David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Photograph of Pamela Mitchell

Pamela Mitchell

Behavioral Nursing and Health Systems

Nominated by Margaret Heitkemper, Professor & Chair, Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems

Awarded 2014

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” —John Quincy Adams

Re: Nomination of Dr. Pamela Mitchell for the David B. Thorud Leadership Award

Dear Selection Committee:

Dr. Pamela H. Mitchell is a leader.

Some people demonstrate leadership as scholars, some as administrators, some as professionals, and some as educators. The Thorud Award recognizes the rare individual whose leadership is exceptional in its quality and by virtue of extending across all these realms, as it does in the case of the School of Nursing’s Dr. Pamela H. Mitchell.

For more than four decades, Dr. Mitchell has led with distinction, compassion, and a unique ability to help others “dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.” Her leadership success is measurable by the success of those she has inspired locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

As a scholar, Dr. Mitchell has had enormous impact through her leadership of a succession of multidisciplinary teams that explored one of the most complex and challenging areas of research—the behavioral consequences of traumatic brain injury and stroke. These are not strictly theoretical questions. They are questions that have profound practical implications. The answers she and her teams uncovered have significantly changed the treatment of people with traumatic brain injuries and stroke. This would be a notable achievement in a field with a long history of research; it is a leadership achievement because it was a pioneering effort at a time when nurse-led clinical research was not widely recognized or funded. Dr. Mitchell’s vision and perseverance advanced the case for nursing research and yielded results that changed medical practice.

This work evolved from her earlier efforts as local leader of a multi-site, national clinical trial of non-pharmacologic treatment of depression following heart attack, the national ENRICHD trial. This research was a template for her later efforts in the way it employed multidisciplinary research teams comprised of cardiologists, behavioral scientists, nurse scientists, cardiovascular research nurses and biostatisticians. This study demonstrated significant reductions in depression and improvement in quality of life from depression treatment compared to usual care.

Dr. Mitchell has led nationally and internationally in a number of ways. Her textbook, Concepts Basic to Nursing, literally defined nursing care for generations of nursing students. Her Quality Health Outcomes Model has been adopted by health services researchers throughout the world. The model is widely used to investigate quality of care in order to improve healthcare and patient outcomes. Once again, she led by developing this model well before the current emphasis in healthcare on quality measurement and outcomes research. It was Dr. Mitchell’s research that put many of these core concepts on the mental map of policy makers and researchers.

As an administrator, Dr. Mitchell has led not only local, national, and international research teams, but also the School of Nursing itself, which she until recently served as the interim dean. Her calm, measured demeanor, quiet confidence, and unique ability to make every participant in a conversation feel equally and fully heard provided much-needed leadership during a period of fiscal and administrative challenge for the school. “You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership,” said the late Nelson Mandela. Pam Mitchell’s leadership is respected and appreciated throughout the School of Nursing. She has the ability to consider dichotomous points of view and meld them into a decision that is effective, correct, and that makes both sides feel respected, understood, and valued.

In addition to her interim deanship of the SON, Dr. Mitchell has held positions as Associate Dean for Research, UW School of Nursing; Founding Director, UW Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education and Research (originally funded through the UIF initiative); and Co- Director, Research Education Core, UW Institute of Translational Health Sciences. Her work with pioneering work in interprofessional education was foundational to the current health sciences wide priority for interprofessional training so critical for clinicians for the present and future.

Professionally, Pamela Mitchell is widely acknowledged for her leadership, creativity, knowledge and accomplishments. Last year, she received the Katharine A. Lembright Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing. Dr. Mitchell is the first nurse scientist working with stroke survivors to receive this award, which represents the most distinguished award from this society. It is just one of many honors and accolades she has received for her professional contributions. She is a Fellow of both the American Heart Association and the American Association of Nursing and a past president of the latter. The widespread visibility and quality of her research has resulted in her being named to numerous national committees, serving as a reviewer for many of the profession’s leading journals, and serving on multiple public service and nonprofit boards. To each of these tasks she has brought her strong commitment to excellence, her easy, outgoing manner, and her special abilities as a mediator. These are important leadership qualities that Dr. Mitchell has unfailingly demonstrated in all her endeavors.

For all of her renown, Dr. Mitchell has never lost sight of her role as a nurse educator, or of the importance of that role to the university fulfilling its obligation to educate. It is here where her leadership has had perhaps its greatest influence. She has advised, mentored, and inspired many of the people who are today’s UW nursing faculty and many others who are the professions contemporary leadership in policymaking and research.

Dr. Mitchell received the Distinguished Teaching Award from University of Washington SON in 1982, and she continues to maintain an active teaching role at the SON. She has chaired more than 35 master and doctoral students’ theses/dissertations, and has served as informal mentor, advisor, and supporter to many times that number. She is a frequent visiting scholar/invited speaker for schools of nursing around the world, including those in Brazil, Taiwan, Korea, and Belgium. Dr. Mitchell has fostered a culture of mentorship within the neuroscience nursing community and in her previous role as director of the University of Washington’s Biobehavioral Training Grant. This resulted in the University of Washington attracting pre- and postdoctoral scholars from across the world to train with her. As such, her impact has been and will continue to be far reaching as our students return to diverse areas of the world to begin research careers in nursing science.

The criteria for final candidates for the David B. Thorud Award are that they

  • demonstrate quality work that sets an example while including others,
  • value and respect the well-being of people in achieving large-scale goals, and
  • exhibit an openness to new ideas and partnerships.

These criteria define and epitomize the career contributions of Dr. Pamela H. Mitchell and I take pride in submitting her name for the committee’s consideration. She has met not only your criteria, but also those of John Quincy Adams. She has inspired others to, “dream more, learn more, do more and become more,” and her leadership accomplishments deserve to be honored.

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