Distinguished Nursing Researcher Award

The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association Distinguished Nursing Researcher Award recognizes a nurse researcher who has demonstrated longevity and consistency in research that advances the mission and vision of HPNA through conducting high quality research and research presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals. The HPNA Research Advisory Council will make recommendations to the HPNA Board of Directors for approval.


  • Demonstrated leadership as the principal investigator on multiple research studies focused on advancing expert care in serious illness.
  • Served as a mentor in research for nurses and/or nursing students.
  • Published research which is used and cited by others.
  • HPNA member (preferred).
  • Nurse (preferred).
  • Research career that spans a minimum of 10 years (preferred).  

Award Nomination Form

Distinguished Nursing Researcher Award Recipients

2020-Pamela S. Hinds, PhD, RN, FAAN

For more than three decades, Dr. Hinds has created and led research related to the pediatric cancer experience, and end-of-life communication and decision-making. In addition to her leadership roles at the Children's National Health System and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, she also serves on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Roundtable on Quality Care for People with Serious Illness and the National Cancer Institute Moonshot Tolerability Steering Committee. 

Dr. Hinds is the editor-in-chief for Cancer Nursing, an international cancer journal. She has been recognized as a distinguished nurse researcher by the Oncology Nursing Society and the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, and as a valued mentor by the Association of Hematology/Oncology Nurses. 

2019 - Marcia Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Grant is a distinguished professor in the Division of Nursing Research and Education at the City of Hope and served as the director of the division for 29 years. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the American Cancer Society's Distinguished Service Award, the Oncology Nursing Society's Distinguished Researcher and Lifetime Achievement Awards and the HPNA Distinguished Career Award.

Dr. Grant's contributions to nursing research, which focused on evidence-based best practices and improving quality of life for cancer patients and survivors, are widely disseminated in more than 200 publications. As professor and director of nursing research and education, she was an influential leader to students and professionals throughout the world. Her innovative research, funded by the National Cancer Institute for more than 25 years, has made life better for cancer patients and their families. 

2018 - Margaret Campbell, PhD, RN, FPCN

Dr. Campbell is a professor in the College of Nursing at Wayne State University. She first published evidence for positive hospital outcomes from a nurse practitioner-led palliative care consultation service in the 1990s and early 2000s. She developed and tested the Respiratory Distress Observation Scale to establish reliability, validity, and intensity cut-points. Using this scale, Dr. Campbell demonstrated that patients with death rattle are not experiencing distress, thus, medications are not indicated.

Dr. Campbell serves as senior associate editor for the Journal of Palliative Medicine, is on the Editorial Board for the Annals of Palliative Medicine, and the Advisory Board for Improving Palliative Care in the ICU.  Dr. Campbell has been active in HPNA, serving as President of our Board of Directors in 2009 and as Chair of the Dyspnea Clinical Guidelines Task Force. In 2013, she received the Project on Death in America Nursing Leadership Award from the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation. 

2017 - Sally A. Norton, PhD, RN, FNAP, FPCN, FAAN

Dr. Norton is a tenured Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Rochester and holds the inaugural Independence Chair in Nursing and Palliative Care. She serves as a co-director of research for the Division of Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine and holds a secondary appointment in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Dr. Norton is dedicated to improving the care of patients with advanced illness. Her well-established program of research is focused on palliative care and end of life decision making, with emphases on the communication processes and practice patterns of care delivery in the acute and long-term care settings. A nationally recognized expert in palliative care research and qualitative and mixed method research designs, she has worked successfully across professions to improve communication and understanding surrounding systems of palliative care and hospice delivery, and to pinpoint the approaches most meaningful to patients and families that lead to the highest quality outcomes.

Dr. Norton is a fellow of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association and the American Academy of Nursing, and has represented HPNA on several national quality-related task forces. She was a member and former chair of the HPNA research special interest group, and is co-chairing Measuring What Matters, a national task force that is a joint initiative of HPNA and AAHPM. 

2016 - Marie Bakitas, DNSc, CRNP, ACHPN, AOCH, FAAN

Marie Bakitas is an internationally recognized expert in palliative care, with a focus on reducing suffering and enhancing quality of life for persons with advanced illness and family caregivers, especially in rural areas. Her early telehealth palliative care model ENABLE (Educate, Nurture, Advise, Before Life Ends) has led to practice and policy changes. She has participated in 27 funded research grants, served as principal investigator on 12 grants, and currently has R01 funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). Dr. Bakitas has received awards from the Oncology Nursing Society, the Council on the Advancement of Nursing Science, and The Cancer and Leukemia Group B, among others, and has served on more than 10 national committees and advisory boards.

