Outstanding Contributors Honored at Annual Banquet

The Annual Banquet is a time to honor nurse anesthesia accomplishments and outstanding individuals. It will begin with the traditional procession of AANA past presidents, Board of Directors, award winners, and dignitaries. The event is also a time to recognize people who have made significant contributions to the nurse anesthesia profession and the education of future CRNAs. The following awards will be presented: The 43rd Annual Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment, the 38th Annual Helen Lamb Outstanding Educator Award, the 32nd Annual Alice Magaw Clinical Anesthesia Practitioner Award, and the 17th Annual Ira P. Gunn Award. The award winners are:


Agatha Hodgins Award

To recognize Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists who have furthered the art and science of nurse anesthesia, the Agatha Hodgins Award, the highest accolade given by the AANA, was established in the mid-1970s. The award will be presented to posthumously to Arthur Zwerling, DNP, MSN, MS, CRNA, DAAPM.

Zwerling was the quintessential educator. His down-to-earth style, humor, and ability to take difficult concepts and make them accessible to large audiences was remarkable. He immersed himself in a broad spectrum of advocacy initiatives. Zwerling worked tirelessly to persuade the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs to require wellness and chemical dependency education as part of the curriculum in all nurse anesthesia programs. In addition, he provided anesthesia to the underprivileged in Belize, Eritrea, and Cameroon through the Health Volunteers Oversees organization.

With 16 years on the Peer Assistance Advisors Committee, including four years as chair, more than 1,400 volunteer hours caring for students, CRNAs, and their families suffering from addiction, Zwerling will never be forgotten.


Helen Lamb Award

The Helen Lamb Award was established in 1980 in memory of Helen Lamb Frost, an AANA founding member, past president, and nurse anesthesia educator.  This award recognizes the commitment of an individual to the educational standards of nurse anesthesia. This year’s recipient is Margaret Meyers, MAE, CRNA.

A CRNA for more than 40 years, instructing, nurturing, and molding registered nurses into CRNAs has been Meyers’s lifelong work. While program administrator for Sacred Heart Medical Center and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., she led the transition from a certificate to a master’s degree-granting nurse anesthesia program. Sacred Heart Medical Center has had a school of nurse anesthesia since 1935, and nurse anesthetists have been practicing there since the first recorded anesthetic at the hospital in 1892. Meyers’s 34 years as program administrator represents a significant portion of its 82-year history.   

A master educator, year after year she introduced students to anesthesia machines, gas laws, physics, and research-based practice. Responsible for graduating over 200 students, we can thank her for many of the CRNAs who hold leadership positions on the state and national levels.


Alice Magaw Award

The Alice Magaw Clinical Anesthesia Practitioner Award was established in 1986 to recognize the accomplishments of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists who are involved in direct patient care. The Alice Magaw Outstanding Clinical Anesthesia Practitioner Award goes to Christopher Smith, DNP, MS, CRNA.

In pursuit of his doctorate degree, Smith embarked on an evidence-based practice scholarly project aimed at improving patient outcomes. From the onset, he quickly discovered that his 500-bed community hospital had a post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV) rate of 54 percent—much higher than the national average. Equally as troubling, there were no firm records being kept or entries about PONV in the hospital’s new electronic health record system.

Smith would go on to develop a PONV screening tool, ensuring its use on ALL preoperative patients. Ninety days and 1,099 patients later, only three patients did not receive the recommended treatment plan. His results were remarkable, as the PONV rate dropped to 14 percent. Smith’s DNP project was implemented as a new policy by inserting the screening and treatment tools into the electronic health record not only at his hospital but throughout the entire health system.


Ira P. Gunn Award

The Ira P. Gunn Award was established in 2000 to recognize Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists or other persons who make significant contributions to promoting and/or protecting the legal, legislative, and regulatory practice rights of nurse anesthetists. The Ira P. Gunn Award will be bestowed upon Brian Thorson, MA, CRNA, APRN.

Thorson is both a staff and charge nurse anesthetist at the Hennepin County Medical Center Department of Anesthesia, a level-one trauma center in Minneapolis, Minn. He has also been an adjunct professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota School of Graduate and Professional Programs. He was also the AANA 2005-2006 president.

A powerful advocate, Thorson has devoted many hours to making legislative strides for the nurse anesthesia profession in the state of Minnesota. His steady pace of advocacy spans 25 years, with his direct involvement in many key milestones.