2020: International Year of the Nurse and Midwife the UF College of nursinG Highlights Our ALumni, Faculty, and Students

When the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” it was welcomed within the nursing profession with open arms and hearts. Now, more than ever, nurses deserve the recognition this designation brings with it. While the battle continues, the UF College of Nursing wants Gator Nurses to know that we are here for you. We support you. We thank you for your sacrifices. This page highlights some of the heroic stories of our alumni, students and faculty who served and continue to serve on the front lines.

College of Nursing Founding Dean

Dorothy Smith

As founding dean in 1956, Dorothy Smith dreamed of a new form of nursing education — a school where knowledge-based clinical excellence was the norm for administrators, faculty members, staff nurses and students alike. Smith brought national recognition to the UF BSN program through the introduction of bold nursing innovations, often contrary to established practice and, therefore, highly controversial. A pioneer and visionary in the nursing field, Smith influenced nursing education’s renewed commitment to and influence in clinical nursing—a commitment that laid the foundation for many of the most important nursing advances over the past few decades.

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Alumni


Diana Andersen Davis

Gator Nurses possess a natural ability to connect with patients and forge strong bonds. Listen carefully to references of “Diana” and “children laughing” in a recent video produced by UFHealth. The video follows Moe Ricks and his journey toward receiving a new heart and kidney. The organs he was to receive were being flown to Gainesville when the plane struck a flock of birds. Diana Andersen-Davis (ABSN 2015) is an RN at the UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and served as a grounding presence for Moe during his time in the hospital and beyond. Throughout his healing journey, he wrote and recorded an original song, which includes references to Diana and her children. Theirs is a true story of friendship and how College of Nursing graduates Care, Lead, and Inspire. Watch the video here.

Diana Andersen-Davis with Moe Ricks


Shaila Bahl

After alumna Shaila Bahl (BSN 2011) and her husband both recovered from COVID-19, she knew she had to help others affected by this disease. Being able to provide a personal understanding of having COVID-19 helped make her a good candidate to serve on the front lines. After reaching out to a contact from college who was looking for volunteers in New York, she offered to go and was on a plane the next day. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, she was willing to do whatever was needed, and ended up caring for adult patients in the MICU at Metropolitan Hospital Center for three weeks. Since then she has returned to Florida and safely quarantined prior to returning to her full-time job in Miami.

“At Metropolitan Hospital Center I saw loss, heartache and devastation. People fighting for their lives with incredible strength and determination. It’s like nothing I could have ever imagined. I also saw complete strangers from around the country come together to perform miracles, heroic measures and lifesaving treatments. The compassion of the health care workers around me was contagious. When I felt defeated, they lifted me up and encouraged me to keep going.”

Shalia Bahl


Valerie Berman

Valerie Berman (Accelerated BSN ’19) is an RN on an adult medical/surgical/telemetry unit at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, FL, that was quickly converted into a COVID-19 telemetry unit. She is also in a nurse residency program and will be starting our DNP Family Nurse Practitioner program this fall. While she knew for most of her life that she wanted to work in health care, she could have never imaged she would be starting out as a new nurse graduate in the middle of a global pandemic. But her schooling here at the College of Nursing helped prepare her to fight COVID-19 courageously and with confidence.

“Days after finishing orientation and finally working without a preceptor, our manager called us into a meeting to announce our unit was being converted into a COVID-19 telemetry floor. I was terrified at first about bringing the disease home to my family, but I gradually became more confident as I got used to wearing full PPE and working with new routines. Because the challenges presented by COVID-19 are new to everyone regardless of their level of experience, it has given us all unique opportunities to be innovative and inquisitive, both the young nurses and seasoned physicians alike. I’m so happy to help make this world better while learning so much every day! I’d like to give a special shout-out to the College of Nursing for preparing me so well for everything, even the unimaginable.”

