Forensic Nursing Section Inaugural Award Winners

Source: Joyce P. Williams, DNP, FNS Section Chair

The newly established Forensic Nursing Section honored two forensic nurses in its inaugural year. The section created two awards to recognize exceptional forensic nurses: the Virginia Lynch Nurse Innovator Award and the Forensic Nurse Scientist Award. To learn more about the awards and our first winners, keep reading!

The Virginia Lynch Nurse Innovator Award is given to a forensic nurse actively engaged in forensic nursing leadership, practice, service, and/or education. The award winner demonstrates significant achievement in advancing forensic nursing through endeavors that help improve health and legal outcomes in patients affected by trauma, violence, and maltreatment. Activities include the delivery of exceptional, evidence-based, high-quality patient care; transformative leadership practices; advancement of the specialty through professional service contributions; and/or engagement in the development and delivery of quality forensic nursing education.

Virginia Lynch Nurse Innovator Award — Dr. Patricia M. Speck, DNSc

A little about Dr. Speck: Virginia Lynch stated Dr. Speck "was a first adopter of forensic nursing." She graduated from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing in 1982 (BSN), 1985 (MSN), and 2005 (DNSc). After retiring from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing as the DNP Public Health Nursing and DNP Forensic Nursing Concentration Coordinator, she joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing in the Department of Community Health, Outcomes, and Systems.

Currently, Dr. Speck is a Professor and Coordinator of the graduate Advanced Forensic Nursing program. She is internationally recognized as a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and an expert Advanced Forensic Nurse, caring for patients experiencing an intersection with the legal system. Dr. Speck led the Memphis Sexual Assault Center (MSARC) for many years. Her knowledge and experience has set the stage for development of forensic nurse education. She also consults with governments and universities internationally in Africa, Eurasia, the Caribbean, and Central, South, and North America with government bureaucracies, universities, institutions, and non-governmental organizations to evaluate and implement infrastructure change in response to victims of violence. As a forensic nurse practice expert and researcher, she develops policy, evaluates programs, and builds nursing workforce capacity through publication, education, and violence-prevention initiatives. Her research interests focus on forensic nurse practices and trauma-informed interventions, the scientific basis for nurse interventions, patient health outcomes following violence, and evidence for the FN practice, including DNA detection.

Dr. Speck was President and founding member of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (2003–2004), Chair, American Public Health Association's Family Violence Prevention Forum/Caucus (2011–2013), founding board member of the Academy of Forensic Nursing (2018), founding member of the Forensic Nursing Science Section of the American Academy of Forensic Science, and founding board member and current President (2022–2024) of the Forensic Nursing Certification Board. She is leading the development and alignment of forensic nursing core competencies with the AACN Essentials. Her awards include Fellow, American Academy of Forensic Sciences (2008), Distinguished Fellow, International Association of Forensic Nurses (2001), and Distinguished Fellow, Academy of Forensic Nursing (2018), and Fellow, American Academy of Nurses (2002). She is the recipient of over 25 awards and received the Lifetime Professional Impact Award from End Violence Against Women International in 2017 and is now the inaugural recipient of the American Academy of Forensic Science Virginia Lynch Innovation Award in 2023.

To learn more about Dr. Speck's work, several of her publications that highlight her achievements are listed below.

Speck, P.M., Ekroos, R.A., Faugno, D.K., Johnson, J.A., Sievers, V., & Mitchell, S.A. (2023). Self-collection following rape: An integrative literature review. Journal of the Academy of Forensic Nursing. (accepted for publication January 2023).

Speck, P.M., Dowdell, E.B., & Mitchell, S.A. (2022). Innovative pedagogical approaches to teaching advanced forensic nursing. Nursing Clinics of North America. 57(4), 653-670.

Faugno, D.K., Mitchell, S.A., Sievers, V., Pederson, S., Volz, J., & Speck, P.M. (Eds.). (2022). Overview of Forensic Nursing: Principles and Practice. STM Publishing, Inc.

