Alumni Awards

The Lulu Wolf Hassenplug Alumni Award for Distinguished Career in Nursing: Randolph Rasch, MSN’79

Randy RauschRandy is dean of the Michigan State University College of Nursing, a position that he has held since 2015. He has built a reputation on student success and faculty empowerment. Dr. Rasch started his extensive academic career at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and then came to VUSN as the director of our family NP program, before moving to be department chair for the school of nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While at UNC-G, he was recognized for his unique leadership abilities and was invited by the provost to serve as the interim chairperson and visiting professor in the Department of Nursing at North Carolina Central University in Durham.

Randy's research and practice center around community and mental health nursing and caring for the elderly. He was the first statewide director of nursing services for the Tennessee Department of Correction, and the first African-American male to serve as a public health nurse in Michigan's Berrien County Health Department.

Additionally, as dean, Dr. Rasch has an informative blog, Behind the Bow Tie, where he shares his thoughts on a variety of topics, from nursing careers to positive thinking to items in the news.

The Alumni Award for National Leadership: Jessica Van Meter, MSN’07, DNP’15

Jessica VanMeterJessica collaborated with nursing and physician staff at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation in Guyana while completing her DNP and graduate certificate in Global Health at Vanderbilt. A LifeFlight nurse at Vanderbilt, Jessica was drawn to the project after witnessing first-hand the heartbreaking aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.

The demand for continuous nursing education lead to the development and delivery of a Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Nursing program for nurses at Georgetown. The curriculum was drafted by VUMC nursing and physician staff with the nurse resident’s degrees conferred by the University of Guyana. It’s the first of its kind in the Caribbean and, perhaps, the world, and Jessica serves as its program director. 

A class of 15 Guyanese nurses are scheduled to graduate in November 2018; nurses in the program, who range in age from 22 to 50, work in an environment faced with tropical infectious diseases, trauma, snakebites, complicated pregnancies, cardiac and stroke patients, pesticide poisonings and the highest per capita suicide rate in the world. Jessica oversees VUSN students who collaborate with the Guyanese nurse residents on various quality improvement initiatives.

In May 2018, Jessica received the Global Impact in Nursing Award from the International Nurses Association.  

The Alma Gault Alumni Award for Public Service: Annie Moon, MSN’03

Annie MoonAnnie is Supervisor for the Department and School Health Services – DASH – in the Chinle Service Unit in Arizona. There, she manages the clinical services to underserved Native American adolescents in 5 high schools and 3 middle schools. She is also the only Native serving on the staff at Chinle Hospital. Annie is fluent in Navajo and cares for her patients by integrating modern medicine with the Navajo traditional way of life.

Under her stewardship, outreach to area schools has grown in quantity of schools served, quality of care given and number of services provided. In fact, her school-based clinic program was recognized in April as having one of the highest HPV vaccination rates in the country!

Annie leads an initiative to prevent obesity, diabetes and related consequences by promoting healthy, productive lifestyles for Navajo youth ages 10 to 19 years. Her aim is to create a program that can be replicated in other service units and settings. She serves as a sexual assault nurse examiner, collecting evidence for prosecution and using her expertise and clinical skills to help victims of sexual violence.  

Annie was instrumental in a program that lead to the opening of site-based clinics at the local Youth Corrections Center and Adolescent Treatment Center. She also expanded school-based mental health services by developing a position, securing funding and hiring a licensed clinical social worker for her department.

The Alumni Award for Clinical Achievement in Nursing: Jennifer Parker Kurkowski, MSN’09

Jennifer works as a women’s health NP specializing in adolescent gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She has provided numerous professional presentations on a variety of topics within the adolescent gynecologic specialty, and, as a much sought-after preceptor, Jennifer is flooded with requests from prospective students for clinical placements. And she offers her services as a preceptor to Vanderbilt students before accepting those from other programs.

Jennifer is active with the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. The organization offers a grant for advanced practice nursing students interested pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Through her encouragement, 2 of our women’s health students have applied for and been awarded this grant. In 2016, Jennifer received the annual Inspiration in Women’s Health Award from the Nurse Practitioner’s in Women’s Health organization.  

The Catherine Hanley Class of 1912 Rising Star Alumni Award: Jordan Plaxico, BA’14, MSN’16

Jordan PlaxicoIn the summer of 2017, the Clinic at Mercury Courts recruited Jordan to develop and implement a HRSA-funded initiative to integrate behavioral health into primary care in a severely economic and socially vulnerable community. Jordan jumped at the opportunity to be involved with something innovative and potentially paradigm-shifting for nursing and the health care system as a whole. According to her coworkers, Jordan has demonstrated a professional, scientific and ethical maturity well beyond her experience and career development. Says one: “Acquiring her for this critical position in this implementation was possibly miraculous and definitely fortuitous. She has been just the right person for the job.”

In her role, Jordan has created and implemented a screening process for mood and substance abuse disorders that has been especially successful in detecting patients with suicidality. While using this system at Mercury Courts, the rate of detection for suicidality have increased dramatically. The clinic has been able to care for patients accordingly, most of whom came in for other primary care medical services. Jordan is developing an evidence-based suicidality manual for use in other primary and ambulatory care practices, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The Alumni Award for Innovation in Health Care: Anna-Gene Chalfant O’Neal, BSN’88, MSN’92, MBA’92

Anna-Gene Chalfant O'NealAs CEO of Alive Hospice in Nashville, Anna-Gene recognized that health providers are not taught how to discuss death and dying with patients and their families, and, instead, tend to learn on the job. And so she founded a program called Alive SHARE which helps health care providers open up and talk about this difficult topic with their patients. 

Through the program, Alive Hospice hosts training sessions for nurse practitioners, social workers, case managers and doctors. Students learn skills and build their confidence when talking with patients and families about topics such as breaking difficult news around terminal illness as well as sudden death, realistic care plans, and the inevitable conclusion that death is imminent.

The Friend of Nursing Award: Wright Pinson, MD’80.

Wright PinsonDr. Pinson is Deputy CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and has a long history of supporting advanced practice RNs and of VUSN. Years ago, as a new transplant surgeon at VUMC, he insisted on a nurse practitioner being a key member of his team. His exemplary partnership with our late alumna, Jerita Payne, who served as Assistant Director of VUMC Clinical Transplant Services, is a shining example that helped create the exceptional practice environment for advanced practice that exists at Vanderbilt today.

Recently, in Wright’s senior leadership role at VUMC, he has been supportive of the School of Nursing and our nurse faculty practice sites. He is enthusiastic about the concept of nurse-managed practices and the importance of this model to increase primary care access for VUMC.  

The Honorary Alumna: Marty Sutherland

Marty SutherlandMarty has held positions within the School of Nursing faculty practices, starting at the Vine Hill Community Clinic where she was Clinical Practice Manager, and then at the Metro Nashville Public Schools Employee and Family Health Care Clinics. She has also served as preceptor to VUSN students throughout spring and summer semesters for 20 years.

Patients, peers and students alike have spoken of Marty’s excellent care and instruction. One says, “She is a perfect primary care nurse practitioner and teacher; the NP that others call or go to with questions on patient care and management.” Her experiences have provided her with knowledge of “the system” for the benefit of her patients, peers and students alike.