Valerie Berman


Joseph Bertulfo

One Gator Nurse contributing to the COVID-19 response at the federal level is Joseph Bertulfo (BSN 1993). He is the director of the Occupational Health and Safety Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OHSO is part of an agency-wide effort to support communities across the country respond to COVID-19.  Bertulfo and OHSO staff have helped prepare over 1,000 CDC staff to safely deploy across the United States and abroad.

“It is an honor to work with so many dedicated safety and public health professionals who work every day to help keep our colleagues safe in the field. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride when I see my agency’s contributions actively protecting the health of local communities.”


Shari Constantini

As a renowned expert in the health care industry and CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals, it’s no surprise that Gator Nurse Shari Costantini (BSN 1988) has received numerous awards and recognition for her contributions. Shari was named the College of Nursing’s 2020 Alumna of the Year. She is also a three-time recipient of the UF Alumni Association’s Gator 100 Award, which recognizes the top 100 Gator-owned or led businesses.


Sara Copeland

Dr. Sara Copeland (BSN ’12, DNP ’16) gave birth to her son on the third day of the Accelerated BSN program and her daughter during the DNP program. The college provided a dedicated space for Copeland to pump, and she says the faculty were always understanding and supportive. She quickly realized babies and breastfeeding were her passion. As a pediatric nurse practitioner and certified lactation consultant with UF Health Pediatrics Tioga, she aims to be an empathetic provider since she understands that life is hectic and parents are often in survival mode. Now, she looks forward to resuming hands-on, personal interactions with patients and the end of COVID-19, which has required virtual visits and keeping distance during lactation consultations.

“It is one of the most basic acts in nature, to feed your baby/to nurse, but it is sometimes surprisingly difficult, an unnatural feeling, or just a little scary at the beginning. I am honored that I get to spend time with the family helping them to learn to understand their baby better and hopefully give some confidence to the parents.”

Sara Copeland


Kelly Cynkar

Kelly S. Cynkar (BSN 1999 and MSNSG 2000), a nurse practitioner at Comprehensive Women’s Health, has faced new challenges with COVID-19, quickly evolving and adapting to better serve patients. Wanting to ensure all patients and staff were safe, Telehealth appointments became an important tool in helping Cynkar’s patients limit the spread and possible exposure to COVID-19, while also ensuring they continued receiving quality medical care and advice from the comfort of their home. While adjusting to the “new normal” of patient care in the midst of a pandemic has been a team effort, it is clear that her training within the college has come full circle in helping her provide the best possible care.

“Being a Gator Nurse has impacted my career greatly and helped me become the advanced care provider I am today by giving me a strong foundation in both nursing education and practice. I’ll never forget those hours studying pharmacology with classmates then applying that information to practice in the various rural clinics I had the opportunity to help as part of my Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner training. It is truly an honor and privilege to be able to provide care for those in need, which is something the College of Nursing instilled in me early on in my nursing career. I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunities my education has provided me.”


Chioma Echeazu

Chioma Echeazu (ABSN ‘17 and DNP ’20) is a recent DNP graduate who was part of the first graduating class of the UF College of Nursing – Jacksonville Accelerated BSN program. As part of the first graduating class, she felt like she was a part of history, helping decide what will work for future students of the program. She is currently a nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando and hopes to work in Women’s Health, helping to reduce the disparities in the vulnerable population in prenatal and postnatal care, now that she is a DNP! Being a Gator Nurse has impacted her in many ways, helping her feel prepared for anything and confident in her abilities as a nurse. Her name Chioma means ‘God is good’ – and her Christian values help her every day to treat her patients like family.

Angela Godwin


Angela Godwin

As a clinical assistant professor at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and recent DNP graduate from Columbia University School of Nursing, Angela Godwin (BSN 2004) most enjoys the fact that the nursing students she teaches are out making a difference, saving lives and are better clinicians because of her guidance. Dr. Godwin says she took away a proud legacy from the UF College of Nursing, which she now shares with her students.

