, but I didn’t avoid or shut down. I sprang into action, and she was so grateful,” says Reisch. “As psychologists and social workers, we’ll have patients who tap into our emotional issues, but completing my senior project at Broadway House has really helped me grow personally and professionally.”

Reisch has made a career of merging past and present: She has drawn on her own pain to provide comfort to others, using massage and other complementary therapies to treat terminally ill patients and their families. And Rutgers University–Newark, where she graduated in spring 2014, has played a key role in consolidating that experience and propelling her to new heights.

Learn more about Taji