Six Saint Louis University School of Nursing faculty members were honored by St. Louis Magazine for advancing the profession and making a positive impact on patients, students and colleagues.
They were among 61 finalists selected from more than 200 area nurses who were nominated to receive Excellence in Nursing Awards. St. Louis Magazine recognized the finalists at reception on April 25 at the Kemper Auto Museum and is profiling winners in the May issue of the magazine.
Verna Hendricks-Ferguson, Ph.D., an associate professor of nursing who studies caring for children at the end of their battles with life-threatening illnesses, tied as the area's top nursing educator. A Saint Louis University nursing faculty member has won the top educator award for three out of the four years the magazine has given Excellence in Nursing Awards.
Margaret Benz, assistant professor of nursing, who teaches the next generation of nurse practitioner students and serves on the board of St. Patrick's Center and on a governor-appointed committee to improve health care, tied with a perfect score as the winner in the community health category. Engaged in community service, she is a champion for nursing, health care and the disenfranchised.
Mary Lee Barron, Ph.D., and Joanne Langan, Ph.D., were finalists in the education category. Norma Metheny, Ph.D., and Lee Smith, Ph.D., were finalists in the research category.
Verna Hendricks-Ferguson, Ph.D.
Laurie Sparks, Ph.D., a SLU School of Nursing alumna and research manager at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, nominated Hendricks-Ferguson for the St. Louis Magazine award. Sparks said Hendricks-Ferguson is an inspiration to her students.
"They come back and can't say enough wonderful things about her," Sparks said. "In addition to being a teacher, Verna also is a fantastic researcher. She is passionate about pediatric oncology and end of life issues for children. She is among a handful of nurses who are expert in palliative care for children, and those who gravitate to this area are so committed."
Earlier this year, Hendricks-Ferguson, received an award from the Oncology Nursing Society as an emerging leader who goes the extra mile to make a difference in the lives of others.
Hendricks-Ferguson frequently speaks about palliative care for children at events and conferences, and has published extensively on the topic. Her research is funded by agencies including the National Institute of Nursing Research (part of the National Institutes of Health), which puts a special focus on end of life and palliative care.
"Because she feels passionately about her area, she was driven to do something significant to make an impact on nursing. She certainly has succeeded," Sparks said.
Margaret Benz, MSN
Benz works with students and patients and is engaged in health policy. In addition to teaching a distance learning course on conducting health assessments, she works with elderly and disabled residents in a large public housing complex, assists in fundraising and coordinates community services for St. Patrick Center, where she also is a board of trustees member, and serves as the only nurse on the Missouri HealthNet Oversight Committee.
"By examining and reflecting on the standards of practice and policies at the local and state levels, she strongly advocates that nurses can really make a difference, not only for the patients they care for, but for many other in need in the city, across the state and in outlying areas," her nomination letter said.
"Because of her work in the community, Ms. Benz is politically active. Her work with an indigent population through the Saint Louis Housing Authority has heightened her sensitivity to the socially disenfranchised. Her clients can't speak for themselves; they don't know the system so she advocates for their benefit."
Benz's patients live in the same building as the patient care clinic, but sometimes they don't come in for appointments. She goes out of her way to give them the best possible care, and makes home visits - helping them see what's in their pantries and refrigerators so they can stay on the right diet and making sure they are taking medications. She also does safety checks and holds clinics to prevent falls.
One of her patients described her as a mother figure who makes him feel like her third son.
Benz also is active at St. Patrick Center, previously serving on the center's board of directors and chairing a committee that oversees 28 service programs. She met with outside agencies and the mayor to secure grants to support programs and spoke at community service agencies about homelessness. She also has been personally involved with clients - serving meals and celebrating their achievements. Nominated by St. Patrick Center for her client services to the homeless in St. Louis, Benz recently received the President's Volunteer Service Award.
Mary Lee Barron, Ph.D.
Mary Lee Barron, Ph.D., director for advanced nursing practice programs and a natural family planning nurse practitioner, was a finalist in the education category. She conducts research on preconception, prenatal and post-delivery care and directs SLU's Nursing Center for Fertility Education, which teaches couples the Marquette Method of natural family planning.
