Distinguished nurse scientist, professor, and associate dean of research and scholarship leaves a lasting legacy.
Karen Meneses, PhD, RN, FAAN
The oncology nursing world is mourning the loss of Karen Margaret Meneses, PhD, RN, FAAN, whose image graces the cover of the August 2018 issue of Oncology Nursing News®. Meneses passed away unexpectedly from natural causes on August 1, 2018.
In her 40-year career in healthcare, Meneses—who served as a professor and associate dean for research and scholarship at the School of Nursing at University of Alabama at Birmingham—was internationally known for her innovative research on survivorship and healthcare disparities.
Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, FAAN, editor in chief of Oncology Nursing News®, worked with Meneses on several projects, often spoke at the same conferences, and served with her on the Seminars in Oncology Nursing review board. “Karen touched the lives of many friends, students, colleagues, and breast cancer survivors,” she said. “She generously shared her knowledge and expertise; and her contributions to oncology nursing will endure for years to come.”
Meneses was named Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at UAB in 2016, the highest honor awarded to faculty, and served as an advisor to the White House under 2 US Presidents. She was an active member of the Oncology Nursing Society, an editor for numerous oncology nursing-related journals, author of more than 100 published works, and the editor of 2 oncology textbooks, Nursing Care in Radiation Oncology and Contemporary Issues in Breast Cancer.
In her interview with Oncology Nursing News®, Meneses shared her enthusiasm for helping underserved populations in rural and minority communities. She identified barriers to oncology care and made it her mission to help overcome them.
Meneses worked with severely underserved populations in Alabama, where providers are scarce and individuals are not equipped with accurate information about healthcare, said Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean, professor, and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing at the UAB School of Nursing.
“She really believed in equity,” Harper said in an interview with Oncology Nursing News®, “I would say, seeing those conditions made her want to change them. She started to open the community up, working with community health advocates, and bringing information via community reps into that community so they would have access to care.”
Harper added that Meneses was driven by her desire to do the right thing, saying “she had the highest integrity, the highest research ethics ... she was beloved among what I call her ‘oncology tribes.’ We have been getting letters and notes from all over the country, all over the world, all over the campus, all over the community … she was a revered leader.”
Meneses’ colleagues described her as warm, fun, energetic, and upbeat, adding that she was very proud of her family, her mentees, and her role as a professor and associate dean.
Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, PhD, RD, professor, Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences, and associate director at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, worked closely with Meneses, and described her as “a terrific collaborator and somebody who really contributed to the field of cancer survivorship.”
On its website, UAB noted that Meneses’ Breast Cancer Education Intervention program, a randomized clinical trial of patient-centered quality of life interventions, has been recognized as a national model for cancer survivorship education.
In addition to cancer survivorship and health disparities, Meneses’ research interests included nutrition, breast cancer, palliative care, and aging. In particular, she demonstrated a passion toward developing interventions that could improve quality of life, and mentoring the next generation of nurse scientists and cancer investigators, said Demark-Wahnefried.
“This is a very deep loss for the profession,” Harper added. “Karen kind of lit up a room, and people wanted to work with her and to engage, and to make the world a better a place.”