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Rachel K. Walker

Assistant Professor & Associate Director of CPHM

Our lab investigates person-driven, clinically-translatable solutions for promoting well-being, capability, and dignity while aging with cancer and other forms of chronic illness.

Current Research

Rachel Walker is the first nurse to be named an official Invention Ambassador for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She is an Associate Director of the UMASS Center for Health and Human Performance: a multidisciplinary translational science center that specializes in developing sensors, wearables, and digital health technology.  She earned her Ph.D. in Nursing, Certificates in Health Disparities research and Nursing Education, and completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship in innovation for aging and translational science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her clinical background includes oncology nursing, patient navigation, and experience in rural emergency response, humanitarian disaster relief, wilderness search & rescue, and as a U.S. Peace Corps-Mali Volunteer.


Dr. Walker is an Assistant Professor and incoming Director of the PhD Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing, where she teaches across the undergraduate and doctoral curricula, with a special focus on innovation, measurement, and qualitative methods. Her team’s research focuses primarily on nursing invention as a vehicle for achieving health equity and social justice, and co-creating supportive care and technology to promote dignity, functioning, and a sense of well-being in the context of cancer, chronic illness, and symptom-related disability. This research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Oncology Nursing Foundation and Sigma Foundation for Nursing. Recent features about their work and nurse inventions involving sensors such as computational eyeglasses, microfluidics, radar-based sensing, accelerometers and nanotechnology, have appeared in magazines such as Forbes and Scientific American, on NPR and Facebook Live, and in the journal Science.


Dr. Walker believes technology is just a tool that can support but should never supplant attention to individual’s voices and lived experiences, human dignity, caring and healing touch, and the need to address structures of power and oppression that impact health. She serves on the Steering Committee of the UMASS Center for Community Health Equity Research (CCHER) and is a member of the Design Justice Network (http://designjusticenetwork.org). Dr. Walker is an Associate Editor of the journal Oncology Nursing Forum, where she recently founded a new running Commentary section that addresses issues of equity and justice within the nursing profession and its scholarship.

Learn more: www.umass.edu/nursing/node/928

Academic Background

  • BA University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • BSN Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, MD
  • PhD Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, MD
  • Postdoc Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing Center for Innovative Care in Aging & Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
  • Certificate-Health Disparities & Inequalities, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Certificate-Nurse Educator, Office of Teaching Excellence, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
  • Certificate-Chemotherapy & Biotherapy Provider, Oncology Nursing Society


  • First nurse named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) – Lemelson Foundation Invention Ambassador.
Walker, R. K., Paskausky, A., & Chambers, S. (Accepted for publication). What you can’t see can still kill you: On the use oflatent constructs”. Oncology Nursing Forum.
Ehrlich, O., Jacelon, C. & Walker, R. K. (Accepted for publication on June 18, 2019). Cancer Pain Social Processes and Pain Management in Home Hospice Care. Pain Management Nursing.
*Scott, S., Nathanson, B., Andrzejewski Jr., C., Martinez, V., Henneman, E., Walker, R. K., Gonzalez, M. Use of a TransfusionChecklist by Student Nurses to Improve Patient Safety. (Accepted for Publication on June 12, 2019). Journal of Clinical Haematology.
*Newman, R. M., Alfano, C. M., Radomski, M. V., Pergolotti, M., Wolf , T. J., Sleight, A. G., Walker, R. K. … Lyons, K. D.(2019). Catalyzing Research to Optimize Cancer Survivors’ Participation in Work and Life Roles. OTJR: Occupation, Participationand Health.
*Ehrlich, O. & Walker, R. K. (2018). Recruiting and retaining patient–caregiver–nurse triads for qualitative hospicecancer pain research. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, first published on-line February 19, 2018, 1-6.
*Garg, V., Best, S. R., Skinner, M. L., Boss, E. F., Tunkel, D. E., Walker, R. K., & Pandian, V. (2017). Parents’ perceptionsabout their child’s tracheostomy-related discharge education: Conventional content analysis. ORL – Head and Neck Nursing,35(3), 6-11.
Walker, R. K., Hickey, A., & Freedson, P. S. (2016). Advantages and accuracy of wearable activity trackers:Considerations for patients and clinicians. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 20(6), 606-610.
Ehrlich, O. & Walker, R. K. (2016). Pain and Social Processes for Hospice Cancer Patients: An Integrative Review. EuropeanJournal of Oncology Nursing, 25, 83-89.
Griggs, S. & Walker, R. K. (2016). The role of hope for adolescents with chronic illness: An integrative review. Journal ofPediatric Nursing, 31(4), 404-421.
*Szanton , S. L., Walker, R. K., Lim, J., Fisher, L., Zhan, A., Gitlin, L., Thorpe, R., & Terzis, A. (2016). Development of an‘exergame’ for urban-dwelling older adults with functional limitations: results and lessons learned. Progress in CommunityHealth Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action. 10(1), 73-81.
Van Cleave JH, Szanton SL, Shillam C, Rose K, Rao AD, Perez A, O'Connor M, Walker R., Buron B, Boltz M, Bellot J,Batchelor-Murphy M. (2016). Hartford Gerontological Nursing Leaders: From funding initiative to national organization.Journal of Professional Nursing. 32(1), 25-31.
Contact Info

College of Nursing
Skinner 122
651 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01003

(413) 545-0250