“I have a unique outlook on nursing that makes me even more caring. The connections and lifelong friendships from nursing school are priceless. I want students to enjoy their clinicals and nursing student experience like I did.” –Angela Godwin


Amaya Hill

COVID-19 impacted our day-to-day lives on so many levels. Shelter-in-place orders coupled with schools closing required some to work from home and embrace a new way of life. Some are also now learning that being a stay-at-home parent is not for the faint of heart. Following graduation, Amaya Cadiz Hill (BSN 2000), was a NICU nurse for 14 years, six of those were spent as a traveling RN. For the past five years, however, she has dedicated her life to raising her three kids in the San Francisco Bay area.

“During this unprecedented time in our world, when everyone is staying home with their families and practicing social distancing, ironically, I find an even greater sense of community and togetherness with friends. I’m sure most people will find a new appreciation for stay-at-home moms once this whole ordeal subsides.”


Ann Lurie and Goldie Wasman

For Ann Lurie and Goldie Wasman, who were college roommates and graduated from the BSN Class of 1967, their friendship has held strong for more than 50 years. Wasman has spent the last 25 years teaching and inspiring young nurses at the University Of Miami School Of Nursing And Health Studies. Students consistently note they hope to be a nurse just like her, while also highlighting her great sense of humor.

For Lurie, her mother was a nurse and the inspiration behind her pursuit of her own career in nursing. As a philanthropist, Lurie’s mantra — “Do a good deed daily” — has driven her actions both on a large and a small scale. She established and oversaw a medical clinic and hospital in rural Kenya for 12 years. Lurie is a member of the Board of Directors of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Chair of the Friends of the Lurie Cancer Center and a donor to Human Rights Watch, among many other involvements.

“Goldie and I are each intensely curious and have continued to grow and learn over the years,” Lurie said. “I have found that I can make positive changes by being tenacious, asking questions and, to some extent, challenging authority. Being curious is a valued trait that keeps your mind sharp and your skills ‘competitive.’ Goldie remains my oldest and closest friend and finding her was life-changing for me.”

“I always wanted to be a nurse and help people,” Wasman said. “For the last 25 years, I’ve been able to teach nursing and inspire future nurses to love our profession as much as I do. I’m happy to have the memory of meeting my lifelong friend, Ann Lurie, at the College of Nursing 55 years ago. We always teamed up in clinicals because we share the same focus and love for nursing.” 

Ann Lurie and Goldie Wasman


Lisa Magary and Della Tuten

Lisa Magary (ABSN 2005, MSNSG 2006, DNP 2010) and Della Tuten (ABSN 2005 and MSNSG 2006) have known each other for over 25 years and together started their own practice in Gainesville, Celebrate Primary Care. When it came to pursuing a career in nursing, the College of Nursing’s ABSN program allowed both Margary and Tuten the opportunity to achieve their newfound dreams and goals. After working as a respiratory therapist for 12 years, Magary decided she was ready to do more and went to nursing school with the intention of becoming a nurse practitioner. After Tuten’s first undergraduate degree from UF, she considered going into law, but realized she desired to have more of an impact and make a difference in the lives of individuals on a daily basis. The ABSN program was like a little voice that called to her and she is thankful that she listened.

“I’m most proud of starting Celebrate and helping so many patients save money and improve their health when I think about my nursing career. We’ve provided jobs for other practitioners where they can feel they have a great place to work. With COVID-19, our practice was already set up to do telemedicine and we transitioned to that type of care as soon as everything closed down. Our patients had no lapse in access or care from our clinic. For them it was seamless and that means a lot to us.” – Lisa Magary

“When thinking about my nursing career, I am so proud of the people that I have been able to serve. I am so proud of Lisa and myself for taking the risk and starting this practice that has such a massive impact on the individuals/families we get to take care of. I love that we help other people practice medicine in the way they intended when they originally went to school.” – Della Tuten


Jade McBroom

Jade McBroom (BSN 2015) is currently pursuing her PhD and post-master’s certificate from Emory University. Jade is passionate about women’s health and health disparities. Her interest in research was piqued at UF as the research representative for the student nursing association and while attending the Southern Nursing Research Symposium. She was also the recipient of the 2015 Research Excellence Award. Her advice to current College of Nursing students: “As long as you never give up, you really are unstoppable.”

