Emory Report
January 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 17

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January 29 , 2007
School of Nursing

by kay torrance

Karen Thomisee is just the kind of student Dean Marla Salmon believes will help lead the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing to become one of the top five private schools of nursing in the world. Thomisee, a senior who will enter the nursing master’s program in the fall, has already compiled a resume with international experience and community outreach.

Thomisee is working on a program for obese teens at Grady Memorial Hospital and serves as education co-chair of the Emory International Student Nurses Association. She has traveled to Jamaica as part of the school’s Alternative Spring Break collaboration with a Jamaican nonprofit to serve AIDS patients and the poor. The Jamaica project is just one of many that embody the school’s values and its dedication to improving global health.

“Karen is a great example of the kind of student we nurture and develop,” said Salmon. “Our students want to make the world a better place through nursing, and as such they embody our core values of scholarship, leadership and social responsibility.”

Thomisee saw firsthand the school’s dedication to global health when she worked on the 2006 Global Governmental Health Partners Forum, organized by the school’s Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing. The forum brought together chief nursing officers from around the world to tackle one of the most important issues facing nursing: the shortage of nurses in almost every country worldwide. The CNOs and world health leaders didn’t just talk statistics and war stories. They explored programs in the Philippines and the United Kingdom that have successfully increased staffing, and they collaborated with others in their respective regions to develop plans to take home and put into action.

The nursing shortage also compounds the growing dearth of nursing faculty nationwide. As nursing faculty retire, there are too few coming up in the ranks of academia. In response, the nursing school established a fast-track summer program led by nursing professor Helen O’Shea to enable master’s-prepared nurses to become educators. Since its inception in 2003, the program has graduated 19 nurses who are now teaching at nursing schools and on clinical rotations throughout Georgia and even as far as the Bahamas. The nursing school is also fostering the education of nurses in other countries. O’Shea and Emory nursing faculty members helped the eastern European nation of Georgia develop the curriculum for its first university-level nursing school.

The school also created a number of new positions and hired nationally known faculty. The school developed a new Office of Research and recruited Kenneth Hepburn from the University of Minnesota to lead it. Another recruit from the University of Minnesota is Marsha Lewis, the school’s first associate dean for education. The school also recruited its second Institute of Medicine member, Sue Donaldson, from Johns Hopkins University, where she served as dean of the nursing school. To help bolster the school’s clinical programs, Susan Mitchell Grant, chief nursing officer of Emory Healthcare, was appointed assistant dean for clinical leadership.

Susan Perlman is the new administrative director of the Office of Service Learning, which facilitates the school’s long-standing focus on instructional community service. She’ll help place students at a new service-learning site, Gateway Center, which is run by Atlanta’s Regional Commission on Homelessness. Gateway connects the homeless with community services that can help them move toward self-sufficiency. Under the direction of nursing instructor Monica Donohue, community health nursing students complete a five-week rotation at Gateway, providing needed services such as foot care or blood pressure screening. Students also care for homeless patients recently discharged from hospitals at Gateway’s respite facility, and are responsible for developing a health care project for Gateway’s clients.

Thomisee, who earned a bachelor’s degree in photography and worked at a North Carolina newspaper before coming to the School of Nursing, said the various service projects have exposed her to a wide range of career avenues within nursing. “I don’t think I would have appreciated nursing when I was younger,” she said. “I didn’t know the possibilities.”