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Dr. Helen Burns, SVC Nursing chair, receives Pitt Distinguished Practice Award

Dr. Helen Burns, SVC Nursing chair, receives Pitt Distinguished Practice Award

by Public Relations | October 31, 2023

LATROBE, PA—Dr. Helen Burns, who has recently been appointed as the Rev. Owen Roth, O.S.B., Inaugural Director of Nursing and chair of the Department of Nursing at Saint Vincent College, has been presented with a Distinguished Practice Award from the University of Pittsburgh. 

The award is in recognition of the triumphs achieved by University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing alumni and their profound influence on the nursing vocation.

Dr. Helen Burns

Since 2011, Dr. Burns has served as senior vice president and chief nursing officer with Excela Health, for which she led and grew the nursing programs across the system. Dr. Burns also previously served as deputy secretary for health planning and assessment for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In that position, she was responsible for oversight of the Office of Public Health Preparedness; Office of Emergency Medical Services; and the Bureaus of Epidemiology, Laboratories, Health Planning and Community Health Systems. 

Previously an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, where she held the position as associate dean for clinical education and professor in the Department of Health and Community Systems, Dr. Burns has engaged in an active service role within healthcare and the nursing field, exhibited through various positions, including serving on the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association and Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders, as co-chair of the Nursing Committee of the PA Center for Health Careers, and on the steering committee of the PA Action Coalition. Dr. Burns was a member of the Board of Trustees at Excela Health System and Armstrong County Memorial Hospital and is a current board member of St. Anne Home.

Dr. Burns has been honored as an elected fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. She received the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing International Evidence-Based Practice Award and the Nurse Excellence Award. She is also the recipient of the Provost’s Innovation in Education Award and President’s Medal of Service from the University of Pittsburgh and has been honored as a Distinguished Alumni by both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.

A graduate of the Latrobe Area Hospital School of Nursing, Dr. Burns received her BSN from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She then attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning her master’s degree in medical-surgical nursing as a pulmonary clinical nurse specialist and a Ph.D. in nursing.

Under the leadership of Dr. Burns, Saint Vincent students will be able to begin enrolling in the Nursing Program in Fall 2024, when construction of a new nursing education and lab facility will begin on campus.


- David Collins, English major, of Oakmont