Recognizing Excellence: UF College of Nursing DNP Student Awards Celebrate Outstanding Students

UF College of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice program students graduating within the current calendar year were asked to submit a nomination for DNP Student Awards. Each of the awards highlights the exceptional achievements and qualities of graduating DNP students in various areas. Whether it’s advancing nursing practice, leadership or diversity, these awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions these individuals have made during their time at the UF College of Nursing.

Excellence in Advancing Nursing Practice Award

Brittany Wilson

The Excellence in Advancing Nursing Practice Award honors a graduating DNP student who has made a significant impact on nursing practice through their DNP project scholarship.

What did it mean to win the Excellence in Advancing Nursing Practice Award?

Winning the Excellence in Advanced Nursing Practice Award was an overwhelming achievement and I was extremely honored to accept it. We, at times, can be guilty of underestimating ourselves and not realizing our full potential. I, myself, have been guilty of this. I strive on a daily basis to provide quality patient-centered care to my patients to improve their mental health and overall quality of life. This is my passion. This is my purpose. I do this because I love to. This award showed me that putting your patients first IS excellent. Striving to be your best, do your best, and give your best is the definition of excellence in nursing practice. Winning this award shed light on the impact I can have on my patients and my community and I am forever grateful for the acknowledgment.

How was your time in the UF College of Nursing DNP Program?

My time in the DNP program was trying! I actually gave birth to two babies 11 months apart. It was challenging to juggle the changes at home, striving to provide the best care to my patients 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. (and sometimes more), and giving all of my efforts to the program. I thoroughly enjoyed the support and the education I obtained. I believe I developed very prominent and significant skills to contribute to the nurse practitioner and mental health community. Faculty were overwhelmingly supportive, especially my mentor Dr. Ann Horgas. I will never forget being discouraged coming back to my final semester with a 14-month-old and a 3-month-old and feeling so nervous and overwhelmed about juggling everything on my plate. I asked Dr. Horgas if she thought it was feasible to complete everything and her response was “Absolutely!” I trusted her judgment and I could not be happier that I did. The day I walked across the stage was one of the most rewarding moments of my life.

What are you looking forward to most now that you have graduated from the DNP program?

Now that I have graduated, I plan to continue the process of opening my own practice in Jacksonville, FL. I want to work somewhere that aims to promote mental health awareness and to provide the highest quality of compassionate and specialized care to patients from all walks of life. In my practice, I plan to strive to achieve clinical outcomes and help my patients succeed in prioritizing their happiness and mental health. I envision a future where mental health is not only a priority but an important part of overall health. My goal is to transform lives – one session at a time.

What does it mean to be a Gator Nurse?

I know that most people think of football, basketball, Tim Tebow and FL/GA rivalries when they hear “UF.” That person is not me! I actually bought a school shirt from the bookstore in the middle of the program and made the mistake of wearing it on one of the biggest game days of football season! I didn’t even know it WAS football season! I can’t even count how many comments I received about that game that day. My family would laugh every time someone would say, “Ready for the game tonight?” I would stumble and stammer in response. I am not really a sports girl. When I think of UF, I think of a higher standard of education. I have always aspired to be a Gator Nurse. The University of Florida carries a very prestigious reputation in the community. When people would say that is where they went to school you automatically knew that they were knowledgeable and would achieve great things. You knew they received a quality education. I actually did not even think I would be accepted (there goes that underestimation, again)! I feel that when people ask me where I graduated from I will PROUDLY respond with “University of Florida.” And I will always know when football season starts and ends and choose my attire accordingly! GO GATORS!

UF College of Nursing Diversity Award

The UF College of Nursing Diversity Award honors a graduating DNP student who has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion.

Wilmona Ball

What did it mean to win the UF College of Nursing Diversity Award?

Receiving this award was the validation that I needed to continue to make strides toward the achievement of diversity and equity in nursing. Diversity has always been a large part of who I am, personally and professionally, but has not been something that I’ve witnessed many others value. It has been refreshing to be a part of a college that recognizes the importance of diversity, actively engages in efforts and celebrates those that champion it.

How has your time been in the DNP program?

My time in this program has been challenging, yet rewarding. Throughout this program, I have become a new mom, transitioned into a new RN role, navigated a pandemic and much more. My eyes have been opened to some of the more large-scale challenges that exist within the nursing profession, and I have learned a great deal about my role in aiding to resolve them.

What are you looking forward to most when you graduate from the DNP program?

I initially look forward to spending more time with my family. In the long run, I am excited to provide the innovative, compassionate and equitable advanced care that I’ve worked hard to be able to provide to those that need it most.

What does it mean to you to be a Gator Nurse?

To me, being a Gator Nurse means being one who has been tried and tested. It means being a nurse that will go beyond the status quo and one that will challenge the conventional. It means being an exceptional nurse that has been thoroughly prepared to care, lead and inspire. 

UF College of Nursing Leadership Award

The UF College of Nursing Leadership Award recognizes a graduating DNP student who has played a pivotal role in transforming healthcare through their leadership.

Andrea Hefner

“Winning the UF College of Nursing Leadership Award was a credit to everyone who contributed to my successes within my time at UF. I spent time during the DNP program networking and building relationships that strengthened my nursing skills and my leadership abilities. Among some of the highlights during my time in the DNP program, I traveled to Washington DC, presented poster presentations and started the Graduate Nurse Student Organization. I am now most looking forward to working in nursing education and clinical practice. To me, being a Gator Nurse is about connections and always being willing to learn. Attending UF is one of my greatest accomplishments.”

Andrea Hefner