Yale School of Nursing, Yale University's Graduate Nursing Programs

Ruth McCorkle Receives Psycho-oncology's Highest Recognition

April 1, 2011

Ruth McCorkle and Jimmie Holland.YSN Professor Ruth McCorkle received the Holland Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS), the highest award given in the field of psycho-oncology.

McCorkle is the YSN Florence S. Wald Professor of Nursing and Professor of Epidemiology, former Director of the Center for Excellence in Chronic Illness Care, and is currently the Director of the Psycho-oncology program at the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital.
 
McCorkle focuses on the patient's experience with cancer at critical points in the illness—from the point of diagnosis, to treatment, to survivorship, and to the end of life. Her research demonstrated the positive effect of advanced practice nursing interventions on quality of life outcomes among cancer patients. In a study on ovarian cancer patients, she was the first to show that interventions by advanced practice nurses improve survival outcomes.
 
The award for outstanding contributions to the field is named in honor of Jimmie Holland, who as a psychiatrist has devoted her career to helping patients and families cope with the psychological burden of cancer and its treatment. McCorkle first met Holland at a conference in 1975.

In her acceptance speech at the APOS 8th annual meeting, McCorkle paid tribute to the woman who brought her into the field—Jimmie Holland. "She has remained our biggest champion of the importance of all disciplines working together to provide mental health services for cancer patients," Dr. McCorkle noted. "Her belief in each of us and the differences we are making in our singular interactions with students and patients and their families on a daily basis adds up."

"I knew there were many factors affecting people's lives," McCorkle recalled, "but to witness participants at a conference confirm the role the emotional impact of cancer has on people's lives and the differences we can make by acknowledging it exists, that it is a common reaction, and that there are things that can be done to lessen its impact, were life-changing experiences for me."
 
Along with Holland, McCorkle is a founding member of APOS. McCorkle has won numerous awards recognizing her outstanding contributions to nursing science, cancer leadership, and psycho-oncology. She has been elected both to the American Academy of Nursing and the Institute of Medicine. She has received the Nurse Scientist of the Year Award by the American Nurses Association, the Distinguished Research Award from the Oncology Nursing Society, and the Bernard Fox Memorial Award from the International Psycho-Oncology Society.

McCorkle began working in cancer care after serving in the Vietnam War as an Air Force nurse. Prior to the war, she earned a bachelor's in nursing from the University of Maryland. After the war, she earned a master's in nursing and a doctorate in mass communications from the University of Iowa. In addition to serving on the faculty of Yale School of Nursing, she has taught at the University of Washington and at the University of Pennsylvania.
 
The citation read at the ceremony honoring McCorkle as the 2011 recipient of the Holland Distinguished Leadership Award noted that she was the first non-medical training grant award winner from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). She is thus credited with opening the door for other non-medical researchers to secure funding for training from the NCI.