Hickman was one of 10 early- to mid-career professionals from a wide range of health-related fields announced by the academy Tuesday, May 5. The Emerging Leaders will participate in a three-year program that connects them with leaders in all three branches of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, beginning July 1.
“As the world faces the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of the importance of involving emerging leaders, who are poised to shape the future of health and medicine, in cross-disciplinary activities to tackle pressing challenges such as these,” NAM President Victor J. Dzau said in a news release Tuesday announcing the 2020 class.
Activities include biannual meetings in Washington, D.C., with NAM leadership and members; planning an annual Emerging Leaders Forum; participating in National Academies convening activities; publishing NAM Perspectives; and attending the NAM’s annual meeting each October.
Hickman said he is looking forward to the opportunity to connect with NAM members, as well as the cohort of nine Emerging Leaders, and to “go beyond the disciplinary silos” to see a broader view of public health and policy in America.
Hickman becomes the second nurse scientist appointed to the program, which coincides with the World Health Organization’s designation of 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife.”
“Americans have always appreciated nurses and nursing care, but to a lesser extent the research and policy reform led by nurse scientists,” he said. “When it comes to science and policy, it is equally important for nursing to be represented, and today, Americans have a growing appreciation of how nurses have a broad impact on their health.”
Hickman and the nine others are now part of the NAM initiative Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Program, which “provides a platform for a new generation of leaders to collaborate with the NAM and its members across fields of expertise to advance science, combat persistent challenges in health and medicine and spark transformative change to improve health for all,” the news release said.
The full list is on NAM’s website and includes scholars from across the United States and from institutions such as Stanford University, Dartmouth College and the University of Texas.
Research ‘shifting the paradigm’
Hickman is a triple Case Western Reserve alumnus whose research focuses on end-of-life care, decision-making amid uncertainty and risk and chronic illness self-management.
He has investigated the role of emotions on the cognitive function and decision-making of people who must make end-of-life care decisions for family members in an intensive care unit, for example. He has also studied avatar-based decision-support technology to help family caregivers make decisions that avoid unwanted care for their seriously ill loved ones residing in a nursing home.
Hickman’s research is “shifting the paradigm from passive decision aids (e.g., brochures or websites) to interactive and customized decision support innovations (e.g., avatar-human interactions) to foster informed decisions about palliative or end-of-life care made by surrogate decision makers of critically ill patients,” said Kurt Stange, Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the School of Medicine.
Stange, who wrote one of the recommendation letters for Hickman to the academy, also cited Hickman’s “insightful, collaborative approach and incisive intellect, and his ability to view pressing problems in health care and health from varied perspectives.”
“He is passionate about improving the nation’s health through research and policy reform,” Stange wrote in the recommendation. “… He is an accomplished nurse scientist who has made significant contributions to the science and practice of palliative and end-of-life care through his translational program of research focused on informed health care decision-making.”
School of Nursing Dean Carol Musil said the NAM Emerging Leaders award is indicative of Hickman’s past work and future possibilities.
“This is obviously a well-deserved honor that underscores Ronald Hickman’s contributions thus far,” Musil said. “But even more, it speaks to his potential for groundbreaking contributions to transforming the future of health care for this nation.”