Remembering Margo McCaffery

NEW LECTURE SERIES ESTABLISHED BY DENICE ECONOMOU MS ‘93

Reprinted from the UCLA School of Nursing RE: Magazine-Spring 2018

Nursing pioneer Margo McCaffery, RN, MS, FAAN, a trailblazer in pain management, and lecturer in the School of Nursing in the 1960s, passed away January 8, 2018.  Margo leaves behind a legacy that has influenced and guided the understanding of pain management, and treatment of patients with acute and chronic pain in health care settings worldwide.  She defined pain as “…whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does.” Thanks to Margo’s work, nurses and all health care providers can better understand human suffering and the most effective interventions to alleviate symptoms and improve outcomes and quality of life.

Margo and her colleague and friend Chris Pasero authored the first comprehensive textbook on pain management: Pain Assessment and Pharmacologic Management (Elsevier/Mosby). Their devotion to preparing nurses to meet the pain needs of patients through evidence-based assessment and interventions provided a foundation through which the science of managing pain with academic scholarship and experience supported the integrity and value of nursing involvement and research in managing pain.


“Pain is whatever the person who experiences it says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does.”

— Margo McCaffrey, Pain Specialist


“Margo’s passion for caring for patients in pain ignited my professional goals when I heard her lecture to my graduate school class at UCLA in 1992. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I remember her admitting to almost being ‘tarred and feathered and run out of Texas for making such an outrageous statement. No one dared to believe that the patient could know their own pain better than the physician,” said Denice Economou.  

UCLA School of Nursing alumna Economou and her husband James Economou, MD, have graciously established a lectureship in the School in honor of Margo’s many contributions. This will allow us to bring in outstanding researchers to provide an annual lecture about advances in the management of pain and palliative care for our faculty, students and alumni.

For more information about plans for the first lecture, or if you would like to contribute to the Margo McCaffery Lectureship in Pain and Palliative Care at the School of Nursing, you may contact Amy Drizhal at adrizhal@ sonnet.ucla.edu.

Margo with her collaborator Chris Pasero
Margo with her collaborator Chris Pasero
PHOTO CREDIT: JO ELAND