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Since the Cameos of Caring® Program & Awards Gala was created in 1999, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing has honored 753 nursing professionals. 

2013 Cameos Of Caring® Honorees

Several of the 2013 award recipients are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.  A few of these honorees are listed below:


Amber Bugajski

Amber Bugajski, RN, BSN


Amber Bugajski is a professional staff nurse in the ICU at UPMC East, and she loves sitting with patients and talking about “the old days.” For her, caring for older people is an opportunity to share in their vast knowledge, experience, and wisdom. In fact, she was drawn to nursing because she loves to be around people and get to know them.

To Bugajski, nursing provides satisfaction not only because she is able to care for patients and their families but also because working with nurse and physician colleagues is a source of pride. Teamwork is essential in the ICU, and being part of the team is as important as providing patient care. Beyond treating patients’ ailments, she likes knowing that she makes a difference by assuaging their fears.

As a member and chair of UPMC East’s ICU Professional Practice Council and co-chair of the UPMC System Professional Council, Bugajski views nursing not as a trade but as a profession based on research and knowledge. In her work, she incorporates best practices and follows standards of care that are supported by the literature and research. Her goal is to promote professionalism at the bedside.

While keeping this big picture in mind, Bugajski acknowledges that little things can heal the mind, body, and spirit. When one ICU patient no longer responded to her jokes, she realized he was in trouble. She sought special authorization to take him to the hospital’s Healing Garden, where he had the chance to soak in the spring sunshine.

Judith Ann Tinelli

Judith Ann Tinelli, BSN, MSN, RN, ONC, CNL, CRRN

UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

For Judith Tinelli, rehabilitation nursing is not about the individual but about the team. She works closely with patients and family caregivers to establish trust and find what makes them smile as she guides them through many difficult decisions. Her patients have been affected by an unexpected event, surgery, or condition, and she helps them face a new future. Discussions about nursing home care, assisted living, or home modifications can be emotional. Finding the right approach can make all the difference in the patient’s experience.

A rehabilitation nurse clinician, Tinelli is based at UPMC St. Margaret. In 2011, she was appointed chair of the Nursing Quality Council, and in 2007 she was the first staff nurse representative on the Nurse Leadership Council. No stranger to trailblazing, Tinelli was also one of the first five pioneers in the Clinical Nurse Leader Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She believes nurses should participate in continuing education, and she is a stellar example, having earned not only two degrees but also three certifications. In addition to her clinical nurse leader certification, she is a certified rehabilitation registered nurse and an orthopaedic certified nurse.

Tinelli sees a vital role for nurses in shaping the future of the field. Being involved in the local and national community of nurses is important to her, and she is an active member and secretary of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.

Lori Clark

Lori Clark, MSN, RN-BC

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Highland Drive Campus

Lori Clark began her career at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in August of 2006 as a staff nurse on an inpatient Medical/Surgical/Telemetry Unit.  Clark, who earned her BSN at the University of Pittsburgh and her MSN at Chatham University, is currently a Behavior Health Lab Nurse Care Manager at the system’s Highland Campus.  Clark has helped to change clinical practice in primary care by interacting directly with patients, facilitating ongoing evaluation and maintaining active communication that enables responsibility for mental health treatment to remain in Primary Care. 

According to Clark, “I love that this is a career where you are constantly learning and growing. There are numerous opportunities to excel if you choose to take advantage of them.” For example, Clark created a formal and standardized monitoring program to improve detection of mental health issues and to prompt more intensive monitoring of patients on a specific drug regimen. One of her coworkers states, “As the Chair of the Communication Sub Council, Clark works to improve patient safety and the quality of care delivered by the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System through the Medical Center’s compliance with the National Patient Safety Goals.” This particularly applies to patient hand-offs to different units or facilities.

A Veteran, who needed to be seen by a specialty mental health provider, was referred to Clark because he was suffering from agoraphobia and claustrophobia and wouldn’t pursue treatment for those issues. It was a wonderful feeling when he told Clark he trusted her and agreed to treatment.


Advanced Practice Honoree

Donald Bucher

Donald Bucher, DNP, RN, ACNP-BC, CCRN

UPMC Hamot

Donald Bucher, an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner with UPMC Hamot Critical Care, provides care for critically ill and injured ICU patients. He performs advanced procedures, actively participates in daily multidisciplinary rounds, meets with families, and educates patients and families about disease processes. Patient satisfaction and safety are his greatest concerns. Furthermore, he supervises the advanced practice providers in UPMC Hamot’s hospitalist, critical care, and palliative care groups.  

A lifelong learner, Bucher has two graduate degrees. He completed his Master’s degree in nursing at the University of Pittsburgh and subsequently a doctorate of nursing practice from Chatham University. The doctorate curriculum taught him how to implement evidence-based practice changes. He says, “In order for nursing to continue to evolve, it is important to understand that patient care can be positively impacted by translating research into practice.”

Just as he never stops learning, Bucher never stops teaching. For example, he can effectively explain, in slow and simple terms, a complicated procedure in a way that comforts any patient. Beyond bedside teaching, he is known for sharing his expertise with peers. In fact, the Surgical ICU nursing staff voted him “best teacher,” “best collaborator,” “most approachable,” and “most helpful.” In addition, he is a mentor to new nurse practitioners, an exam proctor, and an Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing. He shares the same message with all: becoming a nurse was the best decision he ever made.

Bucher has many other accomplishments. He has given numerous lectures and workshops, has co-authored peer-reviewed articles, is president-elect of the North West Chapter of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, and is active in many other professional organizations.

Nurse Educator Honoree

leah Vota Cunningham

Leah Vota Cunningham, MNEd, MEd, BSN, RN

Duquesne University

For more than a quarter century, Leah Vota Cunningham has shown an exemplary commitment to nursing education. Today, she serves as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean in the School of Nursing at Duquesne University.

Her students emerge at semester's end well prepared for nursing's challenges, and as assistant dean for student services she has played a critical role in creating rigorous and transformational undergraduate and graduate student experiences. The Freshman Seminar she created ensures that students achieve early successes, and she is unfailingly generous with assistance and mentoring so students excel throughout their academic careers. The bonds she forms with her students endure long after graduation.

Cunningham's dedication to community service inspires her colleagues as well as students. For more than 20 years, with other nursing faculty, she has been working with a leading Nicaraguan nursing school on projects that have had an enduring impact on health care in that nation. Among other undertakings, she helped to envision and implement a fundamental curriculum redesign and to develop a program that delivers basic health care services—including an education and screening program for cervical and breast cancer—to at-risk women in a Managua barrio.

Cunningham has supervised students on trips to Nicaragua and the relationships she formed there have made it possible for the students to gain field experiences that inspire them to become better nurses. On campus, as her colleagues on the nursing faculty can attest, her professionalism shows daily what it takes to prepare new nurses for the challenges that lie ahead.       

Cameos of Caring® Past Award Recipients

2012 | 2011| 2010 | 2009 | 2008| 2007| 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999