Compassion of nurses showcased at Nursing Advisory Council Luncheon

Dr. Eileen Breslin, Carolyn Jones, John Franklin and Mary Henrich
School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN; guest speaker Carolyn Jones; Nursing Advisory Council Chairman John T. Franklin III; and Mary Henrich, J.D., wife of President William L. Henrich, M.D., FACP, at the 2019 Nursing Advisory Council Luncheon

A presentation by photographer and filmmaker Carolyn Jones took guests attending the Nursing Advisory Council Luncheon on a journey showing the diversity, creativity, compassion and dedication of nurses, as told through their personal stories.

The presentation played to an appreciative audience of more than 300 that included UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing faculty, staff and students, and guests from across the health care spectrum of San Antonio. The Nursing Advisory Council (NAC) hosted the luncheon, held May 8. “The council is a philanthropic organization whose members serve as ambassadors to the community by creating connections and identifying support. They also offer good counsel to the School of Nursing,” said School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN.

Chaired by John T. Franklin III, the NAC provides funds for School of Nursing faculty and student scholarships and research grants. In addition to these, four additional awards were presented to outstanding faculty, staff and students by the School of Nursing at the luncheon.

Faculty research grants and scholarship

Jisook Ko, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor of nursing, received a $12,000 research grant for her project, A Biobehavioral Approach to Identifying Factors of Blood Pressure in Korean Americans with Hypertension and Exploring Salt Sensitivity.”

A faculty research grant of $10,000 was presented to Janna Lesser, Ph.D., RN, professor, and postdoctoral fellow Chin-Fun Chu, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., for their project, “Reaching Rural Populations in South Texas through Community Health Worker Delivery of Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support using Mobile and Connected Health Technology.”

Jorgie Ann Contreras, M.S.N., RN, CPN, an assistant professor pursuing a Ph.D. in nursing science at Texas Woman’s University, received a $3,000 faculty scholarship from the NAC.

Nursing student scholarships

The NAC provided $2,000 scholarships to nursing students including Lynn Anenye, Alexander Beasy, Brianna Carrillo, Juliet Chelkowski, Rachel DeSantis, Abigail Fonseca and Justin Griego. Also receiving scholarships were Adriana Johnson, Kelly Langford, Rachel Mandelin, Hannah Moore, Mattie Price, Lauren Ricketts and Benjamin Steinhauser.

Faculty, staff and student awards

Four awards were presented to outstanding faculty, staff members and students by the School of Nursing.

Clinical Associate Professor Wendy Lee, D.N.P., FNP-BC, received the Dr. Patty L. Hawken Faculty Award. She was selected for her devotion to education, leadership in local and national nursing associations, mentorship of new faculty and dedication to excellence in the delivery of patient care. The award recognizes a faculty member who has provided exceptional service and support beyond their expected responsibilities. The award is named for Dr. Patty L. Hawken, dean of the School of Nursing from 1973 through 1997 and president of the National League of Nursing from 1990 to 1991.

The Mr. Rudy Gomez Staff Award was presented to Vanessa Meling, Ed.D., assistant dean for academic enhancement. This award, named for a 41-year administrator in the School of Nursing, recognizes a staff member who provides support and services above and beyond their expected responsibilities. Dr. Meling was chosen because of her collaboration with departments across the university, as well as her leadership of the Student Success Center, which resulted in increased academic retention of the students she serves.

Master’s degree student Benjamin Snellgrove was the recipient of the Nightingale Student Award. The award recognizes the School of Nursing’s most outstanding student on the basis of caring, creativity and nurturing qualities, who inspires confidence, comfort and goodwill. Snellgrove was chosen because he reflects the greatest ideals of nursing in expressing genuine care and compassion towards his patients. He is committed to sharing new knowledge with peers and contributes to the community by providing mental health care for those in need.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice Project of the Year Award went to Irene Sandate, D.N.P., RN, NNP-BC, vice president and associate chief nursing officer at University Health System. Her project is titled “Implementing Universal Training to Improve Care of Infants and Families Affected by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.” Dr. Sandate’s project identified an opportunity to improve the quality of health care and patient outcomes for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the withdrawal process of babies born to mothers with substance use disorder. Her work focused on building the foundation for universal interprofessional training, standardized assessments and consistent guidelines for the care of infants with NAS.

Guest speaker

Introducing the guest speaker, Dr. Breslin said Jones’ work “represents the best in nursing: compassion, care, social justice and connection.”

Jones spent the past eight years interviewing more than 200 nurses from throughout the United States to create a book, The American Nurse, and then expanding it to include a documentary called The American Nurse Project, which  is now included in the U.S. State Department’s American Film Showcase.

The goal was to shed light on America’s social and health care issues through the “lens” of nurses, striving to show “what poverty looks like through the lens of a nurse or our prison system through the lens of a nurse,” she said. The stories include examples of nurses connecting with patients during crucial moments in their health care journeys and how these seemingly insignificant interactions changed the course of the patients’ and families’ lives for the better.

Another documentary, “Defining Hope,” supported by the American Nurses Foundation, has been broadcast over 1,000 times on PBS stations nationwide. The film tells the stories of patients and family members as they wrestle with end-of-life issues and how nurses help provide hope for these families.

Jones is currently working on a documentary sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association that tells the stories of nurses who work in emergency departments and the wide variety of patients and issues that require creative solutions.

Jones added that a future project will focus on societal issues around the world seen from the perspective of nurses. “There are nurses helping people all over the world with every crisis that we have,” Jones said. “I want to shine a global light on the nurses that are helping us with the refugee crisis, the Ebola scare and disasters and all the things that are going on in the world,” she said.

Dr. Breslin concluded the luncheon by thanking Jones for her work: “Thank you for showing the uniqueness of what nurses bring to each patient. No matter what kind of patient we care for compassion is always part of what we bring to the health care team. You have told our story with such eloquence.”


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