UR Nursing Community Mourns Loss of Alumna Ellen Volpe

Ellen Volpe, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, a 2010 graduate of the University of Rochester School of Nursing’s PhD program, was killed in an auto accident Thursday. She was 45. Ellen Volpe

A former Loretta Ford Scholar and preceptor in the family nurse practitioner program who went on to teach at the University at Buffalo, she was highly respected and admired as a nurse and educator.

“We are shocked and heartbroken to learn of this tragic loss,” said Dean Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP. “Ellen was a talented young woman with a bright career in nursing. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and loved ones.”

A Rochester native, Volpe earned her undergraduate degree in biology in 1994 from Wake Forest University and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing degree in 1997 from Vanderbilt University. She began her clinical career in York, Pennsylvania, before returning to Rochester in 2001.

In Rochester, she worked as a family nurse practitioner at Westside Health Services, providing primary care to underserved populations in the city for eight years. She also served a preceptor for the family nurse practitioner program at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, which led her to the school’s PhD program in Health Practice Research. She began her research in HIV-risk reduction for adolescent girls, and received a two-year NIH Institutional Predoctoral National Research Service Award.

Volpe was a fellow in the Leadership in Adolescent Education and Health (LEAH) program from 2007-08 and was honored with the Katharine M. Donohue Scholarly Nurse Practitioner Award in 2009.

“Ellen was always an extraordinary student, clinician, colleague, and engaged team member,” said Dr. Richard E. Kreipe, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED, who was LEAH interdisciplinary training director from 1997-2012. “As a person and as a professional, she had few peers. Her warmth, mental acuity and ready smile made her welcomed wherever she went. She was with us for much too short of a time, but those who got to know Ellen are better people for it. She will be sorely missed.”

Volpe completed her dissertation, “Partner Age Discordance and HIV Risk Behaviors in Adolescent Girls,” and continued her influential research into dating violence, relationship power, and adolescent risk behaviors as a post-doc at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-12) and as a member of the tenure-track faculty at UB (2013-17).

“Inspired by her clinical expertise and her concern about coercion and violence in the lives of teenage girls, Ellen spent many weeks in the East High School health clinic, where she enrolled a large sample of young female clients using an innovative laptop-based system of collecting data,” said Professor of Nursing Margaret Kearney, PhD, RN, FAAN. “She found that the larger the age difference with her partner, the greater was a young women’s HIV risk. She went on to author or co-author 15 articles and to contribute to our scientific understanding of HIV risks and mental health challenges faced by sexually active teens.”

“Ellen came to our PhD program as an already well-established family nurse practitioner with a passion for working with underserved youth,” said Professor of Clinical Nursing Jane Tuttle, PhD, APRN, BC, FNP, CPNP, who served on Volpe’s dissertation committee. “I had the honor and pleasure of working closely with her on her dissertation and while she was in the adolescent leadership program. She was a brilliant clinical scholar and a wonderful person who has left this world a better place. My heart is with her family.”

“Ellen’s contagious energy will be missed by many,” added Catherine Cerulli, JD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, who also served on Volpe’s dissertation committee. “Her efforts with youth were innovative and creative. Her work will continue, as she brought community into academics, and vice versa, leaving a legacy behind.”