Jane Brock-Barrett McKay.

It all began with 48 letters.

Written by Florence Nightingale between 1853 and 1893—a time when not much of her life is documented—the letters cover public health issues, particularly advice about improving sanitation conditions in India, and war relief efforts and charitable support for the Franco-Prussian and Austro-Hungarian wars.

The letters were donated to UAB in 1958, part of the gift that established the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library. Today, they are the heart of the Florence Nightingale Letters Initiative, which started as a vision of Doreen Harper, Ph.D., R.N., the Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair and dean of the School of Nursing. The school digitized, transcribed, and published the letters online, thanks to a 2010 donation.

Another gift helped the lessons of the letters leap off the page. Alumna Barrett Brock MacKay, her husband, Rick, and her parents’ foundation—the Harry B. and Jane H. Brock Foundation—made the lead donation to name the Barrett Brock MacKay Florence Nightingale Exhibit. The exhibit is an interactive display at the School of Nursing that shares the letters and focuses on Nightingale’s contributions to modern health care, public health, and evidence-based research.

Now MacKay’s mother, Jane Brock, is shining a light on modern-day Nightingales. Inspired by Harper’s vision to bring the icon’s influence into all aspects of nursing education at UAB—and by her daughter’s passion for the cause—Brock established an endowment to fund the Jane H. Brock-Florence Nightingale Endowed Professorship in Nursing and the Florence Nightingale Endowed Award for Scholarly Work.

The professorship is for a faculty member who exhibits the characteristics and essence of Nightingale, whose work focuses on building clinical and educational partnerships to improve access to health care, and who demonstrates innovative leadership. The inaugural holder of the role is Maria Rodriguez Shirey, Ph.D., M.B.A., R.N., professor and associate dean for clinical and global partnerships in the School of Nursing.

“Dr. Shirey is a perfect match for this role and will set a high standard for future holders of this professorship,” says Harper. “She has clear strengths in developing sustainable, impactful research and clinical service projects and innovative educational funds. And, with the help of this professorship, she will become even more successful in bridging gaps in health care and inspiring up-and-coming nurse leaders to do the same.”

Harper says that the gift is especially meaningful for the School of Nursing. “Not only does it help us continue to build on the legacy of Florence Nightingale’s contributions to nursing science and population and patient care, but the endowed professorship and program support fund also will continue to inspire and innovate the work our school continues to do to improve the health of the vulnerable population groups in Alabama and beyond—today and for generations to come.”

Learn more about supporting the Florence Nightingale Letters Initiative at the UAB School of Nursing: Jeannie Horton, senior director of development, 205.975.2443, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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