Tuesday October 22nd 2019

Celebrating Virginia Kelley, CRNA: 20 years and counting

“She was filled with the very essence of life. She was a celebration on the way to heaven,” said Rev. John Miles, at the funeral for Virginia Clinton Kelley, CRNA, who died of cancer on Jan 6, 1993.  More than 20 years after her death, Kelley’s legacy lives on for future generations of nurses in the Virginia Kelley Endowed Research Fund through the American Nurses Foundation.

A nurse anesthetist for 35 years, Kelley’s lively spirit and tenacity inspired her friends and patients, and is credited with instilling deep resiliency in the 42nd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.  In 1994, the American Nurses Association (ANA) Board of Directors chose to endow a research fund focused on women’s health in Kelley’s name. Today the endowment is supported by former President Clinton and Secretary Clinton through their family foundation.

Virginia Trotter Betts presents President Clinton with a plaque to honor Virginia Kelley.

Virginia Trotter Betts, JD, MSN, RN, FAAN, ANA president when the Kelley fund was created, said the fund was inspired by ANA’s close relationship with the Clinton-Gore health care reform efforts.  “We worked closely with the Clinton health care task force to get the principles of nursing’s agenda incorporated into the new health plan,” Betts said.

The first Virginia Kelley award was given to Judith T. Matthews, PhD, MPH, RN, whose study at the University of Pittsburgh focused on breast cancer screening in family caregivers.  Since 1994, nurses from across the country have used funding to advance the nursing profession.  The most recent recipient, Kerry Rae Creasy, MSN, PMHNP-BC,  at the University of Florida is conducting research on the “Exploration of Nurses’ Interactions with Stroke Patients and Their Family Caregivers.” The 2013 Virginia Kelley Endowed Research Award will be made in September by the Foundation’s Nursing Research Grant Committee.

The decision to focus the fund on women’s health pays tribute to Kelley and the Clinton administration’s connection to ANA. President Clinton appointed Betts to be a member of the delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to serve on various United Nations and World Health Organization task groups focused on women’s health worldwide.

To establish an endowment to an individual or organization, contact the Foundation at www.givetonursing.org.

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