Yale Nursing Professor and Expert on Minority Aging To Receive Highest Honor in Nursing

Yale Associate Professor of Nursing Courtney Lyder, a nationally recognized expert on minority aging, will be inducted Nov. 20 as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing.

The event will take place at the academy’s annual meeting in Virginia. Lyder joins ten other Yale School of Nursing active faculty who have earned the distinction, which is the highest honor in nursing.

Lyder directs a master’s level program to prepare gerontological nurse practitioners. His program of research focuses on skin care and minority elders. When Lyder entered nursing, he planned to focus his career on patient care, but a telling encounter in his student days drove home the need for more researchers focused on minority health.

“As a student nurse I took care of a black elder named Mabel,” Lyder recalled. “She was suffering – literally suffering – from a very advanced pressure ulcer, what most people call bedsores. A great deal of Mabel’s flesh had been eaten away by the wound. I’d never seen anything like it.”

“ ‘How did it get that bad?’ I later asked the nurse who was supervising me.”

“ ‘We can’t see pressure ulcers in ‘your people,’ she told me.”

Lyder went on to say that the nurse was not being racist, simply stating a fact. Health care providers are trained to recognize non-blanching reddening of skin as the sign of an oncoming pressure ulcer. (In other words, a red spot when pressed should appear white.) They then can use a variety of measures to prevent or treat the sore. Dark skin, however, does not blanch.

Lyder is developing various methods for caregivers to use to identify pressure ulcers on dark skin. In addition, he is well known for his landmark work in perineal dermatitis (diaper rash) in the elderly, another virtually unstudied area that affects the quality of life of many older adults.

Lyder also investigates means to empower elders to achieve greater wellness and independence. He is director of the ElderPrime Community Program at New Haven’s Tower One/Tower East housing complex. The program gives residents ongoing access to a gerontological nurse practitioner who helps them negotiate the health care system, particularly if they become hospitalized. Funded by the Tower One Foundation, it is the first such program in the country.

“Courtney Lyder has distinguished himself as a teacher, a researcher and a clinician,” said YSN Dean Catherine Lynch Gilliss. “His work is marked by a tremendous intellectual rigor and a true sense of advocacy for the elderly population. It is fitting that the Academy recognize his contribution by electing him to fellowship.”

Lyder earned his Doctor of Nursing degree from Rush University. He taught at St. Xavier University before coming to Yale in 1994. In addition to his research and teaching responsibilities at the nursing school, Lyder continues to serve as a gerontological nurse consultant at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He also consults frequently with private industry and with the federal government to develop higher standards of care for elder adults.

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