Jade McBroom
Jade McBroom with Jeanne Stacciarini, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Global Affairs .


James Quinlan

This March, Dr. Jim Quinlan (DNP 2010) celebrated 20 years of having his own pediatric practice, following a career in the Air Force. He is passionate about providing primary care in underserved areas and opened Williston Pediatrics to help fill that need in a rural town. Dr. Quinlan attributes the skills and knowledge he gained from the College of Nursing DNP program for improving the financial footing of his clinic, helping keep his practice open.

James Quinlan


Mary Rockwood Lane

While this year has been filled with a lot of uncertainty, Mary Rockwood Lane (BSN ’77 and PhD ’99) is working hard to continue inspiring, empowering and connecting nurses all around the world. After discovering the power of art as a transformative force in her life, she decided to combine her two passions of nursing and art so she could make an impact on the world. What has come since is a successful and rewarding career, becoming a visionary leader for nurses to integrate creative healing arts in practice, which was solidified when she won the Dorothy M. Smith Nursing Leadership Award for Excellence in Creativity this year.

“Being a Gator Nurse brings me great joy. My education here ignited my passion to be the best I could be. To our students, this is the best time to become a nurse. Nurses are on the forefront of providing health care. This world is changing, and our students will be the change makers. Open your heart and know that nursing is your calling. And remember that you belong to this sacred and noble profession which is based on caring, love and compassion. You are the ones we have been waiting for.”


Gemma Rosello

Gemma Rosello (BSN ’79) has always been interested in the field of nursing, recognizing that nurses can relish the opportunity to discover the perfect specialty where an individual can utilize their own strengths and interests. In the beginning of her nursing career, Rosello was looking for the next step that would provide her more challenges and responsibility. Curious about becoming a Director of Nursing, she was offered the position at a community hospital and was able to put her nursing experience, skills and leadership to the test. There she was able to see the impact of health care to patients in the community. She was able to help the nursing department work more efficiently, which in turn, improved patient care and clinical outcomes. The time spent in this role provided her opportunities in advocating health care policy, better health care access and improvement in the hospital’s health care delivery. Now, she continues to utilize her strengths and interests as the VP of Clinical Support for Conviva Care Solutions, which represents physician practices, clinicians and patients across Texas and Florida.

“Gator Nurses have always been leaders in every part of health care. My time spent at the College of Nursing and my degree are of great value to me and was an important chapter in my life. Being a Gator has allowed me to have a successful professional career in health care. I was able to develop great relationships with a few of my fellow nursing students and are still close friends with them today. My memories are many, some funny, stressful and most of all wonderful.”


Nancy Shirey

Nancy Shirey (MSNSG ’98) is a licensed advanced practice nurse in the state of Kentucky, as well as a certified nurse midwife by the American College of Nurse Midwives. Born and raised in Hong Kong above a mission hospital clinic, Shirey had a unique childhood. She was exposed to the field of nursing at a young age and almost immediately developed an interest in the profession. When she was little she told her mom she wanted to be a nurse and wanted to “take care of mothers and babies.” And that she did. After completing her primary education in Hong Kong, she relocated to California to receive her BSN. Upon graduation, Shirey enlisted in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps and eventually went on to earn her MSNSG here at the College of Nursing. Now, after more than 20 years in the profession, she is starting up the CHI Saint Joseph Midwife Clinic.

