Today at its annual meeting, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) honored two members for their outstanding service — Christine Cassel, visiting professor at the University of California, San Francisco; and Mary Wakefield, visiting distinguished professor at Georgetown University and distinguished fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I am delighted to honor these two extraordinary Academy members. Their dedication to advancing science and medicine, spirit of cooperation, and commitment to equity exemplify the highest levels of service to the organization,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “In the past year in particular, they have made promising contributions to improving health professions education, bolstering the well-being of clinicians, and promoting social needs care and the elimination of health disparities. Dr. Cassel and Dr. Wakefield are both highly deserving of these prestigious awards.”
Cassel received the Walsh McDermott Medal, which is awarded to a member for distinguished service to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine over an extended period. She has contributed her expertise in quality of care, aging and geriatric medicine, medical ethics, and clinical education to foundational reports that have had lasting impacts on care delivery, including To Err Is Human, Crossing the Quality Chasm, and Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. Since 1995, she has served on 23 committees and boards, including as chair, co-chair, or vice chair for five of them.
Most recently, Cassel chaired the 2019 report Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being, playing a leading role in developing policy and technology recommendations, and raising the visibility of the report throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Cassel also chaired reports that transformed the national conversation on how we plan for end-of-life care, prepare the workforce that provides that care, and honor the wishes of individuals and families. Currently Cassel is the chair of an NAM planning committee for a Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity. The committee’s work will culminate in a report that assesses the challenges of an aging population, and identifies policies, socio-economic infrastructures, and innovations that can promote and advance the health of older adults.
Wakefield was awarded the David Rall Medal, which is given to a member who has demonstrated distinguished leadership as chair of a study committee or other activity, showing a commitment that substantially exceeds the usual expectations for that role. An NAM member since 2004, Wakefield is a leader in nursing, health policy, and health care delivery. She has chaired four consensus study committees, has been a member of three others, and has served on several boards and roundtables of the National Academies.
Notably, Wakefield chaired the committee that wrote the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report, which began in 2019 and extended its work through 2021 to consider the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for the nursing profession. Wakefield applied her experience as a former federal agency administrator to produce realistic, achievable recommendations that translate into policy impact. She is also known for reviewing reports through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion and for considering the interests of varied stakeholders. During the study process but prior to COVID-19, she traveled the country to attend site visits and nurse town hall meetings, so she could engage with nurses in diverse settings, specialties, and geographies, and apply this knowledge to the report. As the committee navigated the global COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to meet in person, Wakefield continued to galvanize committee members and cultivate an environment of appreciation for each individual’s unique expertise.
The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.