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Clinical care, ALS research, and a caring spirit

For over 29 years, nurse practitioner Lora Clawson has devoted her career—and her life—to helping people with ALS in her work as Director of ALS Clinical Services at Johns Hopkins University. Now, Johns Hopkins is honoring Clawson with the prestigious Miller-Coulson Nurse Practitioner / Physician Assistant Clinical Excellence Award for showing mastery in six different areas of patient care.

“I was very surprised and a little embarrassed by the recognition,” Clawson said. It was through her volunteer work that Clawson first became involved in ALS clinical care and patient research. In 1986, Clawson was working as a clinical manager in an oncology unit at a local community hospital. She volunteered during the summer at a camp for children with muscular dystrophy. While there, another staff member approached Clawson about a new grant for a clinical treatment trial for ALS patients that needed someone with clinical nursing skills and a caring spirit. Interested but not convinced, Clawson interviewed with the neurology physician team, in particular talking to the lead scientist Daniel Drachman. Although Clawson might not have been convinced, Drachman was.

After he regularly phoned her to offer her the job, Clawson finally accepted. And she hasn’t looked back. Clawson divides her time between clinical care and ALS research. On ALS clinic days, Clawson coordinates a multi-disciplinary team including occupational and physical therapists, as well as nurses and physicians. Clawson pulls all of this together so that the patients can leave with a plan of care. She is known throughout the mid-Atlantic for her work in various ALS organizations, patient and caregiver support groups, and for her knowledge of the illness.

In her research work, Clawson will follow up with study participants, schedule visits for testing, manage the necessary paperwork and documentation for the scientists, coordinate autopsies, and make sure everything runs smoothly. “It’s not the same sort of day every day, and it’s certainly never dull,” she said. Not long after she began her work in ALS, Clawson was appointed to the faculty of the Department of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. In her current work as an Assistant Professor, Clawson teaches and mentors both graduate and undergraduate nursing students. One of her main goals is to teach people to always focus on the individual. It’s this type of thinking that helped win her the 1st annual Miller-Coulson Nurse Practitioner / Physician Assistant Clinical Excellence Award.

Her skills in six main areas of patient care (communication and interpersonal skills; professionalism and humanism; diagnostic acumen; skillful negotiation of the healthcare system; knowledge and scholarly approach to clinical practice and exhibiting a passion for patient care) made her a perfect candidate. At a special ceremony on April 27, Clawson and the other award winners were presented with a plaque and received recognition for their work.

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