Nursing’s Sheila Gephart earns distinguished service award

Jan. 29, 2024

Sheila M. Gephart, PhD, RN, a professor and the interim chair of the Advanced Nursing Practice and Science Division at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, has received the 2023 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Neonatal Nurses

Portrait of Dr. Sheila Gephart standing outside with her arms crossed and smiling.

Sheila M. Gephart, PhD, RN

NANN represents more than 7,000 neonatal nurse members who provide evidence-based care to high-risk neonatal patients. The association also represents nurse educators. According to its website, the organization influences standards of practice though advocacy, education, networking, collaboration and leadership. 

“Receiving this award reminds me of how service is not an ‘add-on’ to our professional work, but it is the core that provides meaning to other facets,” Gephart said. “I have been blessed to work with NANN since 2011 and have received much more than I have given to the organization.”

Gephart’s research focuses on reducing necrotizing enterocolitis, an illness that afflicts mostly premature babies. Gephart said she was inspired to research the disease while caring for newborns with the illness, some of whom died from it. 

“I created an initiative called NEC-Zero that combines evidence-based interventions with parent engagement to prevent and improve timely recognition for necrotizing enterocolitis,” said Gephart. “I thought there had to be a better way to predict who was at highest risk so that when symptoms developed the nurse at the bedside could interpret them in the context of a baby’s risk. My first project was creating and validating a score to predict NEC called GutCheckNEC.”

Gephart joined the faculty of the College of Nursing in 2012 after earning her doctorate at the college that same year. 

“For over a decade, Dr. Gephart has contributed to the ongoing success of our advanced nursing programs and her important research is essential for early recognition of necrotizing enterocolitis,” said Hyochol Brian Ahn, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing.We are grateful to learn that the National Association of Neonatal Nurses also recognizes the meaningful work and service Dr. Gephart brings to the College of Nursing.”

Making this honor even more meaningful for Gephart is the fact that the DNP/PhD candidate she advises, Lisa Grisham, received a NANN mentoring award. 

“It is ironic that I received the NANN Mentor of the Year award, as Dr. Gephart has become my lifelong mentor and is the reason I chose to pursue this terminal degree,” said Grisham. “Having her as my advisor was critical to my learning of how to navigate the doctoral program and laid the foundation for my academic career. Her Distinguished Service Award goes far beyond the reach of NANN, and I cannot think of a more dedicated or deserving person.”