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National Honor for Penn Nursing Professor

The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) has awarded Martha Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Ruth M. Colket Endowed Chair in Pediatric Nursing and Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), the 2021 Drs. Vidyasagar and Nagamani Dharmapuri Award for Excellence in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. This annual award recognizes an individual for sustained exemplary and pioneering achievement in the care of critically ill and injured infants and children. It was presented virtually during the American College of Critical Care Medicine Convocation/Society of Critical Care Medicine Awards on Friday, February 5, 2021. Curley is the first woman and nurse to receive this award.

“I am excited to receive the award because it acknowledges a lifetime of work that has cleared the path to recognize the contributions that nurses make in the care of critically ill children and their families,” said Curley. “It’s also important from the perspective of situating the patient and the parent in this award, because all of the work that I’ve done over the years has been based on the needs of patients and their families. I’m humbled by the award and honored to receive it, especially as the first woman and nurse to receive it.”

The recipient of this award has distinguished themselves by achieving national and international professional prominence as a result of their personal character, leadership, eminence in clinical practice, and outstanding contributions to research, education, program development, and advocacy for pediatric critical care medicine.

“Dr. Curley’s recognition as this year’s recipient of the Drs. Vidyasagar and Nagamani Dharmapuri Award for Excellence in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine is a testament to her innovation and commitment in the care of critically ill infants and children, said José Bauermeister, PhD, MPH, the Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations and Chair of Penn Nursing’s Department of Family & Community Health. “Penn Nursing is thrilled that Dr. Curley is the first nurse to earn this well-deserved recognition for her work.”

“Martha Curley is a maverick in Pediatric Critical Care. Her drive and motivation to improve the lives of the children we serve through Nursing is unparalleled,” said Lauren Sorce, PhD, RN, CPNP-AC/PC, FCCM, Assistant Professor, Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “As a result of her mentorship, I have met and collaborated with many others in our field, completed a PhD program and now do my own independent research. Her mentorship is generous and has truly altered my career trajectory.”

About Dr. Curley
As a leading clinical researcher in nurse-implemented therapies for acute respiratory failure in critically ill pediatric patients, Dr. Curley’s work has transformed many aspects of pediatric critical care. She has served as the principal investigator on several major clinical trials in pediatric critical care, like, the RESTORE clinical trial funded by National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute, and the Pediatric prone clinical trial funded by National Institute of Nursing Research. She actively mentors clinical scientists across the North American and the globe providing leadership in two large national and international pediatric critical care research groups, the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigator (PALISI) network and the World Federation of Nurse Scientist in Pediatric Critical Care.

Thanks to Curley’s collaborative research, providers worldwide have tools to assess critically ill children. These include the Braden Q scale for predicting pressure ulcers, the State Behavioral Scale for sedation of infants and young children on mechanical ventilators, and the Withdrawal Assessment Tool for opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal. Curley also developed the Individualized Numeric Rating Scale to assess pain levels in children with severe intellectual disabilities who cannot speak.

Currently, Curley is investigating how nurses can create environments conducive to healing in pediatric ICUs. Methods being studied include supporting parents of critically ill children, embedding a child’s normal sleep patterns and circadian rhythms into his/her hospitalized day, and modulating light and noise in the ICU to help children feel comforted. Curley also helped develop the American Association of Critical Care Nursing’s Synergy Model for Patient Care, which bases nursing care on the needs of the patient and family. This model is now integrated into nursing curricula and the association’s credentialing programs, linking evidence-based clinical practice with patient outcomes.

During her career, Curley has received numerous honors including the American College of Critical Care Medicine Distinguished Investigator Award and the Distinguished Research Lecturer Award from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. She has also been inducted in to the American Academy of Nursing and the Sigma Theta Tau’s Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. Curley received her PhD from Boston College in 1997; her Masters in Nursing Science from Yale University in 1987; her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1985; and her Diploma in Nursing from Springfield Hospital Medical Center (MA) in 1973.