A hundred years of caring

Speaking to students and faculty at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, former President Jimmy Carter's voice broke slightly as he read a poem based on an experience his mother, Lillian, had tending to a girl with leprosy while she was a Peace Corps volunteer in India.

"I get emotional when I think about my mama and the work that she did," said Carter, who as a boy often ate lunch with his mother and the other nurses at the local hospital in Plains, Georgia. "I grew up surrounded by nurses."

Speaking in February as part of the school's year-long centennial celebration, Carter toured the modern nursing building for the first time--including the offices of the Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing.

As he prepared to leave, Sherri Mullan 05N presented him with a T-shirt that had the nursing school's logo on the front and a picture of Lillian Carter treating a child on the back.

"I have a lot of T-shirts," Carter said. "But this is my favorite."

Founded in 1905 at Wesley Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, the nursing school's first graduate was Bertha Eckhart 1906N. The school moved with Wesley Hospital to Emory in 1922, where it was renamed the Emory University Hospital School of Nursing. In 1951, Ada Fort became dean, serving for the next twenty-five years. The school was named for Nell Hodgson Woodruff, the wife of Robert W. Woodruff, in 1967. In 2001, the school moved into a state-of-the-art building on Clifton Road, and the first doctoral student graduated from its new Ph.D. program in 2003.

"Our aspiration is not only to be great or to be the best among others, it's to be the best in making a difference," says Dean Marla Salmon, former director of the Division of Nursing in the U.S. Department of Health.

Under Salmon's leadership the school has seen its National Institutes of Health research funding increase to $2.3 million in 2003,    boosting the program to eighteenth in NIH rankings.

The School of Nursing now ranks in the top 10 percent of nursing schools with graduate programs, eighth among private schools of nursing, and has created ten thousand alumni in its first century.

In addition to continuing the school's leadership in research and increasing undergraduate and graduate enrollment, Salmon is determined to improve financial support for nursing students--more than 90 percent of students at the School of Nursing have loans, averaging twice as much debt as Emory College students.

"Everyone who wants to come here and qualifies to come here should be able to come here," Salmon says. "We must enhance endowed scholarships."

Investing in a nurses' education, she adds, means investing in the future quality of health care for all--locally and globally.

Jenny Williams 96N 01MSN/MPH , a nurse epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has traveled to Sierra Leone to assist with polio immunization efforts.

"I consider it a social responsibility to give back," says Williams, president of the School of Nursing's Nurses Alumni Association.

Nursing students participate in multiple outreach programs, whether helping to run "foot clinics" at homeless shelters in Atlanta, volunteering with the Family Farm Workers Health project in Moultrie, Georgia, or assisting with the annual Global Nursing Partnership conference, which attracts nursing leaders from more than sixty countries.

"The object is to 'relieve human suffering, heal the sick, restore the wounded,' " says Salmon. "These words marked the beginning of the Wesley Memorial Training School for Nurses on August 16, 1905, and to this day, they still ring true."—M.J.L.



© 2005 Emory University