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American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) recognizes Ely and Pun research team

May. 24, 2023, 12:54 PM

by Matt Batcheldor

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is presenting the research team of Brenda Pun, DNP, RN, FCCM, and E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, with its AACN Pioneering Spirit Award.

The award recognizes significant contributions that influence progressive and critical care nursing and relate to the AACN’s mission, vision and values. The presentation occurred during the 2023 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition, this week in Philadelphia.

Wes Ely, MD, MPH

For the past 20 years, Ely and Pun have worked together at Vanderbilt’s Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship (CIBS) Center. The center’s team members work with patients who are, or have been, critically ill and who have suffered from delirium and are at risk for long-term cognitive, functional and neuropsychological impairments. More information is available at the center’ website,

Ely is an internist, pulmonologist and critical care physician who founded the center and now serves as co-director. Pun is an advanced practice nurse who serves as the center’s director of data quality.

Pun and Ely’s efforts helped identify delirium as one of the most critical problems facing patients in intensive care units (ICUs) — linked with increased deaths, prolonged ICU and hospital lengths of stay and significantly higher medical costs.

Brenda Pun, DNP, RN

The CIBS Center brings together more than 90 investigators from medicine, surgery, neurology, anesthesia and psychiatry from Vanderbilt University, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville Veterans Affairs Hospital and investigators at other institutions across the United States and beyond.

Pun and Ely are receiving the AACN award in recognition of their collaborative work over more than 20 years to develop evidence-based tools for clinicians that have proven to optimize ICU patient recovery and outcomes.

“Drs. Pun and Ely exemplify the power of interprofessional collaboration and the impact it can have on patient care,” said AACN President Amanda Bettencourt, PhD, APRN, CCRN-K, ACCNS-P. “Their work transformed the approach to sedation for ICU patients and demonstrated how delirium poses significant risks to patients during hospitalization and after hospital discharge.”

In addition to his role with the CIBS Center, Ely serves as the Grant W. Liddle Professor of Medicine and associate director of aging research for Tennessee Valley Veterans Affairs Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center (GRECC) in Nashville.

“Congratulations to Brenda and Wes on this great accomplishment,” said Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, FAAN. “They demonstrate how nurses, physicians and other research partners collaborate for the great benefit of our patients and families at Vanderbilt.”

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