Tossing back her signature red hair, associate dean Christine Kennedy chuckles when chatting about her forthcoming inclusion in Sigma Theta Tau International's ‘Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame’ at a ceremony this coming July.
After all, the honor – which lauds Kennedy’s four decades of scholarship, mentoring of nurse faculty and her expansive contributions to the profession – is one of a series of national recognitions the pediatric nurse practitioner’s received during her career, even if its Dublin-based grandeur sets it apart. For Kennedy, known for her straight talk, reliable wit, and her twin loves of pediatrics and horses, there’s something elegiac to the applause.
“I’m honored, I truly am,” she laughs, “but it’s always a bit unsettling when people start talking about your ‘lifetime achievements.’ I’m not going anywhere!”
With the 23 inductees this July, STTI’s Research Hall of Fame will include Kennedy and 155 other nurse researchers and theorists from around the world – representing Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Lebanon, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Kennedy’s own work – which has focused on the influences of children’s developing health habits – has garnered more than $11 million in research funding over a four-decade career and yielded more than 90 publications. Currently, she’s studying the role of health literacy and health disparities among underserved populations.
But her keen cultivation of others has become her signature at UVA, her students and colleagues say.
“She’s been with me for the long haul, as my mentor, advisor, and as a fellow researcher,” says Lisa Letzkus (PhD `16), a pediatric nurse practitioner-acute care at UVA, the School of Nursing’s PNP-AC program co-director, and a former advisee of Kennedy’s. “Personally and professionally, she’s always given me constructive feedback, and explains her perspective referring to the evidence – not just citing her own opinion. She’s a breath of fresh air. For me, it’s been a match made in heaven.”
She’s brought knowledge and experience to UVA,” says colleague and associate dean Susan Kools, “and believes that people learn best by doing. She is a wise and devoted mentor and teacher, facilitating the creation of new knowledge, and unselfishly sharing its ownership.”
Kennedy’s host of honors include her receipt of UVA’s 2015 Mentor of the Year award, a Distinction in Teaching Award from UCSF (1996), a Distinguished Faculty Award from UCSF (2007), and a Health Literacy Research Award from the Institute of Health Care Advancement in 2013. A Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing since 2005, Kennedy was a Wharton Fellow at its School of Business in 2015, and in 2014, Alpha Eta Nursing Honor Society chose her to be part of UCSF’s inaugural Leadership Hall of Fame.
At UVA, Kennedy serves as the Sly Professor of Nursing, a professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, and associate dean for academic programs. Kennedy received her BS from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, her BSN from Catholic University, MSN from Boston College and her PhD from Brown University.