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Research Awards

Distinguished Researcher Award (Sponsored by NHPCO)

The NHPCO Distinguished Researcher Award recognizes an outstanding body of research that has contributed to the enhancement of hospice and palliative care. The award is given to an individual who has made substantial and sustained contributions to his or her field of hospice and palliative care through a body of research investigation. It is expected that the recipient will have made multiple contributions to the published literature over his or her career. Given that this is NHPCO's highest research award, it is expected that individuals who are nominated will be senior in rank and well-established researchers.

The criteria for selecting the recipient of the Distinguished Researcher Award is as follows:

  1. The Research Committee chairperson appoints a subcommittee of three members to the Research Award Subcommittee.
  2. Members of the Research Award Subcommittee develop the list of nominees and recommend a recipient for the award.
  3. Research Award Subcommittee members are ineligible to nominate themselves as recipients.
  4. The full Research Committee meets via a conference call to finalize the award recipient.
  5. NHPCO staff notifies the award recipient.
  6. The award recipient is invited to speak at the Joint Clinical Conference, on how his/her research has influenced palliative and/or hospice practice.

Distinguished Researcher Award Recipients

2013 – Vincent Mor, PhD, MED

Dr. Mor is a Professor of Medical Science, Health Services, and Policy and Practice at Brown University. For the past 30 years, Dr. Mor has focused his research on the impact of healthcare services on frail and chronically ill patients, and his contributions have improved the care that many people have received. Among his notable contributions was work as a principal investigator in the National Hospice Study (1980-83) which provided an initial evaluation of hospice care under the then-new Medicare Hospice Benefit. He has also been principal investigator of nearly 30 NIH-funded grants, and continues to influence the decisions of policy makers on hospice care. 

2012 – Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D.

Holly G. Prigerson an internationally known researcher on bereavement and end-of-life care, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Director of the Center for Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  She received her Ph.D. in 1990 from Stanford University.  She trained in psychosocial epidemiology as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale and ultimately became Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Epidemiology and Public Health there. 

Through much her career the major focus of her research has been psychosocial factors that influence the quality of life and care received by terminally ill patients, and factors influencing caregiver adjustment both before and after the death of a loved one.   Her wide ranging program of research has included ethnic disparities in and mediators of end of life care; the effects of prognostic discussions on patients' emotional and cognitive acceptance of their terminal illness, healthcare and the costs of healthcare received in the last week of life; and studies of factors predicting patient end of life treatment preferences, quality of death, and surviving caregiver bereavement adjustment.  She has also conducted an NIMH-funded field trial of consensus criteria for Prolonged Grief Disorder proposed for inclusion in DSM-V and ICD-11. 

2011 – Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN

Betty Ferrell has been in oncology nursing for 34 years and has focused her clinical expertise and research in pain management, quality of life, and palliative care.  Dr. Ferrell is a Professor and Research Scientist at the City of Hope Medical Center in Los Angeles.  She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and she has over 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals and texts.  She is Principal Investigator of a Program Project funded by the National Cancer Institute on “Palliative Care for Quality of Life and Symptom Concerns in Lung Cancer” and Principal Investigator of the “End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC)” project.   She directs several other funded projects related to palliative care in cancer centers and QOL issues.  Dr. Ferrell is a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute and was Chairperson of the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care.  She served on the National Quality Forum Committee for Preferred Practices in palliative care.  She is also the chairperson of the Southern California Cancer Pain Initiative.  She has authored eight books  - Cancer Pain Management (1995), a text on Suffering (1995), Pain in the Elderly (1996), Oxford Textbook of Palliative Nursing published by Oxford University Press (3rd edition published in  2010).  She is co-author of the text, The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Nursing published  in 2008 by Oxford University Press and Making Health Care Whole: Integrating Spirituality into Patient Care (Templeton Press, 2010).  Dr. Ferrell completed a Masters degree in Theology, Ethics and Culture from Claremont Graduate University in 2007.

