Skip to main content

Living Legend Designation for Penn Nursing Professor

The American Academy of Nursing has named Martha A.Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and the Ruth M. Colket Endowed Chair in Pediatric Nursing Science at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a Living Legend. This honor is bestowed upon a person who has made significant contributions to nursing and health care over the course of their career. The official designation will be made at the Academy’s 2023 Health Policy Conference: Celebrating 50 Years of Leadership, Policy, and Partnerships, to be held October 5-7, 2023. This is the Academy’s highest honor.

“Dr. Curley’s groundbreaking contributions to the advancement of pediatric critical care have substantially transformed care delivery for critically ill children and their families around the world,” said Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel. “She is a tenacious leader and demonstrates every day the critical role of nurses in championing change and mentoring the next generation of clinicians, educators, researchers, and leaders to improve care for this vulnerable population. Penn Nursing is incredibly proud of her extraordinary impact. She is very well-deserving of recognition as a Living Legend.”

Dr. Curley is a pioneering leader in nursing practice transformation and a relentless force in advancing pediatric critical care throughout her distinguished career. Her substantial accomplishments as an international leader in pediatric critical care research have transformed the delivery of care for critically ill children and forever changed and elevated the scope of pediatric nursing and nursing science on a global scale. Curley has led numerous international multisite clinical trials funded by multiple branches of the National Institutes of Health, and her findings have established first-ever pediatric-validated instruments for assessing patient status and health risk, provided evidence to support nurse-led interventions that meet essential child and family needs in the pediatric intensive care unit, and undergirded standards of care and practice guidelines for critically ill pediatric patients and their families. She is nationally and internationally recognized for instituting standards for the design and execution of clinical trials and for her prolific and seminal publications.

As the first pediatric nurse selected to Chair the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Board, Curley’s leadership was instrumental in delivering the innovative Synergy Model, which aligned nurse competencies with patient needs. Synergy’s focus on the nurse-patient-family relationship and whole person health demonstrated, as never before, nursing’s significant role in achieving optimal patient outcomes to leaders across the healthcare landscape. Curley’s landmark 2007 book, Synergy: The Unique Relationship Between Nurses and Patients, powerfully illustrated that Synergy’s tenets could be applied universally. Today, Synergy not only informs nursing standards for critical care certification programs, professional practice and advancement, and education curricula, it’s also being used to transform staffing models and serves as the foundation for more sustainable and adaptable care models. Her pioneering work, combined with her passion for precision-based personalized interventions, calls attention to the importance of clinical nursing practice at the top of scope and expertise.

Curley is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, a founding member of the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigator Network, and a recipient of major awards from the Society of Critical Care Medicine for her extensive involvement in the practice and science of critical care. She earned a diploma in nursing from Springfield Hospital Medical Center (MA), a BS from the University of Massachusetts, an MSN from Yale University, and a PhD from Boston College.

Curley is among a rare group of nurse leaders who have significantly contributed to multiple domains, and her groundbreaking work has strengthened nursing science, elevated the role of the nurse in healthcare, and united clinical and academic health professionals across disciplines, organizations, and national borders. Her influence on the next generation of clinical scientists is profound as she is recognized worldwide for her unique and progressive record of interprofessional mentorship and steadfast support of junior faculty and new investigators.