Dr. Bakitas won a 2015 AAHPM & HPNA Annual Assembly Outstanding Research Abstract Award and the 2003 HPNA Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse of the Year Award. She served on the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing editorial board, was an HPNA research member for the Measuring What Matters project, and is an HPNA Annual Assembly Abstract Reviewer.
Before her current position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she served as an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Palliative Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and in The Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy and Clinical Practice. She also served as a visiting scholar at Boston College School of Nursing and as a clinical professor at Yale University School of Nursing. She is also the winner of the 2016 Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation Project on Death in America Nursing Leadership Award in palliative care. 

2015 - Keela Herr, PhD, RN

Keela Herr is professor, associate dean for faculty, and co-director of the Iowa John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at the University of Iowa. Dr. Herr is the 2015 recipient of the HPNA Distinguished Researcher Award. The HPNA Board of Directors bestows this award to an individual who has made a major contribution in the area of palliative nursing research.

For more than 25 years, Dr. Herr has been engaged in a program of research, scholarly, and professional activities focused on the problem of pain in older adults, with emphases in assessment strategies, improving practices through translational research, and improving quality at end of life. Her research has supported advances in pain assessment and strategies for improving pain management across care settings. She has been the recipient of research funding from NIH/National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Cancer Institute, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Mayday Funds. She has most recently served as the Co-Chairperson of the Clinical User Panel of the AAHPM and HPNA “Measuring What Matters” quality initiative.

Dr. Herr has served on the board of directors for the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), American Pain Society, and American Society for Pain Management Nursing and as expert panel member on guideline development for pain in older adults by AGS. Dr. Herr is inducted as a Fellow in AGS and the American Academy of Nursing. 

2014 - Judith Gedney Baggs, PhD, RN, FAAN

Judith Baggs is currently the Elizabeth N. Gray Distinguished Professor at Oregon Health & Science School of Nursing. She formerly served as the Senior Associate Dean for Academics at OHSU School of Nursing. For nine years she was the editor of Research in Nursing & Health, a premier general nursing research journal. A member of the American Academy of Nursing since 2002, she served on the Expert Panel on End of Life and Palliative Care, before assuming her current role on the national Board of Directors.

Dr. Baggs’ research has focused on intensive care units, interprofessional collaboration between nurses and physicians, and ethical and end-of-life decision-making. She has received funding the National Institute of Health. She has published over 50 publications and presents her research both nationally and internationally. Dr. Baggs serves as a consultant and mentor to numerous students, faculty and clinicians. 

2013 - Susan C. McMillan, PhD, ARNP, FAAN

Dr. McMillan is Distinguished University Health Professor, at the University of South Florida, College of Nursing and the Center for Hospice Palliative Care, and End of Life Studies at USF. Dr. McMillan founded the Center for Hospice Palliative Care and End of Life Studies at USF as a research interest group in 1996. The Center’s monthly meetings offer research support for doctoral students and faculty.

Dr. McMillan is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. She has received numerous awards including the Distinguished Nurse Researcher Award given by Southern Nursing Research Society and the Award for Consistency and Excellence of Contributions to the Oncology Nursing Literature, by the Oncology Nursing Society. Dr. McMillan has published a multitude of papers in refereed journals that report her work focused on symptom management and quality of life of patients and caregivers. As a member of the HPNA Research Committee she contributed to development of the first HPNA Research Agenda 2009-2012. 

2012 - Kathleen Puntillo, RN, DNSc, FAAN

Dr. Puntillo is Professor Emeritus and Research Scientist at the University of California, San Francisco. She has a long-standing program of research on pain in critically ill and injured patients and has been funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, and several other professional organizations. She has published extensively on topics that include pain in the critically ill; procedural pain; ICU symptom assessment and management; and ICU palliative care. She was lead investigator for the Thunder Project II on procedural pain funded by the Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

Her current research includes an National Institute of Health (NIH) funded randomized clinical trial of an intervention for thirst in ICU patients, and she is leading an international study of procedural pain in ICU patients. Dr. Puntillo is also an educator and consultant in palliative care. She completed the first Harvard Program on Palliative Care Education in 2000; was one of two nurse members of a Robert Wood Johnson-funded ICU Peer Workgroup on End-of-Life; and was a Soros, Project on Death in America, Faculty Scholar.

She and a physician colleague conduct communication workshops for ICU nurses practicing in Veteran’s Administration hospitals in the greater New York City Area and elsewhere. Dr. Puntillo is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and maintains her clinical practice in critical care nursing. She will receive the Marguerite Kinney Distinguished Research Career Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in May of 2012. 

2011 - Neville E. Strumpf, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Strumpf received her BS from the State University of New York, her MS from Russell Sage College, and her PhD from New York University. She has advanced research, education, and practice in gerontological care by focusing on the vexing clinical problems of frail elders and testing interventions aimed at improving outcomes of care. Her program of research focuses on individualized care for frail older adults, regardless of setting or circumstance. Several interrelated lines of inquiry have evolved as a result of this focus, including restraint-free care, quality of life for older cancer patients, access to services for refugee elders, end-of-life care in nursing homes, and prevention of falls.

