Vanderbilt nursing professor named to International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame

Vanderbilt nurse researcher Mary Jo Gilmer in white coat in lobby of Monroe Carell Children's HospitalVanderbilt School of Nursing Professor Mary Jo Gilmer, PhD, MBA, FAAN, has been selected for induction into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame by Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

The honor recognizes her significant, sustained international achievement and that her research has influenced the nursing profession and the people it serves. Entry into the Hall of Fame is considered one of the highest honors in nursing research.

A leading researcher in palliative care for children with life-threatening conditions, Gilmer serves as the co-director of the Pediatric Palliative Care Research Team at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests include parent-sibling bereavement, parent-child communication and interventions to reduce suffering in children with cancer.

Gilmer’s funded work includes studies of the impact of a child’s death on bereaved families. The long-term goal is to use controlled, longitudinal research on the psychosocial outcomes of families affected by cancer and the loss of a child to develop interventions to reduce the suffering and morbidity of parents and siblings.

Gilmer is currently conducting a pilot study investigating the health benefits of human-animal interactions in reducing suffering of children with advanced cancer undergoing debilitating treatments. This current pioneering project involves advancing knowledge in pediatric oncology and animal-assisted therapy, and has the potential of improving childhood cancer treatment.

The study builds off Gilmer’s previous research, which showed the benefit of human-animal interactions on children newly diagnosed with cancer and their parents. That study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, showed that regular visits from a therapy dog contributed to positive psychosocial benefits to families of children during the initial stages of pediatric cancer treatment.

Gilmer will be one of 19 nurse researchers inducted by Sigma this year. The 2020 inductee class includes researchers from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.