“I was fortunate to retire from the military in an area where UF had the midwife educational program. Midwifery gives me the opportunity to serve all women in a way that makes their birth experience a positive experience, even in the worst of times. I can incorporate all the education I received in my undergrad, as well as the clinical training I received at UF, to educate and care for women of all ages. And when I am not delivering babies? I have been a midwife to several dogs and my horses. And assisting with a horse birth is much scarier than a baby.”


Stephanie Weinsier

Stephanie Weinsier (BSN 1993, DNP 2011) wears many hats in the world of nursing. She works full time as an occupational health nurse practitioner and wellness center manager at American Express in Sunrise, Florida. She also works per diem in two of her local emergency departments as an advanced practice nurse. When not at work, she serves as the chair for the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Clinical Practice Committee and president for the Florida chapter. Now, more than ever, life and work are on full speed while battling COVID-19. She is working tirelessly to ensure her employees, community and those across the U.S. are safe and protected right now.

“This pandemic is something to experience. It is a true test of our physical and mental resilience as health care workers, as well as parents, community members and friends. It is not something I’ve witnessed in my 27 years of nursing practice. It is trying for nurses, especially new nurses, because there is uncertainty and it challenges you individually. It can be lonely — family may not support your ethical duty to step up and do the job because they love us and may not want us in harm’s way. As they say, nurses run toward the fire/accident/pandemic, not away from it! I am concerned for my colleagues, my patients, my family and my friends. But I know we must be smart, stick with the protocols and emerging scientific data, remain calm, sleep well and stay resilient to make an impact.”

Stephanie_Weinsier

Faculty

Jane Gannon

As a midwife, Dr. Jane Gannon, DNP, CNM, CHSE delivered 1,062 babies during the 11 years she worked at the Claire M. Lintilhac Nurse-Midwifery Service in Vermont. Now, as the assistant dean of simulation-based learning at the College of Nursing, Dr. Gannon is in charge of improving the learning experience of our ABSN students in Jacksonville and enhancing the opportunity for simulation and interprofessional education across both campuses. Dr. Gannon is dedicated to strengthening the college’s programs of teaching, research and patient care.

Universities and colleges across the country have had to replace face-to-face courses and clinical’s with virtual instruction in the wake of COVID-19. As leaders in delivering quality online instruction, the College of Nursing was able to quickly enhance virtual simulations to ensure we keep our students on track for degree progression and graduation. Dr. Gannon was instrumental in the success of our clinical simulation endeavors for the spring and summer 2020 semesters. She worked closely with our faculty to ensure our students learned the same critical thinking skills they would learn face-to-face with patients, but in a safe and virtual format.

“Once we moved to completely online clinical’s, we enhanced them by adding in activities like creating a care plan, providing patient education about treatment and care management based on the disease process the client in the video was experiencing. Students also had to identify interventions, the expected outcomes of those interventions and how they would evaluate the impact of those interventions. For instance, our graduating seniors were exposed to a challenging series of simulations focused on patients with COVID-19 or related respiratory illnesses. I think through these virtual simulations, clinical reasoning skills are enhanced, as students generally must contemplate what they would do in the real environment. The activities this spring, particularly the construction of care plans and patient teaching, reflect activities students would perform in the actual setting with actual patients. For the summer semester, the virtual simulations we will use will reflect even greater alignment with the actual clinical setting.” #CareLeadInspire #GatoRNursin


Lisa Ferguson

College of Nursing Clinical Assistant Professor Lisa L. Ferguson, DNP, MSN, BSN, answered the call to help UF Health with COVID-19 testing in The Villages®, which began offering large-scale testing to residents of the region at the end of March. In this coordinated response to the coronavirus public health emergency, the initial efforts involved a team of about 25 volunteer UF Health medical professionals together with The Villages Health personnel to evaluate 400 to 500 people a day for a week who preregistered for evaluations and testing. They were assessed for symptoms, travel and exposure history and tested if they met clinical criteria. Depending on the severity of their illness, they were potentially further evaluated on-site or at a UF Health facility or sent home to self-quarantine while awaiting test results. Volunteering has provided new opportunities for her professionally, opened up new interactions with medical and physician assistant students and has given her an outlook on how important it is to keep pushing forward through these unprecedented times.

