Congratulations to this year’s ABA Award Recipients!

ABA Lifetime Achievement Award

Palmer Q. Bessey, MD, FACS, MS
Weill Cornell Medicine/New York Presbyterian Hospital
New York, NY

Dr. Palmer Q. Bessey, MD, FACS, MS is the Aronson Family Foundation Professor of Burn Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, where he has also served as Associate Director of the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center.

He was born and raised in a New Jersey suburb within view of New York City and graduated from public high school.  He attended Williams College in Northwestern Massachusetts and graduated in 1967.  Although he formally majored in chemistry, he spent most of his time in the theatre.  After obtaining a Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry from the University of Oregon, sandwiched between two years as a laboratory technician in Boston, he began medical school at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, where he graduated in 1975.

He completed surgical residency and a special fellowship in surgical critical care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as well as a research fellowship in surgical metabolism at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.  Later in New York, in a senior moment, he completed Master’s studies in Epidemiology at Columbia University.  He began his academic career at UAB.  He has also held faculty positions at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rochester. He moved to Cornell in 2000.

Although his focus initially was on Trauma and Critical Care, he always participated in the care of burn patients.  He saw his first serious burn case in medical school: a 50 year old with a 50% burn.  Hopeless at that time.  At UAB he had the good fortune to work with Alan Dimick and later in St. Louis with William Monafo, both pioneers in contemporary burn care and early Presidents of the ABA.

Dr. Bessey was part of the team at Cornell that helped care for the major burn survivors of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.  He has dedicated his career to improving the care of people with serious injuries from trauma and burns, striving for both survival and quality of life. He has served as a State Chair and Region Chief on the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons and as a Director of the American Board of Surgery.  He has been a member of the ABA since 1979.  He has served on several committees, especially those related to the ABA burn registry: NBR, BQIP, and now QBRC.  He was elected ABA Secretary in 2008 and was President in 2013-2014.

He continues his academic activities at Cornell, hoping that neither achievement nor lifetime will end too soon.

Curtis P. Artz Distinguished Service Award

Heather Shankowsky, RN, CCRP
University of Alberta Hospital
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Heather Shankowsky grew up in rural Saskatchewan before graduating in 1978 as a Registered Nurse from the Royal Alexandra Hospital School of Nursing in Edmonton AB. She was an Operating Room nurse at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. She started her research career as a Research Assistant at the Cross Cancer Institute, before joining the Firefighters’ Burn Treatment Unit at the University of Alberta Hospital in 1986 where she worked until her retirement in 2013.

In her role as Research Nurse, Heather worked with the burn unit and the Division of Plastic Surgery to implement all aspects of research and clinical trials which focused on prevention of nosocomial infections and the treatment of hypertrophic scarring. She assisted with the introduction of new equipment (VAC™ dressing, MEEK Micrograft™) and new therapies (Acticoat™, Integra™) within the hospital. As a member of the Wound Healing Research group, she coordinated the initial animal and then human trials of Acticoat™, one of the first silver coated dressings in burn care.

During her career, Heather served as a coordinator and member of organizing committees for programs within the American Burn Association (ABA), the International Society of Burn Injuries (ISBI), and locally at the University of Alberta Hospital. She was an active member of the ABA from 1990 to 2013, serving on numerous committees over the years, including the Program Committee, Membership At-Large Committee (MAC), Research Committee, and the Burn Prevention Committee. Heather also spent over 20 years assisting Dr. Edward Tredget with the organizing and planning of the Canadian Special Interest Group meeting held annually at the ABA.

Heather and Len have two married children and three grandchildren. Currently, Heather and her husband are enjoying golf, traveling and retirement with friends and family in Edmonton and Phoenix.

Heather has chosen to donate her award to the Canadian Special Interest Group.

ABA Special Achievement Award

Gretchen Carrougher, MN, RN
UW Medicine Regional Burn Center at Harborview
Seattle, WA

Gretchen J. Carrougher MN, RN, is the Research Nurse Supervisor at the University of Washington (UW) Medicine Regional Burn Center/Northwest Regional Burn Model System and Affiliate Faculty, UW School of Nursing, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems in Seattle, Washington.

