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December 20, 2011

In Memoriam

Gail Ingersoll
Gail Ingersoll, a leader in nursing research

By Christine Roth

Gail Ingersoll, director of Clinical Nursing Research at Strong Memorial Hospital and the Loretta C. Ford Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, died Dec. 5 after a battle with cancer. She was 62.

Ingersoll is remembered as a pioneer in the field of nursing research, a prolific grant writer, and a catalyst for improving the provision of high-quality, family-centered care. Her passionate focus on clinical nursing research sprung from her own early experiences as a direct care nurse in the 1970s, and her many pathbreaking projects over the last three decades led to tangible improvements in patient care delivery and the work environment for nurses—both within the Medical Center and across the country.

Within the Medical Center, Ingersoll implemented and directed a research internship program, and the numerous projects under her direction improved care delivery processes in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, Operating Room, Wilmot Cancer Center, and each of the specialty services in inpatient and outpatient settings. Other studies under her leadership looked at ways to reduce falls in hospitalized patients and reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

On a larger scale, a 2003 study facilitated by Ingersoll paved the way for the development of a nonverbal method to assess pain in patients unable to respond due to intubation. The method is now used in more than 100 hospitals around the world. Another of her projects led to revisions in the national standards of care for managing patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.
“Gail’s gift was in helping clinical nursing staff determine which procedures work best, and what we could do to improve the care we give to patients,” says Patricia Witzel, associate vice president for the Medical Center and chief nursing officer for Strong Memorial Hospital. “She was also deeply committed to improving the working environment for nurses, which in turn, strengthens patient care. She involved so many of our nurses in evidence-based research that not only led to better care for patients, but enriched the lives of nurses.”

From 2004 to 2009, Ingersoll directed a project funded by a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate and restructure the Medical Center’s adult critical care units. Her published work on the project has been widely recognized and utilized by hospitals across the country.

Beyond her own accomplishments, Ingersoll was always eager to share her knowledge with others, and is remembered as an approachable instructor who provided daily support and advice to faculty and students about how to obtain grant funding and all aspects of the research process.

“Gail was a wonderful mentor, teacher, and researcher who gave her whole heart to the nursing profession,” says School of Nursing Interim Dean Kathy Rideout.  “She has mentored literally thousands of faculty and students and was beloved here as a friend and a source of inspiration, ideas, and encouragement to so many people. Anyone who had the privilege of working alongside Gail was better as a result.”


T. Franklin Williams
T. Franklin Williams, pioneer of geriatric medicine

By Michael Wentzel

T. Franklin Williams, a founding father of the field of geriatric medicine in the United States and a mentor and model for dozens of geriatricians, died at his home in Rochester Friday, Nov. 25, the day before what would have been his 90th birthday. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Williams, professor emeritus of medicine at the Medical Center, was the second director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health, serving from 1983 to 1991. Through a research and teaching career of 40 years in Rochester and his administrative leadership, Williams changed the way the aging are cared for and perceived.

“Frank Williams was an outstanding geriatrician, researcher, and administrator who was inspired by the possibilities of advanced age,” says NIA Director Richard Hodes. “He wanted to know how it was possible to achieve and maintain high-functioning, good health and a sharp mind well into late life. He achieved this ideal for himself and worked hard to achieve it for many others. He will be greatly missed.”

As NIA director, Williams established several programs that continue today, including an increased research effort on Alzheimer’s disease, the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study, promotion of specialized training for geriatric researchers, and collaboration with international organizations to study aging around the world.

Williams served as director of Monroe Community Hospital in Rochester from 1968 to 1983 and as a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. In those positions, he mentored physicians, directed research, and educated the community on a more humane view of people as they aged.

“American medicine has lost a giant, and modern geriatric medicine has lost its founder,” says John Burton, director of the Johns Hopkins Geriatric Education Center in Baltimore and a professor of medicine. “Frank was known and loved by all. He led by example and was widely admired for his constant quest for new knowledge, his humility, and integrity. His rich legacy in geriatrics will be long lasting through those many he mentored and those he touched in a clinical teaching session or research review.”

In an essay he wrote in 1981, Williams described the goals of his work in geriatrics: “It is to rid ourselves, our society, and even our language, of the numerous negative terms, stereotypes, and myths concerning aging . . . The children, friends, and health-care providers of older people need to give their symptoms the same respect and attention as those of younger people.”

Williams said the potential for a new approach in geriatrics and gerontology “is not only to add years to our life but also to add life to our years. It is hard to think of a more promising or profitable investment.”

Robert McCann, chief of medicine at Highland Hospital and acting chief of the geriatrics division at the Medical Center, says Williams was “always ahead of his time. He created one of the first geriatric assessment clinics in the country. He was a champion of interdisciplinary care long before it became today’s popular term. He always cared about people. He was always interested in what people were thinking and how he could help them become better providers of medicine.”


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