“Just seeing the participants who came out, who either were sick or weren’t, and were willing to undergo an uncomfortable procedure to help us understand this virus and its transmission better was enough to continue through the small discomforts we dealt with. Volunteering has also allowed me to demonstrate to students how medicine and nursing can work side by side as professionals without any ‘turf’ barriers present. I hope that they take that experience with them into their professional practices and help eliminate practice barriers currently facing nurse practitioners in our nation. Personally, it was quite a satisfying experience!”


Leslie Parker

With more than $4.5 million in funding for research in the area of breastmilk and 35 years of clinical experience, it is safe to say UF College of Nursing Associate Professor Dr. Leslie Parker (BSN ’85, MSN ’92) is passionate about infant nutrition. She is a triple-threat scientist/practitioner/educator. Parker’s research focuses on assisting mothers in providing breastmilk to their critically ill or very premature infant. Her recent groundbreaking discovery led to nationwide practice changes in routine feeding procedures for pre-term infants, and it is her hope that infants in the NICU will have fewer complications and improved health. Read more.

“Since Florence Nightingale, nurses have cared for patients using a holistic approach. We not only care for their physical ailments, but promote their spiritual and emotional health, as well as that of their family. I believe nursing is the foundation of health care, and to have our profession honored with the 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife designation is both humbling, exhilarating but also so well-deserved.”  


Denise Schentrup

When it came to applying to college and selecting a major, Denise Schentrup (BSN ’93 and MNSG ’96) was initially interested in accounting, but she could not see herself crunching numbers all day. Eventually she was drawn to nursing and to this day she considers it the best decision she has ever made. Being part of the UF College of Nursing gave Schentrup the step up to become a great nurse, thanks to the many resources available to students and the excellent faculty who opened her eyes to what nurses can do. Getting her BSN from UFCON and now having the opportunity to work here has been a great experience. Serving as the associate dean for clinical affairs and clinical director for Archer Family Health Care, she loves what she does and never thought her nursing degree would have taken her where she is today.

“Often with nursing, our responsibilities are not as visible as we would like. It is our responsibility to educate others as to what we can do to improve care delivery. Part of my responsibilities include providing administrative oversight of AFHC and continuing to provide care to patients. This practice is nurse-led and our mission is to provide quality care to individuals. I am most proud of being a part of the team at Archer Family Health Care.  In this role, I believe I represent what nurses can do to improve care delivery. I enjoy having students and explaining to them our practice and what we have accomplished over the last 19 years.”


Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini

College of Nursing Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Global Affairs, Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini, PhD, RN, FAAN, is passionate about doing research with and for underserved minorities and underserved populations. Currently, she has research underway regarding the mental well-being of Migrant Farmworkers and rural LGBT+ adolescents. She serves as the EMBRACE program coordinator, which stands for Engaging Multiple-communities of BSN students in Research and Academic Curricular Experiences, which was created to help foster and encourage an environment of diversity and inclusion at the College of Nursing. The central pillar of the program is mentorship, and each participating student is paired with a nursing faculty member who best matches the student’s research interest. With the faculty mentors, the students are expected to complete a research, leadership, educational or quality improvement project and participate in monthly meetings. The framework of this program is now serving as a national model for other colleges that seek to create opportunities to advance diversity and inclusion of underrepresented students. Additionally, she serves as a board member for the Southern Nursing Research Society. She is always striving to be an excellent faculty member and researcher, as well as a great mentor. She believes that her students’ success is the most meaningful outcome in her career. Working towards promoting diversity is challenging, but she works intentionally to disrupt structures that uphold injustices in nursing, towards advancing underrepresented professionals and for supporting populations’ health equity.

