November 16, 2021

Ellen Hahn, Ph.D.
Hahn’s early health policy research and advocacy played a role in restricting tobacco use in Kentucky, leading to healthier, cleaner air for communities across the state.

Ellen J. Hahn, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, received the prestigious 2021 Faye Glenn Abdellah Leadership Award, Oct. 6, from the Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research. The award is presented each year to an organization or individual with a sustained or lasting impact on nursing science either through advocacy, institutional leadership, or individual research.

In her acceptance speech, Hahn said she was deeply humbled to be recognized for her research to improve population health. She conducts community-engaged research and outreach in rural Kentucky to reduce lung cancer risk related to co-exposures of tobacco smoke and radon.

Radon, a naturally occurring odorless, radioactive gas, moves up from the ground into homes and other indoor spaces. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after tobacco use. Exposure to both radon and tobacco smoke dramatically increases lung cancer risk.

“We have the perfect storm for lung cancer in rural Appalachia. High rates of tobacco use, high radon risk potential, and excessive exposure to tobacco smoke put our people in danger of developing lung cancer,” Hahn said in a UK news story.

As Director of the NIEHS-funded University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences, Hahn and collaborators work with high school students in Kentucky and Ohio to teach their families and communities about the dangers of radon and promote home radon testing, with the ultimate goal of preventing lung cancer.

“In the spirit of Faye Glenn Abdellah, who forever shifted our practice from disease-centered to a patient and family-centered approach, my work promises to not wait for the world to change, but to work with the world to change it,” said Hahn, referencing an inspiring quote from Abdellah, an American innovator in nursing research.