Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  October 2020  >  October 22, 2020  >  Creighton epidemiologist awarded prestigious McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes
Creighton epidemiologist awarded prestigious McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes

AMaureen Tierney successful effort by a Creighton University physician epidemiologist to contain the outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant pathogen in a hospital specialty unit, and her rapid response to life-threatening infections from administration of unapproved biologic products, has earned her the 2020 McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes.

Maureen Tierney, MD, chair of the new Department of Clinical Research, assistant dean for clinical research and public health at the Creighton University School of Medicine and medical director for clinical research at CHI Health, will receive the award virtually Oct. 29.

The award was to have been presented during the Sixth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare Associated Infections in March but the conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tierney, whose specialties include the epidemiology of infectious diseases, is the inaugural recipient of the McKnight Prize. It is awarded by the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit formed by Congress and authorized to work with philanthropic organizations and other private-sector entities to support the disease-prevention mission of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a letter notifying Tierney of her selection, the CDC Foundation cited letters it had received praising her work suppressing life-threatening outbreaks.

“You received a number of compelling nominations for your recent leadership in healthcare outbreak investigations, including containing the spread of a novel and highly resistant NDM carbapenamase after it emerged in a hospital specialty unit and, perhaps most notably, your rapid and effective response to life-threatening infections stemming from injections of unapproved biologic products, which prompted warnings to healthcare consumers in Nebraska and across the U.S.,” the notification letter said.

Tierney was head of the health care-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance program in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services at the time of her interventions, where, during her seven years of service, she led efforts to control several other multidrug resistant outbreaks.

She says confidentiality requirements prevent her from naming the medical institutions involved in the 2019 incident of infections associated with the use of exosomes but nevertheless warned against the rise of companies providing unapproved biologic products.

Once an investigation into an outbreak of illness determined the source, Tierney and her team worked tirelessly to prevent anyone else from receiving these types of unapproved products and collaborated with CDC in the effort.

Their response resulted in a nationwide FDA alert.

The McKnight Prize is funded by the Evelyn and Thomas McKnight Family Fund for Patient Safety. Evelyn McKnight, formerly an audiologist, and Thomas McKnight, a family physician, founded the prize after Evelyn, who was battling breast cancer, contracted hepatitis C through injections performed with used needles. She was one of 99 cancer patients so infected at the facility and determined after recovering that she would promote patient safety generally, and injection safety specifically, throughout the nation.

The award that emerged from that experience is designed to “honor and recognize important work to promote safe injection practices and patient safety and produce educational materials that raise awareness and highlight the work of the One & Only Campaign,” which promotes the use of injection needles one time and one time only.

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