Celebrating Excellence: Three faculty members, dean emeritus, receive esteemed Sigma International Awards

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing is thrilled to announce and recognize the outstanding achievements of three esteemed faculty members and dean emeritus, who have been honored with prestigious Sigma International Awards for Nursing Excellence. These stellar individuals have brought immense recognition to the School of Nursing -and have demonstrated their unwavering commitment and passion to nursing throughout their careers. 

Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean Emeritus and distinguished service professor, has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Leadership, Mary Tolle Wright Founders Award. This award recognizes extraordinary excellence in leadership, impacting nursing through visionary and innovative approaches, and developing nursing leaders and leadership. Dr. Dunbar-Jacob served as dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing for more than 20 years. Under her leadership, the School of Nursing was one of the first schools in the nation to offer the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, excelled in NIH funding and retained top 10 rankings by US News & World Report. Throughout her career, Dr. Dunbar-Jacob has been a sought-after presenter, mentor, advocate, researcher, and educator. Through her leadership and visionary approach to nursing is known internationally and has resulted in multiple collaborations, including Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan selecting the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing to establish the undergraduate nursing curriculum for their newly established medical school. Dr. Dunbar-Jacob is a fellow in five prestigious healthcare organizations and has been honored with multiple awards including the Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research (FNINR) Pathfinder Distinguished Research Award and selection into the inaugural class of Sigma’s International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

Richard Henker, PhD, MSN ’02, CRNA, FAAN, professor, has been awarded the Excellence in Service, Dorothy Garrigus Adams Founders Award. This award recognizes extraordinary excellence in service, celebrating voluntary service projects that address global health disparities, healthcare, the nursing profession, and Sigma.  This prestigious accolade acknowledges Dr. Henker’s exceptional contributions and positive impact on a global health disparity of a targeted population, specifically in Laos and Cambodia. Dr. Henker has active projects that are guiding policy changes with the Ministries of Health in both countries, through which he is working to improve health care in these middle-income countries.

Young Ji Lee, PhD, MS, RN, associate professor of nursing and medicine and vice chair of administration, has been awarded the prestigious Virginia K. Saba Nursing Informatics Leadership Award. This award honors an individual for their innovative and cutting-edge work in nursing informatics which must result in significant development, sustained contributions to advancing nursing informatics, and must achieve a recognizable and momentous public benefit. As a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Nurses Association (ANA), Connected Health/Telehealth Professional Issues Panel, Dr. Lee used her expertise to contribute to the revision of the ANA Core Principals on Telehealth in 2018. The guide is used by healthcare professionals who use connected health technologies. The results made health care more effective and efficient by electronically connecting clinicians to clinicians, patients to clinicians and even patients to other patients and is considered a major breakthrough in the field of informatics.

John O’Donnell, DrPH ‘09, MSN ’91, CRNA, FAAN, professor and chair and director of the Nurse Anesthesia program, has been awarded the esteemed Lucie S. Kelly Mentor Award, which recognizes the influence that role models and mentors in the nursing profession have on the lives and careers of others. This distinguished recognition highlights Dr. O’Donnell’s outstanding mentorship at the School of Nursing. A powerhouse in the field of nurse anesthesia and simulation, Dr. O’Donnell has gained a national and international reputation for excellence making him a sought-after mentor and collaborator. In 1994, he accepted a faculty position teaching within the nurse anesthesia program at the School of Nursing.  Just one year later, he   was appointed the head of the program and advanced the program to one of the best in the nation.  To date, 1057 CRNAs have graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and account for approximately 2% of the nations’ CRNA workforce. 

“Our winners have exemplified the spirit of excellence, innovation, and dedication to mentorship, service, research, and leadership that we strive to cultivate at Pitt Nursing,” said Christine E. Kasper, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACSM, dean and professor. “Their accomplishments not only elevate Pitt Nursing’s reputation, but also inspire and motivate us all to reach new heights in our own pursuits. We are immensely proud of their accomplishments.”

The winners will be honored during Sigma’s 47th Biennial Convention, November 11-15, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas.

Sigma’s International Awards for Nursing Excellence recognize superior achievement in developing nurse leaders anywhere to improve healthcare everywhere by connected and empowered nurse leaders, according to the organization.