MD Anderson nurse receives oncology award

Tonya Edwards, a clinical nurse in Palliative Care at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 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 nursing 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 cash prize of $15,000 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. The selection committee, coworkers and friends surprised her with the news and a bouquet of flowers.

“I am completely overjoyed at this honor, which is totally unexpected,” said 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 continue to seek higher knowledge. It enables me 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. 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 regarding opioid safety and educated the 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.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to be a nurse at MD Anderson and to help our patients feel better and lower their stress,” she said.

At the presentation ceremony, DePinho congratulated Edwards and thanked her for the dedication and commitment she brings to nursing every day.

“I know you will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of your patients and their loved ones, as well as our colleagues at MD Anderson,” said DePinho. “Your exceptional nursing skills help us strive to accomplish our goal of ending pain and suffering caused by this devastating disease.”