Leigh Ann Wilson and Collin V. Montgomery, APRN, receive 2020 Chris Hackler Award

By Linda Haymes

Social worker Leigh Ann Wilson and Collin V. Montgomery, APRN, assist UAMS’ sickle cell patients. Sickle cell disease is a genetic disease that affects the red blood cells; many patients begin experiencing pain and other complications from the disease in infancy or childhood.

The University Hospital Medical Ethics Advisory Committee presents the award each academic year to recognize residents, faculty and other employees in the UAMS College of Medicine who have, in their work, demonstrated exemplary attention to ethical issues that affect patient care.

Wilson helps patients identify assistance during treatment and Montgomery works as a coordinator of the program, often advocating for her patients. Wilson received the non-faculty award and Montgomery received the faculty one.

“I feel truly honored to receive this award,” said Wilson, who is a part of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Social Work Department. “I have always strived to treat everyone I encounter with dignity and respect. For me, this award is recognition of that effort.”

Wilson’s and Montgomery’s names were added to a pair of plaques displayed on a wall in the foyer of UAMS Medical Center, along with the names of 33 others who have received the award since it began in 2005.

Nicholas Tingquist, M.D., a surgery resident who has since completed his residency and is in a cardiothoracic fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, received the award in the resident category. His award was mailed to him.

Nicholas Tingquist, M.D.

Nicholas Tingquist, M.D.

“He holds the highest degree of ethics and morals that I have seen in a resident,” wrote Mary Katherine (Katie) Kimbrough, M.D., a physician and assistant professor in the Division of Trauma and Critical Care Surgery in the College of Medicine, in her nomination of him. “He always does the right thing for the patient, even when it’s sometimes the hardest thing to do.”

Nihit Kumar, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry with the College of Medicine, presented individual plaques to Wilson and Montgomery during a recent afternoon ceremony in the Walton Auditorium of the Cancer Institute.

“Every year for the past 15 years we have recognized some exceptional individuals for their contributions to the field of medical ethics and we are here today to honor two such individuals,” Kumar said.

“Collin Montgomery, APRN coordinator of the UAMS Adult Sickle Cell Disease Clinic Program, collaborates with hematologists and key clinical care members to coordinate outpatient care for sickle cell disease patients and is also critical to providing development and oversight,” Kumar said, quoting Sarah Council, Ph.D., a research writer for the UAMS Division of Hematology and Oncology, who nominated Montgomery and Wilson. “She has demonstrated a passion for providing comprehensive care for sickle cell disease patients.”

He added that aggressive pain is a hallmark symptom of the disease. The pain, which is treated with opioids, and racism can lead to patients, especially those admitted to the hospital, being labeled addicts or pain medicine seekers, resulting in them not receiving adequate care for pain management.

“She is dedicated to ongoing clinical education and patient privacy at UAMS and throughout the state,” Kumar said of Montgomery. “She continually advocates and promotes appropriate and just treatment for her sickle cell disease patients.”

“It is truly an honor to receive the Chris Hackler Ethics Award,” Montgomery said. “I hope my efforts will continue to improve care equity for the patients I serve.”

Wilson provides support to patients, families and caregivers in the clinic and also works in the pediatric sickle cell program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. In her dual role, she assists with health-related expenses not covered by insurance, transportation costs and employment options. Wilson also helps patients as they shift from being a pediatric patient to an adult one.

“The health care transition is a risky time for sickle cell disease patients as they often experience a fragmentation in their health care providers,” said Kumar, adding that Wilson ensures her patients receive the care they need.

“She begins the transition process years before to prepare her pediatric patients to be responsible for their health care. She displays a heartfelt drive to tend to the psychological and social needs of her patients and works passionately to advocate for them, whether that be as outpatient, inpatient, their workplaces or their homes.”