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AFN Announces 2024 Class of Distinguished Members

Each year, the Academy of Forensic Nursing recognizes exemplary members for their contributions to forensic nursing and the organization with the Distinguished Fellow (DF-AFN) and Distinguished Member (DM-AFN) awards. For 2024, two new Distinguished Members and three new Distinguished Fellows received this honor.


The Distinguished Member award recognizes members in good standing who participate in AFN committees or educational opportunities, and who help educate others about forensic nursing by presenting or publishing about forensic nursing topics in conferences, posters, podcasts, webinars, or journals. The 2024 recipients of this honorary title are Andrea Sebastian and Jessica Volz.


The Distinguished Fellow award – the highest recognition awarded to AFN members – recognizes those who have contributed significantly to the field of forensic nursing for a minimum of ten years through scholarship, education, and service. The newest recipients of this title are Kelly Berishaj, Christine Foote-Lucero, and Michelle Patch.


Click here to learn more about AFN Distinguished Memberships.


Kelly Berishaj, DNP, RN, ACNS-BC, SANE-A, DF-AFN

Kelly Berishaj holds a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Oakland University (2013), MSN in Nursing Education and Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Certificate from the University of Detroit Mercy (2009), and a BSN from Madonna University (2000). She has been a faculty member in the Oakland University School of Nursing since 2007 and is the founding director of its Graduate Forensic Nursing Program. Berishaj practices as a forensic nurse specializing in consultation, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. She holds certification as an Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Advanced Forensic Nurse, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner in the Adult/Adolescent population. Berishaj is actively engaged in the Academy of Forensic Nursing, Forensic Nursing Science Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the Forensic Nursing Certification Board. She has published several articles and chapters and presents nationally on topics related to forensic nursing, including her research interests of near-fatal strangulation, sexual violence, and forensic nursing education.

Christine Foote-Lucero, MSN, RN, CEN, SANE-A, SANE-P, AFN-C, DF-AFN

Christine Foote-Lucero has been a licensed registered nurse in Colorado for 22 years, with a focus on critical care, and obtained her master’s degree in forensic nursing. She currently manages a comprehensive forensic nursing program that responds to all patients affected by violence at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) in Aurora, Colorado. Her clinical experiences as a forensic nurse have included death investigation and correctional nursing, as well as sexual assault, intimate partner violence, physical assault, strangulation, elder abuse, child abuse, and human trafficking. She holds four board certifications, including Certified Emergency Nurse, Sexual Assault Examiner for Adolescents and Adults, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for Pediatrics, and Advanced Forensic Nurse. Foote-Lucero is a certified instructor through the Emergency Nurses Association, teaching Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC) and Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC). She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Academy of Forensic Nursing and chairs the AFN Journal Club.  


Michelle Patch is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland. She is board certified as an adult health clinical nurse specialist and an advanced forensic nurse. Patch has held progressive clinical, operational, and safety leadership positions in various acute care, ambulatory, emergency, and austere settings. Her internationally recognized scholarship and clinical practice address patient, staff, and public health safety, specifically during times of crisis, violence, disaster, and trauma. Patch’s research focuses on health care responses to intimate partner violence and assault-related mechanisms including strangulation and head trauma. Her work has significantly contributed globally to the limited but growing science base informing post-strangulation injury and care. Patch is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, secretary for the Forensic Nursing Certification Board, past-chair of the Academy of Forensic Nursing’s Research Committee, and a Medical Advisory Board member for the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.


Andrea Sebastian obtained her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from the University of Kentucky in 2014 with a focus of primary care pediatrics. Upon graduation, she began working with the child abuse team at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, where her primary duties included medical evaluations of children with concerns for physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. She practiced as an adjunct faculty member with the UTHSC College of Nursing from 2014–2016 and joined the college’s clinical faculty as an assistant professor in 2017. In 2022, she completed her Post Master’s Certification in Acute Care Pediatrics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Sebastian is a certified sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) for pediatric patients, and a certified advanced forensic nurse (AFN-C).  She also serves as the principal investigator for the $1.5 million HRSA Advanced Nursing Education Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program grant awarded to the UTHSC College of Nursing.


Jessica Volz serves as the Clinical Director of Forensics at Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland. She has earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Bachelor of Science degrees in both nursing and behavioral science, and is a Nightingale Award winner. She is a nurse practitioner with a background in critical care, emergency, and forensic nursing working with patients across the lifespan for more than ten years. Volz currently serves on the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, Child Fatality Review Team, is co-chair of the Montgomery County Sexual Assault Response Team, Victim Services Sub-Committee for the Montgomery County Human Trafficking Committee, the Medical Sub-Committee for the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, and is a NIOSH fellow in the PhD program at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Under her leadership, she and members of the Forensic Medical Unit have lectured internationally, received a proclamation from the Montgomery County Council for its work with survivors of human trafficking and survivors of sexual assault, the Community Vital Link Public Safety Award from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and recognition from the Maryland Attorney General.

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