Students

Peihung ‘Peter’ Chen

As a West Point graduate and former Army captain who served for 26 years, Peihung ‘Peter’ Chen felt lucky to return unscathed from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After returning home, he knew he wanted to help fellow veterans, which is what inspired him to pursue nursing. UF made the most sense for him both personally and professionally because of the Accelerated BSN program and because his wife, Candyce, works at UF Health in the Admission Discharge Transition Unit. Now, in his second semester of the Accelerated BSN program, Peter couldn’t be prouder or happier with his decision.

“I imagine every nurse has an affinity for a special patient population. It is this concern for all these different patients that nurses make their greatest contribution to society by making the health care system work. While a relatable and empathetic connection to the patients is an important foundation, there are three qualities that I hold as core-beliefs that will also serve me well as a nurse: caring, excellence and teamwork. While a nurse who is caring and who attains technical excellence will do much for the patients, a nurse who readily integrates as part of the care team will be truly effective by synergistically multiplying everyone’s efforts and expertise.”

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Kayla Elliott

Kayla Elliott, rising BSN senior, proved that when faced with a challenge, one can still persevere and make the most out of any learning situation. As an international student from the Cayman Islands, she quickly returned home in the middle of the spring semester after UF transitioned to online learning in the face of COVID-19. Having interned at the George Town Hospital during her college breaks, Elliott reached out to see if there were any volunteer or employment opportunities available at the hospital. Since then, she has been working with a mobile swabbing team in an administrative capacity, directing traffic, verifying patient identification and organizing test kits at the community sites.

 “I am very grateful to the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority for allowing me the opportunity to help out during this time. I am learning so much every day in the community and in the office from all of the amazing health care professionals. Nursing school has helped me gain confidence in interacting and communicating within a clinical setting. Some people arrive at the swabbing site so nervous they momentarily forget their names. I have been able to pick up on that and help to explain what the procedure entails and alleviate some of their nerves before they get their tests done. This has also been important as I have learned in school to ask questions in the clinical setting in order to learn more about a situation.”

Kayla Elliott


Anna Fabry

Despite the uncertainty Gator Nursing students faced with classes moving online and students being asked to return home for the remainder of the semester, Anna Fabry (BSN 2020), proved she was not letting COVID-19 stop her from moving forward in her educational pursuit right before her graduation this spring. When UF Health put a call out for volunteers to help with COVID-19 testing in The Villages®, she stepped right up to the challenge.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, many students, including myself, have felt somewhat helpless and as though much of our future is out of our control. By going to The Villages®, I felt that I am not only able to put my education to use, but that I am making a difference by being a part of something bigger. Instead of sitting at home and feeling sad about the situation, I wanted to go out and do something about it! It was exciting to be gaining this unique experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life.”

Anna Fabry


LeeAnn Hewitt

Junior BSN student LeeAnn Hewitt, is a four-time International Powerlifting Federation World Champion and member of Team U.S.A’s Powerlifting team. During the 2020 Dorothy M. Smith Nursing Leadership Conference in February, closing keynote presenter Rear Admiral Trent-Adams, asked students in the audience what they think the future of nursing looks like. In front of 500 people, LeeAnn rose to the challenge and her response encompassed her passion and focus on increasing health care in rural or underserved communities, as well as predicting a vast expansion in primary care. In honor of her response, LeeAnn was presented a golden challenge coin, only one of three Rear Admiral Trent-Adams has given in her entire career.

“Some of the best opportunities come from taking a chance that no one else would take, and going where no one else would go.” – LeeAnn Hewitt

If you missed the closing keynote presentation, you can view the recording here.

LeeAnn Hewitt
LeeAnn Hewitt at the 2020 Dorothy M. Smith Nursing Leadership Conference with closing keynote speaker Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams.


