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AANP's National Leadership Awards — the Sharp Cutting Edge Award and the Towers Pinnacle Award — honor two individuals who have contributed significantly to the national recognition and advancement of nurse practitioners (NPs). Learn more about the recipients of the 2021 AANP National Leadership Awards below.
The Sharp Cutting Edge Award was initiated in February 1996 in honor of Nancy J. Sharp, MSN, RN, FAAN, an exemplar in the world of nursing organizational leadership for more than two decades. Nancy demonstrated a decisive positive influence for NPs, both professionally and politically. Not an NP herself, Nancy nevertheless left a legacy of early and steadfast service for NPs. Through her vision, foresight and service to the NP profession, Nancy focused on public policy issues clarifying the legislative and regulatory processes. She also utilized innovative strategies to meet major milestones as office staff and volunteer leader in national nursing organizations. Examples of her many accomplishments are: National President, American Nephrology Nurses Association (1981-1983); Director, Practice and Legislation, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, Neonatal Nurses (1982-1990); Founding Director, Nurse in Washington Internship (1985-1992); Editor-Publisher, “The Nurse’s Directory of Capitol Connections: A Directory of Positions and Opportunities for Nurse Participation in Health Policy Development” (1991-2000); Nurse Representative, U.S. Joint Working Group on Telehealth (1993-1997).
Jessica L. Peck, DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC, CNE, CNL, FAAN, FAANP, will receive the 2021 Sharp Cutting Edge Award for her efforts to advance the practice of pediatric NPs across the country. Her accomplishments include providing care to pediatric patients in the Houston area when hurricanes hit south Texas and making groundbreaking efforts to increase awareness, recognition and response to potential human trafficking victims by developing best practices and actionable guidelines. Dr. Peck has published and presented to a wide range of audiences, spanning professionals in the fields of health care, education, social services, legal and law enforcement. She was the Founding Chair of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) Alliance for Children in Trafficking (ACT), a national initiative to increase the human trafficking knowledge and awareness of all professionals working with children, adolescents and young adults. At the state level, she provided legislative testimony in support of Texas House Bill 2059, which became law and now requires trafficking prevention training for health care providers. Nationally, she provided testimony to the U. S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in support of the Stop, Observe, Ask, Respond (SOAR) Act and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), which was also enacted into law. Dr. Peck is a fierce advocate and leader in pediatric health and NP practice — forward thinking, innovative, engaging and determined. The breadth and depth of her impact to pediatric practice, education and policy distinguish her as an exemplary recipient of the Sharp Award. She currently serves as president of NAPNAP. Her body of work led to her award as the Will Dean Bivens Singleton Professorship in Pediatric Nursing, an Endowed Chair at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She was inducted in 2018 as an AANP Fellow, and in 2020 as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing (AAN).
As of 2021, AANP is celebrating 25 years of Sharp Cutting Edge Awards and is proud to have recognized nine Sharp Cutting Edge Award recipients, along with 15 recipients honored by the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), for their leadership and innovation in advancing NP practice and patient care.
Meet the awardees:
The recipient of the Sharp Award should demonstrate extraordinary service activities on behalf of NPs. The individual nominated may be an NP, nurse or non-nurse who has demonstrated exceptional belief and confidence in NPs and shown efforts to advance the image, profile and visibility of NPs by serving in one or more of the following areas:
The Towers Pinnacle Award was launched in 2013 by the AANP Board of Directors of in honor of Jan Towers, PhD, NP-C, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP, an accomplished and much admired leader in the NP movement. Dr. Towers has been at the forefront of legislative and regulatory issues, guiding health policy initiatives to ensure that NPs and their patients are represented wherever health care is being discussed. She has informed and educated numerous NPs on issues related to health policy through presentations at regional and national conferences. Her steadfast commitment, keen insight and vigilance have served to guide and direct NPs toward their current recognition as reimbursable providers of high-quality health care nationwide. The result of her life’s work is increased awareness by legislators and the general public of NPs’ contributions to health care, as well as advancement in expanding the scope of practice for NPs, advocating for equity in pay for services and expanding the commitment of NP professional organizations to provide leadership on health policy issues. Recipients of this prestigious award should exemplify Dr. Towers’ advocacy, passion and dedication to the advancement of the NP role through policy, practice and education.
Joyce Knestrick, PhD, FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, was awarded the 2021 Towers Pinnacle Award for her sustained history of outstanding contributions, resulting in increased national recognition of the NP role and enhanced opportunities for NPs to provide care to patients. Dr. Knestrick has made significant contributions to NP practice and patient care through her policy work, development of educational programs and international support of the NP role. She has worked on legislative issues related to home health, diabetic shoes, NP inclusion in accountable care organizations (ACOs) and payment parity for NPs. Through multiple meetings with former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, her policy language regarding reducing practice barriers and increasing access to NP care was used in former President Trump’s executive order, entitled Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation's Seniors. Dr. Knestrick's advocacy and scholarship research led to the development of community health centers in Appalachia that have become a national model for quality health services for underserved rural areas. In 2018, she testified before the U. S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee in favor of Title VIII funding for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). That same year, she was invited to the White House to witness the formal signing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) Act that made permanent the authorization for NPs to prescribe medication assisted therapies (MATs). In 2019, Dr. Knestrick received the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) Outstanding Leadership Award. Over the course of her career as a family nurse practitioner, educator and author, she has been a visionary leader in health care and nursing policy at local, state, national and international levels. Dr. Knestrick is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) and a Fellow of AANP (FAANP). She previously served on the AANP Board of Directors as treasurer and president.
Meet the awardees:
The recipient of the Towers Pinnacle Award will demonstrate ongoing advocacy activities that elevate and highlight NP contributions to health care. The individual nominated will preferably be an NP; however, consideration will be given to other individuals who have made outstanding contributions resulting in increased recognition of NPs and increased opportunities for NPs to provide care to patients through ongoing work in policy, practice and education in one or more of the following areas: