Our Stories: 1980's


Annie Dehaye Santucci, MSN 1980

I was already a nurse and a professor of nursing in Brussels when I had the opportunity to spend 2 years in Nashville while my husband did a postdoctoral at Vanderbilt University.

I will always remember the day I met Mrs Sara Archer, the Dean of the Nursing Department. It is still a great day in my memory: crossing the doors into that department, I felt like Alice entering Wonderland! I will never thank her enough for trusting me and for giving me the opportunity to start in the Masters program, even with my poor English. I was allowed to sit in class until I got my license in Tennessee.

Studying at Vanderbilt and doing my Masters in Nursing was a fantastic experience from a personal and a professional point of view. It gave me the chance to meet great people such as Julia Hereford (I was learning English in an evening class with Nannie, her wonderful sister). Julia gave me some of her books about nursing which I still
keep carefully. I was also very proud to meet Mrs Ingeborg Mauksch with whom I had long conversations. She encouraged me to keep up against the difficulties of adaptation (maybe some similarities of life had brought us closer). Her book, with her dedication, has a central place in my library.

Our professors were very demanding, but also very nice and open-minded. I can think of Pat Chamings, Larry Lancaster, Linda Brown and many others. They all gave me such encouragement. Their way of teaching was infused with very strong ideas about the nursing profession, which brought me new concepts to work on. It was also very
great to have my optional courses at The Peabody College.

I also have many good memories/souvenirs from my clinical period at the "Veterans hospital" where I met very competent nurses and so unforgettable patients!

Since returning to my country, I have had a very active career. I am now on a Nursing faculty position, in charge for my school of all pedagogical matters. In parallel I have also been busy at an international level: I was the international secretary of the Belgian
Nurse Association for many years and worked for fifteen years as the Belgian representative in the European Union's "Standing Committee of Nurses" and their "Advisory Committee on Training in Nursing". I also organized many Intensive Courses in the "Erasmus" program where teachers and students from England, Belgium and Spain could work together on different topics in nursing.

For many years, I have been a member of the board of the "Federation of Nursing Educators in Belgium", through which I am now involved in a workshop on necessary skills for nursing teachers.

I am sure that my training at Vanderbilt still has a huge impact on my way of reacting and viewing all of these topics.

I have been back several times to the United States. I have met people at "the National Institute of Health", in Bethesda, MD. I have met Sheila Sparks at Georgetown University, and she quickly became my friend. Recently, I did a month of voluntary job at the "Arlington Hospital" In Virginia. It was nice to connect with American hospitals and nurses once again.

I was very pleased to see all the old pictures of the school on your website and even had the surprise to see myself in one of them! (in the student lounge, studying of course!). Even so many miles away, Vanderbilt is still alive in my heart.

Thanks for everything!


Mary Pike, MSN 1981

I have so many fond memories of VUSN and the people that made up the learning environment. I enrolled in the MSN medical-surgical track in fall, 1980 and graduated in August, 1981. The very first weekend I was on campus, all graduate students were invited to help move patients from the old hospital to the new. That tunnel system was quite confusing to a newcomer!

After my first week, things focused more on class room learning. Larry Lancaster, Pat Chamings, and Lou Donaldson were wonderful teachers. I recall dinners at Larry's house with him saying, "I love you with all my kidney." Those of us in the medical surgical track bonded quickly, and we enjoyed each other's company. I had tremendous respect for each of them and think of them often.

One of my classmates was VUSN professor Jim Pace. We shared many conversations about school, nursing, and life in general as we walked to and from classes across the beautiful Peabody campus. I appreciated Van Welch's help when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I ran into Jacque Byers at a conference several years ago, and we reminisced about our time at VUSN. My family's favorite dish is chicken poppy casserole, a recipe from Julie Issaccson. Ann, Alice, Bridget, Leslie, Evelyn, Penny, Cathy, Martin, and of course my buddy, Laurel…..what a great class!

One day I was running a bit late to our nursing management class, and Larry Lancaster was outside of the classroom door. He explained that the day's topic was conflict management, and he wanted me to create some sort of conflict in class. I agreed but was a bit puzzled. In class we were supposed to complete some sort of evaluation form, but I refused to do it. I told Larry and the class that I was "sick and tired" of filling out evaluations and we never heard anything about the findings. Larry attempted to coax me to complete the form, but I resisted. The tension in the class rose as students looked at one another concerned that I had reached my limit of graduate school stress. A close friend sitting near me, mouthed, "Fill it out." I shook my head.  Larry and I exchanged terse words and then we burst out laughing much to the relief of the class.

