Ferrans, Zenk get top honors at investiture ceremony 

Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD ’85, MS ’82, RN, FAAN, and Shannon Zenk, PhD, MS '99, MPH, RN, FAAN, formally took their places in two prestigious roles within the College of Nursing at an investiture ceremony on Thursday, Apr. 5. 

Ferrans was invested as the Harriet H. Werley Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, the college's only endowed chair. Zenk was invested as Nursing Collegiate Professor, one of the college's highest honors. 

Calling them “two of the most energetic and persistent nurse researchers I have ever known,” Dean Terri E. Weaver applauded the contributions of the two faculty members. 

“Dr. Zenk and Dr. Ferrans, whose work is notable for the impact on communities, are living up to the promise of health research in truly extraordinary fashion,” she said. “I congratulate them on their lasting contributions to humanity and their places in the history of the UIC College of Nursing.” 

The act of investiture, a revered academic tradition, was performed by UIC vice chancellor for health affairs, Dr. Robert Barish. Both faculty elicited standing ovations from about 80 colleagues, friends and family in the college's Third Floor Event Center. 

Ferrans becomes third Werley Chair

Ferrans has made an "indelible footprint on the UIC College of Nursing, Illinois and the world," said Mariann Piano, PhD '88, MS '84, RN, FAAN, FAHA, Nancy & Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University, in her tribute address to Ferrans at the investiture. 

Indeed, Ferrans' research on the disparity in breast cancer deaths between African Americans and Caucasian women—at one time the worst in the nation—led to legislation, new guidelines for breast cancer screening and a 35 percent reduction in that disparity.  

Ferrans is also internationally known for developing the Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life Index, which has been translated into 21 languages to be used throughout the world to capture quality-of-life information from patients. 

"There is no greater achievement than to have a research legacy that has truly impacted the lives of millions of people," Piano said, also applauding Ferrans' "immeasurable" impact as a mentor for students and faculty.

“The breadth and depth of Dr. Ferrans’ scholarly contributions to nursing science are extraordinary," said Eileen Hacker, PhD '01, APRN, FAAN, a mentee of Ferrans in attendance who is now chair of the Department of Science of Nursing Care at Indiana University School of Nursing. "She gave voice to people suffering... . She opened doors for millions of people to receive timely cancer screening.”Carol Ferrans and Suzanne Feetham

Ferrans assumed the Werley Chair in the presence of Suzanne Feetham, PhD, RN, FAAN (pictured with Ferrans), the first to hold the post who, like Werley herself, went on to be named a "Living Legend" of the American Academy of Nursing.

"Dr. Ferrans epitomizes the vision of Dr. Harriet Werley," said Feetham. "The commitment to the next generation is key to both [of them].”

The UIC College of Nursing is home to the only endowed chair bearing the name of Harriet H. Werley, an honor of which the college is "exceedingly proud," noted Weaver.

"So firm was Dr. Werley's belief in UIC Nursing as the best place for researchers to experience the pinnacle of their careers," said Weaver, "that she made a seven-figure gift of permanent funding for them here, giving them the opportunity to wear her venerated name in their professional title."

Zenk, a most prolific researcher

In a tribute to Zenk, Richard Campbell, professor emeritus of the UIC School of Public Health and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, lauded Zenk's "focus and drive" as she's forged a research path on food deserts.  

Her research has shown that people who live in low-income and segregated neighborhoods lack access to healthy foods and suffer from lower dietary quality and higher weights, and she’s expanded her research to studies about pharmacy deserts, activity spaces and veterans. 

"In almost 50 years of academic life, I can honestly say I've known few people who have been so accomplished or productive, particularly at such an early stage of their career," Campbell said. 

Zenk, who has written 90 refereed papers and seven book chapters, is working on 10 active extramural grants worth some $16 million total funding. 

“Her entire body of research looks for opportunities to influence environment and policy in a way that can reduce inequities based on race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status,” Barish said. “I can’t think of anything more worthwhile.” 

View photos from the event.