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Cancer Nursing:
doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e3182980515
DEPARTMENTS: Guest Editorial

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Vernice Ferguson

McCorkle, Ruth PhD, RN, FAAN; Given, Barbara PhD, RN, FAAN

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Yale University School of Nursing New Haven, Connecticut (Dr McCorkle) College of Nursing Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan (Dr Given)

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Vernice D. Ferguson, RN, MA, FAAN, FRCN

June 13, 1928–December 8, 2012

Vernice D. Ferguson was a longtime member of the Editorial Board for Cancer Nursing: An International Journal of Cancer Care and contributed her heady and deeply appreciated thoughts during the developmental years of the journal. Ms Ferguson was both formally and informally a leader in nursing and in oncology nursing. She was the nurse executive in the Department of Veterans Affairs, including a role as the chief nurse at 2 Veterans Administration Medical Centers, and established nursing research programs and the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Annual Award for Nursing Excellence. She was also the chief of the Nursing Department at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. Ms Ferguson was a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (and a past president of the Academy), past president of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honorary, and past president of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care—all prestigious and weighty leadership roles in nursing and in oncology nursing. Two members of our Editorial Board, Dr Ruth McCorkle of Yale University and Dr Barbara Given of Michigan State University, were very close colleagues and friends of Ms Ferguson and offer us the following tribute in memory of a very treasured nurse:

Vernice Ferguson was our colleague and friend. We first started working with Vernice when we served on the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care Board of Directors in 1984, 3 decades ago, along with Bob Tiffaney, Richard Wells, and Carol Reed Ash. Vernice was a vivacious and energetic person who always greeted you like she was genuinely happy to see you. Vernice was knowledgeable about so many aspects of life and generously shared her knowledge with others. She gave us her full attention like we were the most important people in the universe for the moment. She was perfect to be on the board of directors as she knew how to treat everyone as important with something to contribute and welcomed those from other countries or approaches. She attributed this rare gift of interacting with others to her father, a minister. She came from a large family of siblings and would tell stories of how they were taught to share, negotiate, and recognize each other.

As an African American nurse, she championed the cause of all people to have equal access to care, especially for veterans. She extended that commitment to the international community. She spent endless hours traveling throughout the world to lecture and listened well to the approach to care of these international providers in general and nursing in particular. She always found something positive in a situation and a person and a way to encourage everyone; she listened to her colleagues and encouraged them to get involved, to advocate for change and improvement in care, and she followed up to see if progress was made.

Vernice had a million dollar smile, one that lit up a room. She was a person who other people wanted to be around; she radiated goodness. Although she could be serious about the issues we were confronting globally in cancer care, she loved to laugh and could help to balance heated debates to find compromised solutions. We in nursing were fortunate to have this formidable leader as a role model and spokesperson to help us meet the needs of people with cancer and their families. She has left a lasting legacy through her international contributions and will be greatly missed.

— Ruth McCorkle, PhD, RN, FAAN
— Barbara Given, PhD, RN, FAAN
Yale University School of Nursing
New Haven, Connecticut (Dr McCorkle)
College of Nursing
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan (Dr Given)

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