My husband had remained in Louisville while I attended the MSN program but decided to get an MBA at the Owen School, so we stayed in Nashville. I left for several months in early 1982 to care for my father and upon my return Pat Chamings was kind of enough to help me secure a position at VUSN. It was an exciting year and a great start to my teaching career. I have been at Bellarmine University in Louisville for the past 24 years but my teaching is still strongly influenced by my experiences and the faculty and classmates I encountered while at VUSN.

Thanks for everything!


Julia Sawyers Triplett, BSN, MS, MBA

As a young girl, I was always interested in helping others. Nurse Nancy was one of my favorite childhood books, and I played the part with my “dress up” nurse outfit and medical bag. In addition, both of my parents were physicians. However, I chose nursing over medicine because I thought my parents’ professions were too demanding on their personal lives. This belief was not entirely true but more the perception of a 17- year- old teenager. As we all know, any profession can be demanding.

Vanderbilt was a likely choice for nursing school since my dad was employed by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

A typical day in nursing school was busy. The first two years of my memories include mostly nursing classes, labs, and lots of studying both solo and in groups. The nursing school students always seemed to have more homework than the other Vanderbilt undergrads as we spent a lot of time in the libraries around campus and really couldn’t “blow off” classes like the other undergrads often seemed to do. I remember spending the final two years of school in many different clinical rotations at hospitals around town. Being bright eyed at the hospital for a 7 a.m. shift on Friday mornings took a lot of self-control for a college student! Through those rotations, I was able to weed out those specialties I didn’t care for, while also deciding those specialties I did enjoy, especially pediatrics. I also remember how nervous I was when I gave my first shot to an actual patient. I was shaking as I drew up the medicine in the syringe in front of the instructor. Fortunately for the patient, this nursing student performed her job just fine.

My VUSN education gave me the knowledge and skills for a great start as I pursued a career in nursing. Also, the friendships I developed in nursing school were and continue to be vital for seeking advice even in the 20 years since graduation. My VUSN education also gave me the determination and interest to achieve higher education degrees. I also expect a good percentage of my classmates went to graduate school!

When I think of the School of Nursing, I think of Dean Colleen Conway-Welch’s vision to grow and expand our school into a world- renowned institution through broadened clinical practice, recruitment of top-rate faculty, and support of ongoing nursing research. I also think of the nursing professors who I spent many hours with year after year as well as Paddy Peerman who was such a wonderful guidance counselor. Last, I think of all of my dear friends with whom I spent four hard years.

Educating nurses for the future is vital to the health of society as a whole. The demands on the current healthcare delivery system, including nurses, are already great. These demands will be magnified as the baby boomers age and life expectancy increases. In addition, nurses will continue to expand their roles within the healthcare environment. These factors and many others highlight the continued need for quality nursing education and training.


Leslie Modena, RN, BSN, CWOCN, 1989

When I decided to return to school, to earn a master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner, I’d been a nurse for fifteen years. Vanderbilt was my choice for several reasons: I wanted to move my family from rural Tennessee to an urban setting, and I knew Vanderbilt had a good reputation. Beyond that, I had no idea what to expect. At the time, my children were nine, twelve, and fourteen.

I obtained a job on 9 north stepdown, and worked two twelve-hour shifts on the weekends while carrying a full load in school. I learned so much in those years – practical knowledge on the one hand, and, more exciting for me, nursing theory on the other. I’m a hard worker and love learning, so in a way, the experiences were incredible. It was also an extremely challenging time for our family, and my husband and I divorced at about the same time I had earned enough credits for the bachelor’s degree.

As I then needed to work a full-time job, I could no longer manage as a full-time student. Sally Wamsley, who had always been kind and helpful, wisely suggested that I ask to be graduated at that time with the BSN degree, which was a little known option for some students in the early days of the bridge to MSN program. I’m eternally grateful to her, as it never even occurred to me to ask the question. So I owe my degree to her! The woman was a jewel, and she knew “All Things Vanderbilt.”

I’m proud to be a Vanderbilt graduate, and have a great appreciation for both the university and the hospital. People who were the most memorable and influential for me were Adrienne Ames, who was a wonderful role model and friend, Fern Richie, who inspired me then and now, and Luther Christman, whose philosophy and teachings struck a chord in me that still resonate. I am always thrilled to see people from my Vanderbilt years at conferences and meetings of my current wound and ostomy care (CWOCN) practice. I stayed for ten years – five years on 9 north and five years at Vanderbilt Home Care.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt School of Nursing on one hundred years of excellence!

Thank you,

Leslie Modena, RN, BSN, CWOCN (Certified Wound and Ostomy Care Nurse)   
Atlanta, Georgia  1989