Her work in end-of-life care began with a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWF) funded study to introduce a model of palliative care in nursing homes. The work identified the essential components for nursing home residents related to advance care planning, symptom management, and psychosocial support, and demonstrated that with adequate staff training and administrative buy-in, such a model was feasible, lessening hospital transfers at the end of life, and assuring that the wishes of residents and families were honored at the end of life. Several publications emerged from the work, including an explanation of the model, staff attitudes, and feeding decisions.

Dr. Strumpf considers palliative care to be a natural outgrowth of her previous research which emphasized individualized care—early on, she was struck by the number of nursing home residents and hospital patients who died while physically restrained. Her most recent article appeared in a special issue of Nursing Clinics of North America devoted to palliative care, a paper on “Living with Cancer,” which was written with her partner, Dr. Karen Buhler-Wilkerson, just prior to her death from ovarian cancer. 

2010 - Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, FAAN, FPCN

Dr. Ferrell received a BSN from Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma. She then earned a Master's in Nursing from the University of Oklahoma and a PhD in Nursing from Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas. In 2008, she completed a second Master’s degree in Theology from Claremont Graduate University.  Dr. Betty Ferrell has conducted research in oncology for 32 years and has focused her clinical expertise and research in the areas of pain management, quality of life, and palliative care. Dr. Ferrell is a Research Scientist at the City of Hope National Medical Center and Principal Investigator of the End of Life Nursing Education (ELNEC) Project. Dr. Ferrell has obtained Fellow status with both the American Academy of Nursing as well as the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association. She is also Chair of the National Consensus Project (NCP). 

Dr. Ferrell received the Oncology Nursing Society Distinguished Nurse Researcher Award in 1996. Dr. Ferrell chaired the National Consensus Project (NCP) for 7 years, producing the “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care” and overseeing the revisions of the 2nd Edition. In 2009 Dr. Ferrell partnered with Dr. Christine Pulchaski to create the “Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care Project. Dr. Ferrell has authored five books, including Cancer Pain Management (1995), a text on Suffering (1995), Pain in the Elderly (1996) and the Textbook of Palliative Nursing Care (2001) and the Textbook of Palliative Nursing Care, 2nd Edition (2001, 2010) published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Ferrell also has over 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals and texts. In January 2010, Dr. Ferrell became the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing.

2009 - Mary Ersek, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Ersek has developed and led numerous research initiatives, including a program of research on pain and palliative care in older adults with an emphasis on residents of nursing homes. This particular study included two NIH-funded randomized controlled trials, one investigating the efficacy of a pain self-management group for residents of retirement communities, and a current project that examines the effectiveness of a pain management algorithm coupled with intensive support and consultation in enhancing the health status of nursing home residents. Another ongoing study, funded by the New York Department of Health, is testing the effectiveness of web-based informatics reports and education in changing clinical practice patterns and enhancing resident outcomes in nursing homes.

Dr. Ersek is currently an Associate Professor, Associate Director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She is a manuscript reviewer for several journals, including the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Geriatric Nursing, Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, and Journal of Palliative Medicine and serves on the scientific review committee at the National Institutes of Health and National Palliative Care Research Center. Dr. Ersek received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Georgetown University and a Masters of Nursing and PhD in Nursing Science from the University of Washington. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. 

2008 - Karin T. Kirchhoff, PhD, RN, FAAN

Karin T. Kirchhoff, PhD, RN, FAAN is Professor in the School of Nursing at University of Wisconsin. A well-known figure in palliative care research and education, her work on evidence-based practice is cited frequently. Dr. Kirchhoff’s career has focused on describing and testing interventions for the critically ill patient. A well-recognized critical care nursing researcher through the ‘70s and ‘90s, Dr. Kirchhoff was struck by the profound differences in the way death occurred in hospice settings compared to the ICU. She began to explore what was known about end of life in the ICU, communicating and collaborating with experts in the field. She noted that terms for describing and identifying ICU end of life events re typically negative (for example, “withdraw life support”; “do not resuscitate”), leading her to ask, “Where are the positive interventions in ICU end of life?” Following this line of inquiry, her research portfolio quickly grew; and she has since published extensively in scholarly books and journals.

Dr. Kirchhoff has led and collaborated on numerous research studies which, in addition to improving practice, have highlighted the important roles nurses play at end of life. Working in partnership with other palliative care professionals across the state of Wisconsin, she examined how a tailored patient-centered approach could affect the advance care planning process; this project illustrates her commitment to collaborative research relationships. Recently she performed a randomized control trial to test a structured advance care planning process with patients facing end stages of chronic disease. 

Dr. Kirchhoff is well known for her ability to connect science to the bedside, making theory understandable and useable for nurses at all levels. She led an interdisciplinary palliative care course at the University of Wisconsin and serves as role model and mentor for students. In her research studies, she provides opportunities for graduate students to participate in the process, allowing them to obtain superior training.