Janet Lopez

Current PhD student Janet Lopez received her BSN from the College of Nursing in 2016 and also recently earned her Master’s in Public Health degree from the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. Her research focuses on understanding racial and cultural variation of family caregivers’ problem-solving abilities and caregiver outcomes. She is the recipient of several scholarships and awards, including the Thomas H. Maren Scholarship for Doctoral Nursing Students, the North Florida Doctoral Consortium and the Jonas Scholar Award.

Janet Lopez


Tunde Madandola

Olatunde “Tunde” Madandola was born, raised and received most of his education in Nigeria. After earning his BSN from Obafemi Awolowo University and serving as a registered nurse for two years, he made the move to the U.S. to further his education in 2016. Tunde is now a PhD student at the College of Nursing working with Dr. Gail Keenan on the usability of the electronic health record and how it impacts data quality. He became attracted to the virtue of the nursing profession when his grandmother required care. Tunde values thinking outside the box and hopes to work in an environment focused on highly innovative research.

Tunde Madandola


Marina Magalhães

As an American Public Health Association (APHA) Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Section Fellow, PhD student Marina Magalhães (BSN 2017) is one of only a handful nationwide selected for this program that supports engagement in maternal and child health policy, programs and research, as well as leadership development.  Marina is passionate about reducing inequities in maternal and child health, and her dissertation research uses an mHealth approach to determine whether text messaging breast milk sodium levels (a biomarker of pumping frequency) to mothers of critically ill infants during the early postpartum period improves long-term lactation outcomes. Post-graduation, she hopes to expand her work on pressing issues in women’s health, such as the increasing incidence of cesarean delivery and the maternal mortality epidemic.

“I am honored to be selected for this year’s cohort and view it as an affirmation of the necessary role of nurses in maternal and child public health. As the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world, being selected as an MCH fellow allows me the opportunity to engage with researchers and other professionals who have similar goals for the health of women and children.”

Marina Magalhães


Amelia Avala Nicols

Amelia Nichols Alava (RN-BSN 2016 & DNP 2020) is not only a full-time nurse, but she’s also a wife, mother and lifelong learner. With a passion for learning, Amelia decided to continue her education through the University of Florida Online RN to BSN program. As one of the first nursing students to graduate from this online pathway to a University of Florida BSN degree in 2016, Amelia continues to persevere and inspire others. For someone who juggles several roles throughout her typical day, there was no end in sight when it came to continuing her education, having then graduated spring 2020 with her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree through our DNP program.

Amelia serves as another example of a determined Gator following their dreams and making those dreams a reality. Not only is she a hero to her patients, but she is also a hero to her family. “I like to say I’m not your traditional student since I came into this at an older age, but if I can do it, you can too,” Amelia stated. “You just have to make sure you set your goals and go for it.”


Shayna Rabess

In June Shayna Rabess learned that she was a finalist in the 2020 Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge for her DNP graduate project — Implementation of a Transitional Care Model in the Heart Failure Population — where her team focused on reducing hospital readmission rates with an NP-Led Specialty Transitional Care program. As a rounding nurse in the FHV Health cardiology department, she works one-on-one with the practice’s cardiologist in the hospital setting. Wanting to positively impact the reliability of health care practice and outcomes, Rabess decided to pursue her DNP to better prepare herself for tomorrow’s health care challenges. With an interest in NP-led initiatives, she hopes to take her education and experience in cardiology to one day operate an NP-led heart failure clinic. While the DNP program and the people she has met have forever shaped her as a nurse, health care provider and as a person, her family has been her main source of purpose and why she does what she does.

“I got to where I am now because of my faith, determination, and most of all, my family, starting with my daughter Alexis. I had her when I was 16 years old in my sophomore year of high school. She turned my life around. I have always wanted to give her the best possible life and for her to never fall short. I also could not do it without the help and support of my husband, Jerome. He is my biggest fan and has always supported me and my dreams. He has always steered me forward, never backwards.”

Read more about her involvement in the 2020 Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge here.

Shayna Rabess