November 2006, Volume 33, Number 6
Renilda Estella Hilkemeyer
Renilda Estella Hilkemeyer, RN, BS, DrPH, an internationally recognized pioneer in the
specialty of oncology nursing and a tireless advocate for patients with cancer,
died on June 10, 2006, in
Hilke, as she was fondly known, was the first director of nursing at the
nursing was still a new specialty when Hilke came to
that nurses had other priorities at home that affected their ability to work, Hilke identified the need for on-site child care in the
Hilke received countless awards during her years in oncology nursing, including Nurse of the Year from the Texas Nurses Association; the American Cancer Society (ACS) Distinguished Service Award; the Distinguished Merit Award from the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC); an honorary doctorate of public service degree from her alma mater, St. Louis University; the ACS National Nursing Leadership Award; and the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Distinguished Service Award, to name a few. She published numerous articles in national and international journals and was a consultant to many oncology organizations and facilities.
Hilke was recognized for her knowledge and expertise not only by the oncology community but also by other organizations. She received the Outstanding Houston Professional Woman’s Award from the Federation of Houston Professional Women and, in her later years, the Volunteer of the Year Award for service to Braes Interfaith Ministries.
Hilke was one of a kind. When she was the director of nursing, she never let anyone tell her no. She supported the nursing staff “to the wall,” helping improve the tools and techniques used to care for patients. She promoted professional organizational involvement from ACS, the Texas Nurses Association, ISNCC, and ONS.
Once Hilke actually did retire, she continued to contribute at M.D. Anderson as a volunteer, wearing her blue volunteer jacket with pride. Her other joy in life was participating in the Braes Interfaith Ministries Food Bank. She convinced Houston Lighting and Power to let the ministries start a community garden on a utility right-of-way, thereby providing fresh vegetables for more than 4,000 families.
Hilke was an outstanding mentor for both of us as well as for the nurses with whom she worked. She encouraged and championed our involvement in the Texas Nurses Association and ONS. She was one of the most professional, dedicated, kind, and genuine people with whom we have ever worked. Her interest, support, and friendship have had a direct impact on our careers in oncology nursing.
The last time we visited with Hilke before her death, she still had those sparkling eyes and brightened our day with her smile. We, among many, are better people for having known her and will miss her greatly.
Deborah A. Houston, MS, RN, BC
Clinical Operations and Program
Gary R. Houston, MN, RN
Nurse Legal Consultant
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1188/06.ONF.1049