2009 – Joan Teno, MD, MS

Dr. Teno is a Professor of Community Health and Medicine and Associate Director of the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research at the Brown Medical School. She is a health services researcher, hospice medical director, and board-certified internist with added qualification in Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Teno has served on numerous advisory panels including the Institute of Medicine, World Health Organization and American Bar Association and as grant peer reviewer for the National Institutes of Health. She has been the recipient of funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dr. Teno's focus has been on measuring and evaluating interventions to improve the quality of medical care for seriously ill and dying patients. Dr. Teno led the effort in the design of the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments (SUPPORT) intervention analysis and was lead author in twelve publications from that research effort, which ranged from the role of advance directives to describing the dying experience of seriously ill and older adults. Both as a researcher and clinician, Dr. Teno has devoted her career to understanding how to measure and improve the quality of end of life care for vulnerable populations. She was the lead investigator in a research effort to create a Toolkit of Instruments to Measure Care at the End of Life (TIME). In this grant effort, she created the Brown University Family Evaluation of Hospice Care, that is currently being used by hospice across the nation and internationally to examine the quality of hospice care. She has led a state wide effort to improve pain management in nursing homes, for which she has received an award from the American Cancer Society. Over 120 research articles have been published in leading medical journals focusing on examining medical care for dying persons and frail persons residing in nursing homes.

2008 – Betty Kramer, PhD

Dr. Kramer has greatly advanced the field of social work research in end-of-life care. Dr. Kramer’s earlier research focused on understanding the experience and variation found among family members caring for older adults with cognitive and physical impairments. Her research highlighted the positive dimensions that often accompany the more challenging or negative dimensions of the family caregiving experience, gender differences in caregiving, interpersonal predictors of caregiver well-being, and the experience of the male caregiver. Her more recent caregiving research has addressed the distinctive experience of family members providing care at the end-of-life and the transition into “end-stage” caregiving. Another area of her work has focused on understanding and improving care at the end of life through attention to three lines of enquiry. First, Dr. Kramer has attempted to determine and enhance the role of social work in the provision of palliative and end-of-life care and related research. She has documented insufficiencies in end-of-life care content in leading social work textbooks, helped to develop competencies for social workers in palliative care, and put forth the national research agenda for social work in palliative and end of life care. Second, she has studied innovations in end-of-life care for low-income elders with advanced chronic disease to learn about the distinctive challenges experienced by interdisciplinary tem members in a fully integrated managed care program, and implications for program development, practice, policy and future research. Building upon this work, she has assessed the feasibility of integrating hospice consultation to address some of these challenges and improve the provision of palliative care. Dr. Kramer’s current research focuses on understanding conflicts in families that may arise in the context of palliative and end-of-life care. Through a qualitative investigation of the phenomenon of family conflict, she developed an explanatory matrix of family conflict at the end of life depicting the nature of end-of- life conflict, family context, conditions, contributing factors, intervening processes and consequences. She has several current projects underway that will allow me to better identify families who are at greatest risk of family conflict and begin to test this explanatory model.

2007 – Ruth McCorkle, PhD, FAAN

A pioneer in oncology nursing, Ruth McCorkle has been named the first Florence Schorske Wald Professor at the Yale School of Nursing (YSN). McCorkle is currently professor of Nursing, director of the Center for Excellence in Chronic Illness Care, and she was chair of the Doctor of Nursing Science Program from 1998-2004. She is also the program leader for Cancer Control at the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine.

McCorkle received a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Maryland and a master's in medical-surgical nursing from the University of Iowa. Her doctorate, in mass communications, was earned at the University of Iowa's School of Journalism. She has held teaching positions at a variety of institutions across the country, including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, and the University of Iowa.

McCorkle's interest in cancer and palliative care is longstanding. Over 20 years ago she studied at St. Christopher's Hospice in London, England, and participated in clinical studies to relieve distressing symptoms associated with dying. Since then, she has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health and other prestigious groups for her studies on managing life with cancer.

