Esther R. Smith-Howell, PhD, RN, is the Dean’s Distinguished Post-Doctoral Fellow at Penn Nursing, and more recently was selected as a National Clinician Scholar at Penn. 

She completed her PhD in Nursing Science at Indiana University in Indianapolis, IN. Originally from Winter Haven, FL, she earned her first undergraduate degree with a Bachelor’s in Health Sciences from the University of Florida, and earned her second undergraduate degree with a Bachelor’s in the Science of Nursing from Indiana University. In 2011, Esther was awarded a NIH F31 National Research Service Award to support her predoctoral training and research activity focused on improving end-of-life decision-making and communication among African Americans with serious illness and their families.

In 2012, Esther was one of only five PhD students in the U.S. to be competitively selected as a Johnson & Johnson-American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Minority Nurse Faculty Scholar. Ms. Smith-Howell used this prestigious award and recognition to further her mission to increase diversity in schools of nursing in the Indianapolis area and nationally. Esther has been a national speaker on diversity in academia, including an invited speaker at the National Invitational Forum for Diversity Conference hosted at Penn. In addition to being a champion for diversity, Esther has been a national student-leader and peer-mentor. Specifically, she gave a national presentation for AACN’s Graduate Nursing Student Academy. Esther also belongs to several professional organizations, including Sigma Theta Tau, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, and American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Research Interests: Eliminating end-of-life care disparities among African American patients and their families by improving patient-family member-provider communication and decision-making.