Harriet Kitzman was overwhelmed and appreciative, to be sure.
She was the first School of Nursing graduate — and only the fourth active faculty member — to receive the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal, the university’s highest recognition of personal achievement.
But for Kitzman, the full magnitude of the honor didn’t quite sink in until her inbox began to fill with emails from all over the world.
“It was people that I’d mentored, that I’d worked with over time, and they’d come from all kinds of different places,” said Kitzman, senior associate dean for research at the School of Nursing. “It allowed me to make connections with people I hadn’t seen in decades. That was really rewarding.”
Kitzman, ’61W (MS), ‘84N (Ph.D.), who was presented with the Hutchison Medal by university president Joel Seligman at the School of Nursing Commencement Ceremony on May 16, was honored for her decades of research on the benefits of home nurse visitations for new mothers and infants.
Focusing on the economically disadvantaged, her research showed that these interventions lead to a broad range of positive outcomes for both mother and child, and her studies paved the way for shifts in health care policy nationally and internationally.
She was also recognized for her contributions as a mentor and role model in the School of Nursing, and as an inspiration to health care professionals around the world.
“She’s been such an amazing teacher, mentor, collaborator, and she has served the university in so many different roles,” said Madeline Schmitt, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the School of Nursing, who worked closely with Kitzman for much of her career. “I can’t think of anyone who would be better recognized in this way.”
Kitzman, who currently serves as co-director of the CTSI, thinks of her career in four stages, and each stage has helped shape health care in Rochester and throughout the country.
The first was when she led the development of the first graduate nurse practitioner program at the University of Rochester in 1971. Working alongside Loretta Ford, Kitzman worked to partner early nurse practitioners with pediatricians, allowing them to continue their education and obtain master’s degrees. Today, nearly 200,000 nurse practitioners are practicing in the United States.
“I turned to her one day and said ‘What’s it like to have created a program that makes up what we do everywhere now?’” said Nana Bennett, who along with Karl Kieburtz serves as co-director of the CTSI with Kitzman. “She’s just done incredibly important work during her career that really has changed the landscape for children and for parents.”
Kitzman moved on to become the first clinical chief/chair in the School of Nursing’s Unification Model, which brought together the nursing services in the Medical Center with nursing education and research, and became a national model for other nursing schools.
The third piece is her research, including the aforementioned nurse visitation studies.
“Usually when you do an experimental intervention, you get an initial impact, but it tends to diminish over time,” said Schmitt. “What this research program demonstrated — which is amazing — is that the further out you get from the initial intervention, the more powerful the impact.”
And the fourth portion is in her role as co-director of the CTSI.
“She really sees connections that some of us miss,” said Bennett. “We’ll often be discussing something and she’ll say ‘That’s similar to this,’ and very often, whatever the connection was will turn out to be extremely helpful.”
Kitzman, whose research is still ongoing, is a member of the American Academy of Nursing and continues to serve on a number of national and local policy committees.