A registered nurse with a degree in psychology and international acclaim for her expertise in nursing practice and mental health care was recognised with the Emerging Leader Award at last night's Catholic Health Australia awards dinner.

Karen-leigh Edward leads the St Vincent's Private Melbourne/Australian Catholic University Nursing Research Unit, a clinical and academic partnership that sees the hospital and university engage the social, ethical and religious dimensions of questions in teaching, research and service. Those activities are brought to life through the unit's activities, with a particular emphasis on the value of care, especially of the weak and vulnerable with a Christian focus.

Research projects, with an emphasis on transferring knowledge into practice, have included birth-related depression in mother and fathers, plastics and reconstructive nursing care, surgical services and patient-centred care, and nursing care within the context of Catholic Mission.

"The Nursing Research Unit is making a major contribution, thanks in large part to the leadership and wisdom of Dr Edward," said CHA chief executive officer Martin Laverty. "Through ward-based best practice groups, through seminars, through research projects and through publications – among other initiatives – the unit is creating opportunities for nurses to advance their knowledge, which will ultimately mean better care."

Dr Edward has more than 100 published works and is deeply committed to contributing evidence for practice in a patient-centred framework. In 2011, she won an award from the Australian Publishers Association for the best wholly Australian tertiary textbook. Mental Health Nursing – Dimensions of Praxis was co-edited by Dr Edward and other medical professionals. The judging panel said they were impressed with the very strong emphasis on patient-centred, evidence-based care.

As Mr Laverty pointed out, Dr Edward's nature, combined with her vast knowledge, made her a very worthy recipient of the CHA award.

"Dr Edward is highly regarded by all with whom she comes in contact, working in a dedicated, generous, creative and open way in contributing to a continual learning environment," Mr Laverty said.

The CHA Emerging Leader Award honours great commitment to leadership through a research project, innovative program, introduction of change management or a significant contribution to improving the body of knowledge in health and aged care. It includes a $5,000 grant from Catholic Super to be used for professional development.

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