Elected to the institute of Medicine in 1990, McCorkle is the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards. Some of her many honors include the Book of the Year Award for Cancer Nursing from the American Journal of Nursing, a Distinguished Merit Award from the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care, and a Distinguished Research Award from the Oncology Nursing Society. She was named the Nurse Scientist of the Year by the Council of Nurse Researchers of the American Nurses Association, one of the most coveted awards in the field of nursing. A prolific writer, her work appears in many professional journals in the US and abroad.

2006 -- Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH

Nicholas Christakis is a professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Sociology at Harvard University, and an attending physician in the Palliative Care Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a physician and sociologist, Dr. Christakis conducts research on the socio-economic factors that affect the supply of, demand for, and outcomes of medical care.  He uses demographic methods to examine the determinants of health at individual and population levels.

He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed papers in the fields of physician decision-making, terminal care, clinical epidemiology, healthcare policy, medical sociology, demography, and other topics. His past work has examined the accuracy and role of prognosis in medicine, ways of improving end-of-life care, and neighborhood and social network effects on healthcare and illness course.  His book on prognosis, Death Foretold: Prophecy and Prognosis in Medical Care, has been widely and favorably reviewed in numerous American, European, and Asian journals and newspapers.  He is also one of several editors of the forthcoming 4th edition of the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine.

Christakis' research has implications for understanding why people become sick and how they use medical care to become well again.  It also has implications for clinical and policy actions to enhance the quality of care given to seriously ill patients and their families.

2004 -- Colin Murray Parkes, OBE, MD, FRCPsych, Chorleywood, United Kingdom

Colin Murray Parkes is a British psychiatrist and the author of numerous books and publications on grief. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen Elizabeth II for his services to bereaved people in June 1996.

Parkes serves as an honorary consultant psychiatrist to St. Christopher's Hospice in Sydenham and consultant psychiatrist to St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney. He was formerly a senior lecturer in psychiatry at the Royal London Hospital Medical College and a member of the research staff at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

Parkes worked with Dora Black as a scientific editor of Bereavement Care, the international journal for bereavement counselors. He also has served as an advisory editor on several journals concerned with hospice, palliative care, and bereavement.

Since 1966, Parkes has worked at St. Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, where he set up the first hospice-based bereavement service and carried out some of the earliest systematic evaluations of hospice care.

Parkes has also edited books on the nature of human attachments, The Place of Attachment in Human Behaviour (with J. Stevenson-Hinde, 1982 publ. Basic Books, NY) and Attachment Across the Life Cycle (with J. Stevenson-Hinde & P. Marris, 1991, publ. Routledge, London & NY). More recently he has edited Death and Bereavement Across Cultures (with P. Laungani and W. Young, 1996, publ. Routledge, London & NY) and, in 1998, with Andrew Markus, a series of papers which have now been published as a book entitled Coping with Loss (BMJ Books). This last work is intended for members of the health care professions.

Parkes is a former chairman and now life president of Cruse: Bereavement Care. He acted as a consultant and adviser following the disasters in Aberfan, the Cheddar/Axbridge air crash, the Bradford Football Club fire, the capsize of the Herald of Free Enterprise and Pan American aircraft explosion over Lockerbie. At the invitation of UNICEF, he acted as consultant in setting up the Trauma Recovery Program in Rwanda in April 1995. At the invitation of the British government, he helped to set up a program of support in New York to assist families from the United Kingdom who were flown out following the terrorist outrages on 11th September 2001. In April 2005 Parkes was sent by Help the Hospices with Ann Dent to India to assess the psychological needs of people bereaved by the tsunami.

Recently Parke's work has focused on traumatic bereavements (with special reference to violent deaths and the cycle of violence) and on the childhood roots of psychiatric problems that can follow the loss of attachments in adult life.

