November 11, 2016 | by Michael Easterling
When Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., director of Nurse Research and Education, began her career in the late 1970s, the term “palliative care” didn’t even exist. She was one of the first in the nursing profession to advocate for care and pain management much earlier in terminal disease — after diagnosis and during treatment, not just hospice after treatment has been suspended.
Palliative care came into its own in the 1990s, and she personally witnessed the comfort and relief it provided to her mother when she was dying of lung cancer.
Today, Ferrell is considered a pioneer in the fields of palliative care and pain management. In 2000, she established the ELNEC (End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium), which so far has trained 21,000 health care professionals, who have then been able to teach more than 600,000 nurses in all 50 states and in 91 countries. She is currently developing that training as a curriculum to teach palliative care in nursing schools throughout the United States.
Ferrell has been lauded many times for her remarkable career. She received the Episteme Laureate Award, considered the “Nobel Prize of Nursing” in 2013, and was named a palliative care “visionary” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
This year alone, there has been a cascade of appreciation for her contributions. She was inducted into the City of Hope Scientific Research Portrait Gallery earlier this year, as well as being the inaugural recipient of the George Washington University Award for Excellence in Inter-professional Spiritual Care. She is the lead author of new guidelines on palliative care published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and was named a “Giant of Science” by the American Cancer Society and its inaugural gala Nov. 3.
And now, she is a 2016 WebMD “Health Hero" award winner. The honor includes a feature in the November/December issues of WebMD Magazine, as well as a $10,000 donation to the charity of the winner’s choosing. Ferrell’s prize money will go to the Kimbilio Hospice in Kenya, whose staff has been mentored and trained by Ferrell and her colleagues here at City of Hope.
A leading source of health information nationally, WebMD created the “Health Hero” awards 10 years ago to recognize individuals who are changing the health care landscape by meeting a health challenge and giving back to others. Other “Health Hero” award recipients this year were entertainers Seth and Lauren Miller Rogan, Boston University scientist Ed Damiano, Ph.D, and teen prodigy Trisha Prabhu.
The WebMD awards gala was held Thursday, Nov. 3, at the TimesCenter in New York City. "Good Morning, America" anchor Robin Roberts presented the award to Ferrell, and later took to social media to convey her genuine appreciation for her work and dedication to patient care.
“I couldn’t hold back my emotions,” Roberts tweeted. “Tremendously grateful to Betty and all nurses for their work & for bringing comfort to patients and their families.”
“It has been an amazing year of awards,” Ferrell says. “As I have said at each award presentation, I am a part of a wonderful team of colleagues and each of these recognizes the amazing work done by all of us in my division at City of Hope, as well as nationally and internationally. The WebMD award was very special for the national recognition provided for nurses and for palliative care as a vital part of health care.”
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