Alumna selected as AARP-RWJF Breakthrough Leader in Nursing

November 24, 2014

AnnMarie Walton

AnnMarie Walton

AnnMarie Walton, MPH, BSN, doctoral candidate in nursing at University of Utah and Gillings School of Global Public Health alumna, has been selected as one of ten nurses nationwide to receive the new Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing award, presented by the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The award celebrates nurse leadership and the importance of efforts by nurses to improve health and health care.

Walton, a clinical oncology nurse at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, noticed that young Hispanic men, primarily farm workers, were being diagnosed with leukemia and dying in their 20s. She launched a study to understand how agricultural workers could better protect themselves in the field and what was preventing them from doing so.

She also advocated enhanced protections for health care workers handling hazardous drugs, such as chemotherapies. Her work led to policy changes in North Carolina, where the state now mandates compliance with NIOSH recommendations for the safe handling of hazardous drugs.

Walton is an American Cancer Society Doctoral Scholar, a Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar and recipient of an NIH Fellowship in Cancer, Aging and End of Life. She received her Master of Public Health degree in health behavior at the Gillings School in 2001.

“It’s amazing to see the difference that these 10 people are making in their communities and the health care system,” said Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing and director of the Campaign for Action. “The lives of the people they care for are better because they fearlessly tackled—or are tackling—daunting health care challenges.”

“These outstanding leaders truly represent the future of nursing,” said Susan Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist at the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA), an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We look forward to working with them as they lead change to advance health.”

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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