Speck, P.M, Mitchell, S.A., Ekroos, R.A., Sanchez, R.V., Hillfinger-Messias, D.K. (2018). Policy brief on the nursing response to human trafficking. Nursing Outlook, 66(4), p. 407-411.

Speck, P. M., & Hanson, E. (2019, November). Post-Coital DNA Recovery in Minority Proxy Couples (2014-NE-BX-0009) [Grant]. Birmingham, AL.

Speck, P. M., Ballantyne, J. (2015). Post-coital DNA recovery. Washington, DC: Department of Justice, National Institutes of Justice. Available online at

The Forensic Nurse Scientist Award spotlights a forensic nurse scholar who is actively engaged in advancing the science of forensic nursing. The forensic nurse receiving this award demonstrates significant achievement in the areas of forensic nursing research development, implementation, translation, and/or dissemination. These scholarly contributions help advance the scientific discipline of nursing and improve health and legal outcomes of patients affected by trauma, violence, and maltreatment.

Forensic Nurse Scientist Award — Dr. Julie Valentine, PhD

Get to know Dr. Valentine: Dr. Julie L. Valentine is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Research and an Associate Professor at Brigham Young University College of Nursing and a certified adult/adolescent sexual assault nurse with Wasatch Forensic Nurses. Her clinical specialty and research focus areas are sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and criminal justice system responses to sexual violence. She conducts research to foster interdisciplinary practice and improve criminal justice responses in sexual assault cases. Dr. Valentine and her research team are currently engaging in multiple research studies utilizing their extensive database of ~9,000 sexual assault cases. They are keenly aware that each sexual assault case represents an individual who suffers from the sequelae of sexual assault trauma and strive to represent the voices of these survivors. Dr. Valentine is the primary author of three federal grants with awards totaling $3.45 million and is the primary investigator on several studies related to sexual assault.

Dr. Valentine has served in leadership roles with the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), from Utah Chapter President to Director-At-Large on the international Board of Directors (2020–2022). Dr. Valentine is the lead author of The Constructed Theory of Forensic Nursing Care to guide forensic nursing education, practice, and research. In 2015, she was appointed to the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act committee to develop The National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach (2017) to guide national policies, and has served as an expert advisor for multiple legislative bills related to sexual assault and domestic violence.

Dr. Valentine has received several awards and recognitions for her research and policy work. She was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2020. She was the first forensic nurse to be awarded the Forensic Nurse Scientist Award by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in 2023.

To learn more about Dr. Valentine's accomplishments, these publications are highly recommended: 

Downing, N., Avshman, E., Valentine, J.L., Johnson, L., & Chapa, H. (2023). Forensic nurses' understanding of emergency contraception mechanisms: Implications for access to emergency contraception. Manuscript accepted. Journal of Forensic Nursing.

Valentine, J.L., Miles, L., Hamblin, K.M., & Worthen, A. (2022). Dating app facilitated sexual assault: retrospective review of 3,413 sexual assault medical forensic examination charts. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, online publication October 2022.

Valentine, J.L., & Downing, N. (2022). Current trends in sexual assault exams and examiners, Chapter 12. In R. Lovell & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J. (Eds.), Sexual Assault Kits and Reforming theResponse to Rape. Routledge: Taylor & Francis.

Utah Women's Leadership Project. (2022). Sexual Assault Among Utah Women: A 2022 Update. Primary author. Retrieved from

Aequitas. (2022). Self-collected sexual assault kits: Assessing and mitigating the risks (Contributor). Strategies in Brief, 38. Co-author. Retrieved from file:///Users/julielynvalentine/Downloads/Aequitas%20Brief%20DIY%20Kits%20SIB38_Jan22.pdf.

Miles, L.W., Knox, E., Downing, N., & Valentine, J.L. (2021). Ability to consent to a sexual assault medical forensic examination in adult patients with serious mental illness. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.

Nominations will open in a few months for the 2024 awards. Please consider nominating a forensic nurse innovator and scholar.


The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.