Monday, October 10, 2016
Jo Eland

Professor Joann (Jo) Eland, PhD, RN, FAAN, passed away on Sunday, September 25, 2016.

Jo taught in the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa for 41 years. Her colleagues, friends, and family describe her as a mentor, teacher, advocate, philanthropist, photographer, and even a second mom. As a mentor, Jo demonstrated humility, empathy, and ceaseless compassion. As a philanthropist, all knew of her unlimited and unwavering generosity. As a teacher, Jo embodied and inspired student nurses to be their very best, and her knowledge and passion for children’s pain management was reached globally—including extensive work taking undergraduate nursing students to India, to collaborating with international colleagues in Italy.

“It’s a wild ride; this kind of travel is not for the faint of heart,” Jo once said of her work.

“But it’s truly an amazing experience, and I look forward to teaching more of our incredible students while continuing to collaborate with the dedicated staff at Pallium for years to come.”

Jo led students on her India Winterim course “Pain, Palliative Medicine, and Hospice Care” six times beginning in 2009, and was awarded the Robert A. Milch Award for Palliative Pain and Symptom Management from Children’s Hospice International. In May of 2013 she was the only non-Indian member of a group that wrote pain curriculum, which is required for all nursing students in the country of India.

Jo is survived by her sister Inez (Gil ) Dawes of Indianola; nieces, Juli Agan of West Des Moines and Jessica Ireland of Des Moines ; her nephew, Jeff Ireland of Charlotte, N.C.; great nieces, Christine Hagerty, Maddie Hagerty, Kaleigh Ireland and great nephew, Kaelan Ireland.

She is preceded in death by her parents, Tom and Mildred (Walker) Eland.

Online condolences may be sent to

Memorials may be directed to the University of Iowa Foundation for The College of Nursing, PO Box 167, Iowa City, IA, 52244.

Our dear Jo, Professor Jo Eland, is no more. She came into our lives, sprinkled love abundantly, conquered our hearts and now she is gone. 

In December 2009, she led a group of young students from Iowa to us on a cultural immersion program. And slid beautifully into our lives. She faced problems; Lord, plenty of them; and taught us a lesson in equanimity in the way she dealt with them. And thereafter she would come at the end of every year, a new flock with her to whom as well as to us she gave of her love in abundance.

Initially for me, she was just a loving Professor of Nursing; but I did not know much about her. Then while attending a discussion at a meeting in New York I heard one of the participants speaking about a landmark study by one Professor Eland! I looked her up, and sure enough, there it was, the pioneering work on pain in children. And that was not the only time. Her name would pop up in discussions in various parts of the world, almost unfailingly whenever pain in children was discussed.

An avid photographer, she would capture things that most of us would never see. 

As a mentor, if there was a problem somewhere, Jo would quietly find and fix it. I remember once, soon after their arrival in Trivandrum, the girls in the group all went on an excited shopping spree – except one who had no money. She had scraped together enough to come on the trip, but had none left for luxuries like shopping. Jo pressed some money into her hands and made sure that she had as much fun as the others.

For all of us, end of December every year was a time to wait for Jo and her new team. And then one year, she wrote that she had cancer. “But I will be there”, she assured us. She would manage the three weeks with us in between chemotherapy sessions. And she continued to come every year. Two years back she introduced Dr Ann Broderick to us with the team. In her thoughtful way, I now realize, she was ensuring that the visits and the mentoring would continue.

Dear Jo, you have taught me acceptance with courage. You dealt with the inevitable end as philosophically as the disease and treatment. We will miss you Jo; we will miss you a lot.

If there is a somewhere out there, I shall see you there. Until then, let me hold you in my heart, dear friend.

- Dr. M. R. Rajagopal, Chairman of Pallium India in Trivandrum, India

I went with Jo to India for the 2014 Winterim term. She was one of the most amazing women I had the pleasure of getting to know. One of the stories comes to mind that makes me smile when I think of Jo and India is when we were helping Pallium India fix up their new hospice ward. We volunteered as a group to paint and clean a few days prior to the opening. India anytime of the year is hot and humid and this day was no exclusion but together the group of came into the warm dark ward with a positive attitude. Over 6 hours we worked side by side with Jo painting bed frames and window bars while getting to know each other. Jo would tell share stories of her many adventures in nursing as we scrapped away at old paint and rust. Jo always had a light about her that she shared. She even started all of us singing together as we painted. She taught us the song and got us singing in a round which made the hard work more enjoyable. We got so into our singing we even got asked to be quiet. Jo always made us smile and see the light in any situation. She also had this ability to sense and understand how you were feeling even if you weren't trying to show them. Jo could always been someone to talk to knowing that you would feel better as soon as you left her. She will be so missed by many.

- Emily Sutton, RN BSN CCRN, India Winterim 2013-2014 participant

From Iowa City to Italy to India, Jo was a beacon of humor, sensibility, and compassion. Though my professor for three weeks on a winter study program to India in 2010-2011, she became a quick mentor and friend. To be in her company was to be in awe at her stories, be they about her work in nursing, her travels, her photography, or her dogs. She was the best of what Iowans can be, humble in her accomplishments, steadfast in her work, inquisitive about the world, passionate in her interests, and most importantly, concerned about bettering her community. Even years after taking us to India, she would invite the group of students back to her home for pizza and a chance to reunite, share updates on our lives, and encourage us on towards the next step in our career. When she attended my wedding, multiple family members and friends stopped me in the weeks after it to tell me that they met “the most fascinating woman” and shared some anecdote in which she had told them. The last time I saw her was in my final week in Iowa City, where I visited her in her home. Amid stories about lecturing in Florence, discussing scenes from her photography, and showing me how to fly her drone, she also talked to me about the next step of my career as a physician, the relationship between nurses and physicians and how we can best support each other to care for our patients. Farewell, Jo. You’ve touched so many lives. Your spirit and lessons will live on in the work of us all.

- Greg Pelc, MD, India Winterim 2010-2011 participant

I shared a bond with Jo over a love for kids with chronic diseases.  When I first met her I knew she was the legendary Peds teacher at the College of Nursing known for her intense essay exams.  As the India trip unfolded, I learned so much more about her. She went through a lot medically, but still managed to get her PhD, travel internationally regarding pediatric pain, and made herself one of the first professionals to recognize that children have pain.  Later in life she dealt with more significant health problems but continued to be an innovator.  She then started traveling to India and making a difference in Trivandrum.  When you meet Jo, you don't realize how much of an amazing person she is and how much she accomplished in her life.  I felt very lucky to have known her and even more lucky to have been her friend.

- Kaitlyn Reif, India Winterim 2015-2016 participant

Jo's passion for her work and compassion for others in and out of the classroom inspired me and helped give me confidence to pursue a career in public health. I'm grateful for the impact she had on my life. She was a great mentor and friend, and such a joy to be around. I'll truly miss her.

- Olivia Jones, India Winterim 2010-2011 participant

Jo was a remarkable, inspirational woman, a second grandmother to me, mentor and most of all a great friend. In India, she taught me the importance of reaching beyond the known possibilities of learning and experiences. It was a joy to experience riding elephants for the very first time together. The best advice she had given me was to never give up and take no for an answer especially when caring for patients dealing with pain and cancer. Because of her, my life has changed dramatically and I am a very fortunate human to have known her.

- Mallory Voss, India Winterim 2013-2014 participant