Karen Meneses, PhD, RN, FAAN, renowned nurse scientist and beloved Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing died suddenly of natural causes August 1, 2018.
Meneses joined the UAB School of Nursing in 2007 as Professor and Associate Dean. She also held a professorship in the Department of Nutrition Sciences in the UAB School of Health Professions and was a Senior Scientist within the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she was the Co-Leader of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program. She also was a Senior Scientist in the UAB Center for Healthy Aging, UAB Minority Health & Disparities Research Center, UAB Center for Outcomes & Effectiveness Research, UAB Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center, UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care and UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, where she also chaired the mentorship panel.
“Karen’s energy, compassion and commitment to scientific excellence and its translation leaves an indelible global legacy for countless students, patients, families, colleagues and others who knew her, and for future nurse scientists and clinicians,” said UAB School of Nursing Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Her spirit of scholarly inquiry and discovery will live on at the UAB School of Nursing.”
Meneses was internationally recognized as a pioneering expert in breast cancer survivorship and cancer survivorship disparities, with a prolific and sustained history of scientific contributions, methodological innovations, and evidence-driven translational programs that have improved the lives of cancer survivors. She had continuous peer-reviewed funding for more than 25 years supporting her research in survivorship issues among underserved populations from a variety of entities, including the National Institute of Nursing Research, National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and the Oncology Nursing Society.
During her decades of dedicated service to the nursing profession, Meneses served on and/or chaired numerous national and local committees, academic boards and advisory groups, has served in an advisory role to the White House for two U.S. Presidents, including President George W. Bush, who appointed her to the National Cancer Advisory Board, and most recently was appointed to the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women, comprising external experts and stakeholders who advise the CDC in developing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based approaches to advance the understanding and awareness of breast cancer among young women. Most recently, she was appointed to the National Institute of Nursing Research National Advisory Council for Nursing Research, where she directly impacted NINR’s continuing mission to promote and improve the health of the nation’s individuals, families and communities.
At UAB, Meneses was bestowed with the highest honor by the Academic Health Center, being named the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in 2016. This award recognizes the tremendous impact a faculty member has had on the University and the community.
Meneses is survived by her long-time partner M. Patrick McNees, daughter Lauren Hassey, granddaughter Madelyn Hassey, mother Leonina Meneses, brother Tony Meneses, sisters Sonya Meatte, Xenia Naert and Heidi Pollard, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service for Meneses will be held at 4 p.m., Friday August 24, at the UAB School of Nursing, Room 1056, 1701 University Boulevard, with a reception following at the School.
Her funeral is Tuesday, August 7, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, at Davis-Seawinds Funeral Home Chapel, 540 Montreal Avenue, Melbourne, Florida 32935. At 1:30 p.m., family and friends will proceed to Florida Memorial Gardens, 5950 South U.S. Highway 1, Rockledge, Florida 32955, for her burial. There will be a reception following at Florida Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts be made to The UAB School of Nursing c/o The Office of Development and Alumni Relations, 1720 2nd Avenue South, NB 385, Birmingham, AL 35294-1210, or made online at uab.edu/nursing.
Groundbreaking Nurse Scientist
Meneses’ research has created new knowledge about cancer survivorship disparities and quality of life which positively impacts the lives of patients daily.
With support from the National Institute for Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health, her randomized clinical trial of patient-centered quality of life interventions, known as the Breast Cancer Education Intervention, has been recognized as a national model of cancer survivorship education. The BCEI trial developed and tested psychological and support interventions to promote the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor.
Data from this trial provided evidence of the central role of an actively involved patient in his or her own cancer survivorship care planning. The BCEI protocol was adopted for widespread professional and public distribution by the Research Tested Interventions Program at the National Cancer Institute and has been cited in a Cochrane Database Review of Systematic Research of psychosocial interventions to improve quality of life as the single study with nurse-led interventions that resulted in improved quality of life.
It also led to population-based testing and effectiveness evaluation of the interventions adapted for underserved older and rural breast cancer survivors in the Rural Breast Cancer Survivor Intervention. Meneses’ findings in this study demonstrated that telephone-based interventions led to improved quality of life and cancer surveillance among the rural underserved.
Meneses also led SurviveAL, Alabama’s Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network, helping improve the quality of life for young breast cancer survivors and their loved ones by providing resources and support. She started the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network as an initiative of the UAB School of Nursing in 2012 with funding from the Women's Breast Health Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. It was the first of its kind in the state. Through this, Meneses helped dozens of women navigate the challenges that young breast cancer survivors experience, such as teaching them what to expect after treatment, how to talk to their children and teenagers about breast cancer, and how to deal with financial expenses related to cancer treatments. In 2014, the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network became SurviveAL after it joined the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivors Network, a partnership with Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
She has received numerous honors and awards for her scientific work, including the 2013 Ada Sue Hinshaw Award from Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research, one of the highest honors that can be given to a researcher in the field of nursing, for her practical, sustained program of research, and named in honor of the first permanent director of the NINR.
In addition to her own research, Meneses advocated for growing the next generation of scientists. She influenced and mentored generations of successful faculty, clinicians, nurses, and doctoral and postdoctoral students, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in academia and have made substantial contributions to the fields of nursing and health care.
Meneses also was instrumental in bringing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholars funding to the UAB School of Nursing. Leveraging money available for scholarships within the School has, for four consecutive years, made it a part of one of the country’s premier initiatives focused on increasing the number of PhD-prepared nurses and providing its doctoral students funding for their studies in an effort to develop a new generation of nurse leaders to transform America’s health care system.
She also believed in interdisciplinary mentoring. Meneses mentored a graduate student in biology from the UAB College of Arts & Sciences through a Susan G. Komen Graduate Training in Disparities Research Grant, which provides education and training for doctoral students who are seeking careers dedicated to understanding and eliminating disparities in breast cancer outcomes across population groups.
Distinguished Nurse Leader
Meneses was a member of various professional organizations including the Oncology Nursing Society, the American Nurses Association, the Alabama Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau International, and she is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, among many others. She also was selected as one of 12 inaugural Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research (FNINR) Ambassadors, which are leaders in the nursing and health care research community who possess stellar research and leadership skills.
She served on federal grant review panels for more than 20 years, has been a reviewer for dozens of peer-reviewed journals, and has served as the editor, associate editor and/or editorial board member of numerous journals, including ONS Nursing Scan in Oncology, ONS News, Seminars in Oncology Nursing and Nursing Research, and has authored more than 100 publications on topics related to breast cancer, quality of life, survivorship, fertility issues and health disparities research. She is the editor of two oncology textbooks, “Nursing Care in Radiation Oncology” and “Contemporary Issues in Breast Cancer.”
Meneses earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Georgetown University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing from Boston College, and she devoted herself to the nursing profession for more than 40 years, from her first staff nurse position at George Washington University Medical Center, to her academic and clinical appointments at Boston College and the University of Central Florida, to her most recent positions at the UAB School of Nursing and across the University.