By Jimmy Creed
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing Associate Professor Deborah Kirk Walker, DNP, CRNP, NP-C, FNP-BC, AOCN, was one of six health care professionals recently honored by the American Cancer Society (ACS) with the Lane W. Adams Quality of Life Award.
The prestigious national award recognizes individuals who provide excellent care and leadership in serving the complex needs of cancer patients and their families.
The award also embodies the ACS’ concept of the “warm hand of service,” an integral part of its commitment to excellence in cancer care and something specifically emphasized by Adams when he served as ACS executive vice president. Adams’ definition of the warm hand of service was to “serve others and enrich the purpose of one’s existence,” and Walker is pleased she has lived up to that standard.
“Just to be nominated was very satisfying, and I am humbled to be selected,” Walker said. “I was nominated by two patients I work closely with at UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, which makes it even more special. To receive this award for something I enjoy doing so much and to be recognized by my patients as someone that has helped them with the care they need on their cancer journey is definitely an honor.”
In publicizing the award, the ACS noted that “Walker’s class curriculum has a special emphasis on the ‘real world problems’ of access to care and the lack of resources many patients face in their battle with cancer.” It also noted that, as part of the nomination process, a colleague shared, “She is the finest example of medical care and knowledge balanced with compassion and concern I have ever seen.”
Walker believes that, in particular, the ACS considered her work with the Cancer Resources of Alabama app she began developing in 2012 and which was most recently updated in December 2016 to include statewide community resources.
“It is a way to look up different types of resources based on what a patient’s needs are,” Walker said. “They can search by county, by type of service needed or by particular target. For example, if they need to find medical supplies they can search the app and get the information about that resource. It also has a feature for the health care provider to actually email or text the resource to them.”
Walker said she recognized the need for greater access to patient and caregiver resources after her father was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, which took his life in 2008.
“My mother and father lived in rural Florida, and watching them go through many different struggles, including not having the resources they needed, helped me see the tremendous need that patients, their families and caregivers have during a cancer diagnosis,” Walker said. “That is why the app and more of the psychosocial aspects of treating cancer became so important to me.”
Walker, the coordinator of the School’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Nurse Practitioner Oncology Subspecialty track, saluted her fellow recipients, which included the manager of a cancer treatment center, an oncology social worker, a clinical director of radiation oncology, an oncology nurse and a cardiothoracic surgeon.
“They all have such wonderful stories and to be considered among them is truly an honor,” Walker said. “I never thought I would be in oncology, but now I wouldn’t do anything else. It is something I am passionate about, and I want to continue being an advocate for patients with cancer and providing the type of care they need while also helping to prepare the next generation of nurses, nurse researchers and nurse scholars to impact health care in the way I hope I have.”
American Cancer Society honors Walker
One of six health care professionals given Lane W. Adams Quality of Life Award