School of Nursing pinning ceremonies celebrate achievement and entry into profession

VUSN faculty watch as student is pinned

Excellence and accomplishment were the focus of pinning and recognition ceremonies held by Vanderbilt University School of Nursing on Sunday, Aug. 4. The school recognized the successful completion of programs by 373 Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Post-Master’s Certificate (PMC) students.

Professor Brian Widmar pins student Daniel FordThe MSN graduates were awarded the VUSN school nursing pin signifying their entry into the profession of advanced practice nursing. DNP graduates received lavaliers to wear with their nursing pins. The PMC students received certificates indicating that they had finished specialty education beyond their master’s degrees. One DNP graduate completed a Post-Master’s Certificate in addition to her doctoral degree.

Pinning is a treasured tradition unique to nursing, with each nursing school having its distinctive pin identifying its graduates, explained Dean Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, the Valere Potter Menefee Professor in Nursing. While the tradition can be traced back to the Crusades, its modern significance began with Florence Nightingale, who presented medals of excellence to her nursing graduates.

Dean Linda Norman hugged by FNP graduate Max PollockPinning was held in two ceremonies, with six specialties featured in the morning and four, plus the DNP program, in the afternoon.

During the celebrations, specialty academic directors announced the recipients of their specialty’s outstanding student award. These awards are voted on by the specialty’s faculty and recognize students with grade point averages of 3.6 or higher; excellence in clinical practice, leadership and community service; potential for future contributions to the nursing profession; and other specialty specific criteria. This year’s outstanding students were:

Karen D'Apolito and NNP student award winner Brandy Ozbun

Daniel Ford — Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
Maggie Bulger — Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
Genevieve Beninati — Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Brandy Ozbun — Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
Megan E. Baker — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (PNP-AC)
Lauren Larisay — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (PNP-PC)
Charlotte Van Cleave — Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
Karina Maza — Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

Genevieve Beninati receives DAISY Award from Dean Linda Norman

Beninati and Larisay were also honored as the first VUSN recipients of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nursing Students. The DAISY award is a national recognition program to acknowledge and celebrate students who demonstrate commitment to care, compassion and providing the nurse-patient connection that makes a difference for patients. Beninati’s DAISY Award nomination featured her dedication to patients as part of the interprofessional team at the Clinic at Mercury Court. It also applauded her work in promoting more inclusive language and sensitivity regarding LGBTQ patients. Larisay’s nomination detailed her compassionate care for children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It also highlighted her pursuit of certification as a pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner in addition to her MSN work so she could provide more holistic care for children after sexual assault.

VUSN’s DAISY program is sponsored by two VUSN alumni who sit on the DAISY Foundation Board — Stuart Downs, DNP’13, MSN’10, chief operational officer at Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center and AMC South, and Susan Grant, DNP’16, FAAN, executive vice president and chief nursing officer at Beaumont Health.

Family members with a sign congratulating graduate MomThe events also featured the presentation of two other student awards. The Amy Frances Brown Prize for Excellence in Writing went to PMHNP student Janet Sykes for her paper, “Fostered and Adopted Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

The VUSN Alumni Association Award for Student Excellence in Service and Leadership to School and Community was presented to Lexa Taylor. The PMHNP student had served as co-coordinator of Shade Tree Clinic’s vaccine program, which vaccinated more than 750 homeless people, refugees and immigrants around Nashville in fall and winter 2018.

During the ceremonies, eight faculty members were honored with Sara K. Archer Awards for outstanding contributions to student learning. The student-voted awards went to

Megan Shifrin, DNP, MSN’06, ACNP-BC — Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Jennifer Kim, DNP, MSN’97, GNP-BC, FAANP, FNAP — Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Angel Anthamatten, DNP, MSN’00, BC-ADM, FNP-BC — Family Nurse Practitioner

Patricia Scott, DNP, MSN’92, BSN’88, NNP-BC, C-NPT — Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Marshay James, DNP’17, PMC’15, CPNP-AC, CNE — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care

Brittany Nelson, DNP, MSN’01, BS’00, CPNP-PC — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care

Marci Zsamboky, DNP’18, PMHNP/CNS-BC, CNE — Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Tonia Moore-Davis, PhD(c), CNM, FACNM — Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner


VUSN’s pinning ceremonies welcome students into the profession of nursing.

Brian Widmar, Academic Director of the Adult-Gerintology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner specialty, pins Daniel Ford. Ford was also named the specialty’s outstanding student of the year.

Family Nurse Practitioner graduate Max Pollock poses with Dean Linda Norman after being pinned.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Academic Director Karen D’Apolito congratulates Brandy Ozbun for being named the specialty’s outstanding student.

Dean Linda Norman (right) presents FNP graduate Genevieve Beninati with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nursing Students certificate and figurine.

More than 1,000 family and friends gathered in Langford Auditorium to see their graduate recognized. This young man made his mom a special sign wishing her a happy graduation.

PHOTOS: Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt University; GradImages

Nancy Wise 615-322-3894