2002 -- Eduardo D. Bruera, MD

Dr. Eduardo Bruera is currently professor of medicine, F.T. McGraw Chair in the Treatment of Cancer, and chairperson of the Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitative Medicine, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Previously he was on faculty in the Department of Medicine and Department of Oncology at the University of Alberta (1987-1994). In 1994, Dr. Bruera was visiting professor in palliative medicine at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and in 1993, he was visiting professor of oncology at McGill University. Dr. Bruera has also served as president of the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization Regional Focal Point in Palliative Care for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dr. Bruera received his medical degree from the Universidad de Rosario, in Argentina in 1979. He has published extensively and received numerous grants during the past 10 years, including one from the Brown Foundation, Inc. and the National Cancer Institute of Canada. Dr. Bruera has been published in Cancer Treatment Reviews as well as Palliative Medicine.

Previous honors that have been bestowed upon Dr. Bruera are the Clinical Research Award, given by the Edmonton Academy of Medicine and the Award of Special Recognition, given by the 7th Congress of the European Association of Palliative Care.

2001 -- Mary Vachon, RN, PhD

Dr. Mary Vachon is a nurse, clinical sociologist, psychotherapist, researcher, educator, and cancer survivor. She is currently a consultant and psychotherapist in private practice, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto, and clinical consultant at Wellspring (of which she is a co-founder), a community-based support program for people with cancer. She is also a member of the Bayer Advisory Council on Bioethics, which addresses the bioethical issues related to plasma products in Canada. From 1992 to 2000 she was consultant in psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre. She has also been employed by the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (1969-1992) and Massachusetts General Hospital (1965-1969).

Dr. Vachon is a graduate of Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing, from which she received an Alumnae Achievement Award in 1998. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Boston University, has a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Toronto, and her PhD from York University. Dr. Vachon has published widely and delivered over 1,300 lectures around the world on topics related to bereavement, occupational stress, life-threatening illness, palliative care, and survivorship and spirituality. She is the recipient of many awards including the Dorothy Ley Award for Excellence in Palliative Care received from the Ontario Palliative Care Association in April 1997. She is listed in Who's Who of Canadian Women and Who's Who in Canada.

2000 -- Jeanne Quint Benoliel, RN, DNSD, FAAN

Dr. Benoliel began her nursing career in 1941 when she completed the nursing program at St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing in San Francisco. She completed her bachelor's degree in nursing education in 1948 at Oregon State University, her master's degree in nursing from the University of California in Los Angeles in 1955, and her doctorate of nursing science in nursing sociology from the University of California in San Francisco (USCF) in 1969. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, she joined the nursing faculty at UCSF for one year and then relocated to Seattle where she joined the nursing faculty at the University of Washington as an associate professor. She was promoted to professor in 1972 and was the Elizabeth Sterling Soule Distinguished Professor of Nursing and Health Promotion for two years prior to retiring in 1989.

Dr. Benoliel's substantial contributions have been recognized by others. For example, she was the 1984 Recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society; 1988 Recipient of Distinguished Merit Award for contributions to cancer nursing from the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care; 1989 Distinguished Research Lectureship Award, titled "From Research to Scholarship: Challenges, Choices and Transitions," Western Society of Research in Nursing; and 1989 Special Recognition Award for Leadership in Cancer Nursing from the American Cancer Society.

Her research career has included numerous peer-reviewed publications and grants from NIH, NIMH, and NCI. She was a member the research team headed by Anselm Strauss, University of California, on the study "Hospital Personnel, Nursing Care, and Dying Patients" (1962-1967) and was principal investigator from 1973-1977 on the study entitled, "A Care-Cure Problem: Dying in Teaching Hospitals." She also served as principal investigator on "A Prospective and Concurrent Study of Spouse Bereavement" (1986-1988) and "Effects of Support on Breast Self-Examination Adherence" (1987-1990).

Research Award (Retired)

This award was given to a researcher or group of researchers for a completed study that had the potential to directly impact the delivery of hospice and/or palliative. The recipient was selected from among the research abstracts submitted for NHPCO's Clinical Team Conference.