Tonya Edwards, a clinical nurse in Palliative Care at MD Anderson, is the recipient of the 2016 Brown Foundation Award for Excellence in Oncology Nursing. The award, founded by The Brown Foundation Inc. in 1982, is the institution's highest honor among the approximately 3,000 nurses at MD Anderson.
A selection committee of MD Anderson clinical faculty, patient care administrators and nursing staff reviewed peer and patient nominations before narrowing the selection to three finalists.
Edwards received a $15,000 prize from The Brown Foundation, represented by Nancy Abendshein, chairman of the board, as well as a crystal plaque and a commemorative pin at a ceremony led by Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson.
"I'm completely overjoyed with this honor, which is totally unexpected," says Edwards, who as a young girl lost both grandmothers to cancer and became interested in supporting cancer patients and making their lives better. "Nursing at MD Anderson allows me the opportunity to broaden my scope of practice, striving for excellence with institutional support behind me."
Edwards has been a nurse for more than 21 years and has spent almost half that time at MD Anderson. Prior to joining the institution, she earned a master's in gerontology and an associate degree of nursing. Since then, she has completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She currently is pursuing her family nurse practitioner license at The University of Texas at Arlington.
While at MD Anderson, Edwards has made a significant impact on the Palliative Care unit. She single-handedly implemented a core-team approach to opioid safety and educated staff on patient safety while preventing opioid misuse and abuse. Her work has led to recognition worldwide throughout the palliative care community for taking a new approach to pain control and drug abuse.
Edwards says she feels the true meaning of being a nurse at MD Anderson is her core.
"It's a pleasure and an honor to be a nurse at MD Anderson and to help our patients feel better and lower their stress," she says.
At the awards ceremony, DePinho acknowledged Edwards' ability to "inspire and enrich" the lives of patients and their loves ones and noted her exceptional nursing skills, which "help us strive to accomplish our goal of ending pain and suffering caused by this devastating disease."
2016 Brown Foundation Award for Excellence in Oncology Nursing
Tonya Edwards is all smiles after learning at a surprise announcement in clinic that she is the latest recipient of the Brown Foundation Award.
Finalist Kelly Glass Creel, clinical nurse, Urology
Finalist Joseph Brown, nurse, Operating Room