In addition to teaching nurse practitioner students, Barron sees patients a half-day a week as a family nurse practitioner.
The letter that nominated Barron noted that she is a role model of high quality family nurse practitioners for SLU faculty and students. "She integrates the Jesuit mission into her practice and teaching," it said.
Barron is the author of an obstetrical nursing textbook for nurse practitioners and has written academic articles on fertility literacy. A member of the Maternal and Child Coalition, she has guided students on projects at Our Lady's Inn, an emergency shelter for pregnant women and their children.
Joanne Langan, Ph.D.
A finalist in the education category, Joanne Langan, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing, has studied, written and taught students about the leadership role nurses must take during a crisis, such as a natural disaster or a bioterror attack.
She has published multiple manuscripts and is the co-author of "Preparing Nurses for Disaster Management," a textbook that will be revised during the next few years. She teaches disaster preparedness to nursing students -- encouraging them to actively participate in disaster preparedness meetings and live disaster drills in the community.
The letter that nominated Langan for the honor noted her ability to juggle multiple tasks with aplomb -- including her previous positions as assistant dean of community and clinical affairs and the faculty senate presidency with her scholarship and teaching responsibilities.
It also talked about her commitment to the adult surgery patients she treats during their hospitalization, compassion that she models in her dealings with students, and gave the example of her comforting a frightened patient before abdominal surgery.
"Even though her shift was over, Dr. Langan stayed with the patient, did the pre-op prep and checklist and listened to the patient's concerns. The patient was crying and Joanne hugged her as the patient was now delivered to the pre-op holding area. Weeks later, Joanne received a note of thanks from the patient and found out for the first time the patient was a nurse. The surgery was a success on many levels," the letter noted.
Norma Metheny, Ph.D.
A finalist in the research category, Norma Metheny, Ph.D., associate dean of nursing research and the holder of the Dorothy A. Votsmier Endowed Chair in Nursing, is internationally recognized for her expertise in promoting the safe delivery of tube feedings, which are a lifeline for millions of people who can't consume food by mouth and have no other source of nutrition.
For nearly two decades, her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health. Her method of testing the accurate placement of feeding tubes to avoid complications that can lead to pneumonia has become the industry standard. Her research has shaped national health policy, impacting countless patients worldwide.
"Dr. Metheny regularly answers queries from nurses throughout the United States and other countries regarding tube feeding practices; many times she works with these nurses to help them develop protocols that are specific to their patient populations," a letter nominating her for the honor said.
Metheny's work was selected to be featured as one of 12 programs in a textbook on shaping health policy through research. Additionally, her studies have led to changes in hundreds of textbooks for medicine, nursing and nutrition. Last year, she received the AACN-GE Healthcare Pioneering Spirit Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the senior scientist recognition award from the Midwest Nursing Research Society.
"It is difficult to cite the impact of Dr. Metheny's research on any single patient because the scope of her work extends beyond individual patients."
Lee Smith, Ph.D.
Lee Smith, Ph.D., professor of nursing, who studies teen moms, also is a finalist in the research category. Smith grew interested in this area of study decades ago as a public health nurse who visited pregnant and new moms in their teens.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, Smith has interviewed and chronicled observations of a sample of teen mothers, their parents and children every four to five years for nearly 25 years. Her findings have challenged stereotyped assumptions of teen mothers, and revealed that being a mother can motivate a teen to continue her education and shy away from engaging in risky behavior.
Smith has highlighted the importance of emotional support and access to community resources and shown that teen moms and their children do about as well as older moms from similar backgrounds. In uncovering what teen mothers are experiencing, she has detailed their challenges, strengths and resilience.
Smith has written 35 articles in peer-reviewed academic journals and five book chapters. Her research has been cited more than 300 times and she has been invited to present papers as far away as Thailand and Australia.
"Lee Smith has had national and international impact on nursing practice and nursing education," noted her nomination letter. "She exemplifies what it means to be an excellent nurse researcher, meticulously gathering data from her clinical practice experience and translating it to knowledge discovery."