Award Honors Caring Hands and Hearts

In the classical teachings of the Buddhist tradition, compassion is described as the heart that trembles in the face of suffering. It has been characterized as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. 

In that spirit, an anonymous donor has established the Compassion Award in the KU Schools of Nursing and Medicine. The annual $5,000 award goes to one student in each school’s graduating class in recognition of their compassion toward their patients, families and co-workers — being present to the pain and misfortunes of others. 

Erin Eifler, a 2017 graduate of the School of Medicine, and Erin Stephenson, who earned a master’s degree in public health nursing, received the inaugural awards.

“I was pretty emotional when I learned what the award was for,” Stephenson said. “One of my peers said this is the best award a nurse can be given, which is so true. I’m very thankful.”

Stephenson plans to do international disaster relief, and this award will help her pay off student loans so she can achieve that goal. Eifler also expressed her gratitude and said she didn’t expect to receive recognition for something so close to her heart. 

“We were told maintaining compassion and empathy was really challenging, and those two things are at the core of why I wanted to go to medical school,” Eifler said. “Receiving this recognition means a lot knowing that others find those traits valuable and believe it’s something we should be focusing on in our careers.”