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"She opened a door that allowed for a branch of nursing to be developed,” says a colleague of Ann Burgess (above).

Burgess Honor is Two-Fold

CSON professor to receive award that will be named for her
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By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle staff
Connell School of Nursing Professor Ann Wolbert Burgess, a pioneer in the field of forensic nursing, will be honored by the International Association of Forensic Nurses with an award that will bear her name.

The inaugural IAFN Ann Burgess Forensic Nursing Award, which will be presented to Burgess on Oct. 23, was established to honor an individual who has made exceptional research contributions to the field of forensic nursing, through clinical program development, scientific achievement, legislative changes, or educational activities.

Burgess helped to establish a master’s specialty in forensic nursing at the Connell School and teaches courses such as Case Studies in Forensics, Forensic Science, Forensic Science Lab and Victimology.

“This is an exceptional honor to be able to recognize the research of forensic nurses and the advancement of nursing science,” Burgess said of the award.

Burgess’ work in forensics, victimology and trauma began back in the 1970s when she co-founded one of the first hospital-based crisis counseling programs for rape victims with Sociology Professor Emerita Lynda Lytle Holmstrom. Burgess and Holmstrom wrote a groundbreaking article that ushered the phrase “rape trauma syndrome” into both medical and legal lexicons.

Her research and books cover topics such as serial killers and rapists, kidnapping, sexual victimization and exploitation of children, cyber crimes, sexual abuse and elder abuse. She has worked extensively with the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, training special agents and developing criminal profiles. Burgess also is a sought-after expert in the courtroom, having offered testimony in high-profile cases such as the Glen Ridge rape trial, Menendez Brothers murder case, Riley Fox murder trial and fashion designer Anand Jon rape trial.

"Dr. Burgess' research is broad and has had a tremendous influence on recognition of forensic nursing by other professionals; she challenges nurses to think outside the box, to ask questions and research answers to those questions; and she has done seminal research with victims of sexual assault as well as the perpetrators of this crime," said IAFN Awards Committee Chair Polly Campbell, the director of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Program in Maine's Office of Attorney General. "Professionals from many, varied disciplines have come to rely on Dr. Burgess' work to inform their own practice."

Burgess’ honors include awards from Sigma Theta Tau International and the American Nurses’ Association.

“Without the work of Ann Burgess, there might not be an International Association of Forensic Nurses,” said Connell School Assistant Professor Angela Amar, an IAFN member and director of CSON’s forensic program.

“Prior to her groundbreaking research, no one was studying victims of sexual assault. With her description of Rape Trauma Syndrome, she opened a door that allowed for a branch of nursing to be developed. Her continued work on victims, perpetrators, and family and significant others opened that door even wider.”

Kathleen Sullivan can be reached at