Ms. Carrougher graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (1981) and a Master of Nursing degree (1987) in Burn, Trauma and Emergency Nursing. She has held positions as clinical staff nurse, clinical nurse specialist, and research nurse during her 29-year burn nursing career. Ms. Carrougher has worked at three distinguished burn centers in the US: Washington Hospital Center, Washington DC; the US Army Institute of Surgical Research, San Antonio; and the UW Medicine Regional Burn Center, Seattle. Ms. Carrougher is national faculty for the Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS) course and has been a member of the American Burn Association (ABA) since 1982. She has authored/co-authored over 90 chapters and manuscripts concerning basic nursing care, long-term outcomes, pain and pruritus management, and employment for individuals impacted by burn injury. Gretchen is also a longstanding international nurse educator, focusing primarily in Central America where she has consistently taught (and been welcomed by many friends and colleagues) over the past 12 years. Gretchen has served on many professional committees but sees her current position as chair of the ABA Nursing Professional Certification Committee as her greatest challenge to date, but one that will likely realize the most significant professional impact and greatest personal rewards.

The energy, excitement and support from burn nurses around the world in the ABA’s current efforts to seek specialty recognition and ultimately, certification — has been unprecedented and much appreciated. In addition to her professional work and her valued burn team colleagues, Gretchen has a wonderful family – to include a new grandson.

Barbara Knothe Burn Therapist Achievement Award

In Memory of Elizabeth Rivers, MA, OTR, RN
St. Paul, MN

Liz Rivers was a seminal burn clinician for more than 25 years and an ABA member for the 20 years. Her life-long desire to learn and serve others was manifested in her professions as a nurse and an occupational therapist. After graduating from Saint Mary’s School of Nursing (Rochester, MN) in 1959, she began her career at the University of Minnesota Hospital and later worked at Shriners Hospital. In 1972, she completed her BA in Occupational Therapy at St. Catherine’s University (St. Paul, MN). Liz began working at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center (currently Regions Hospital) and became the Burn Rehabilitation Specialist for the burn program.

In the early 1970s, she visited the Shiners Burn Center in Galveston, TX, where she had the opportunity to work with the center’s experienced OT, Barbara Willis. Willis used the Shrine technique of burn therapy, an opaque thermoplastic face mask that patients wore as their facial burns healed. However, Liz was not satisfied with the mask. She thought patients should wear a clear, transparent mask to allow them to see and participate in the world around them. Liz then began a relentless process of trial and error with various plastics, trying to find the one that would work best. In 1977, she found the perfect plastic and published her method in 1979. When asked how she created the face mask, Liz said “God made the plastic face mask through my fingers so that little children could go back to school. They didn’t want to go back to school with those fabric hoods.”

Believing every burn patient should benefit from a transparent face mask, Liz taught therapists at ABA meeting how to make the masks themselves using simple tools. As lead author, she presented multiple abstracts about her masks at the ABA annual meetings through 1995. As of 2015, Liz ranked fourth among all burn therapists for the most abstracts accepted and presented at the ABA. Most notably, she was the primary author of the burn community’s most cited face mask article: “The Transparent Face Mask” published in a 1979 issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

Liz shared her clinical knowledge over the years, speaking at 6 ABA educational sessions and presiding as moderator over 7 scientific and sunrise symposia. Additionally, she served on 3 ABA committees, including her first committee appoint to the Membership Advisory Committee (MAC). In 1986, Liz was appointed to serve on the Ad Hoc Rehabilitation Committee and Research Committee, as a notable therapist member. She received the Curtis P. Artz Distinguished Service was in 1986 for her extensive contributions to burn rehabilitation practice.

For all who worked with Liz, we remember her as driven, compassionate, and innovative. She had high expectations for providing the best quality of care while allowing time for fun and the creative process. To be Liz’s friend or patient was to be blessed with her quiet grace and steadfast love.

Liz retired in 1998 from the Regions Hospital burn team, but remained active in the local burn community. She continued to be a resource for teaching face mask skills and was a champion for providing effective burn rehabilitation to all burn survivors.

In 2015, Liz’s transparent face mask article was recognized as an example of innovation that changed the practice of burn rehabilitation and that continues to be utilized around the world in clinical practice 37-years after its development. With the transparent face mask, Liz Rivers had established and distinguished herself as a pioneer from the Midwest in the field of burn rehabilitation. Therefore, for all reasons cited, she truly deserves to be recognized for her contributions to the burn field and to be bestowed with the title of Madam of Burn Rehabilitation.

Burn Prevention Award

Rebecca Coffey, PhD, MSN, CNP
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Columbus, OH

John A. Moncrief Award

San Jose Fire Fighters Burn Foundation
San Jose, CA

Harvey Stuart Allen Distinguished Service Award

J.A. Jeevendra Martyn, MD, FRCA, FCCM
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Boston, MA