Alumna Disch wants to inspire future nurses

Photo of Joanne Disch

By Hunter Carter

Wanting to give back to the school that took a chance on her, Master of Science in Nursing alumna Joanne Disch, PhD, RN, FAAN (MSN 1976), recently committed, along with her wife Jane Barnsteiner, a planned gift that will ensure the UAB School of Nursing continues to produce nurse leaders well into the future.

As Disch recalls, a number of schools rejected her application for graduate school with one adding a personal note, indicating that ‘You will never be able to succeed in pursuing this.’ At the time, now-retired UAB School of Nursing Professor Marguerite Kinney, DNSc, RN, FAAN (BSN 1961, MSN 1967), however, saw something the others did not—and both were pleased that, upon graduation, Disch not only succeeded at UAB but was named the Outstanding Graduate Student for that year.

“The UAB School of Nursing has been pivotal in my success, and I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in right now if it wasn’t for the School admitting me and the mentors I had along the way,” Disch said. “Setting up a gift in the School of Nursing allows me to show my contemporaries that they too can give back to their school, be a role model and inspire a whole generation of leaders.”

In 2018, Disch and Barnsteiner committed to the Joanne Disch/Jane Barnsteiner Endowment for Nursing Leadership and Innovation, a planned gift that will support activities promoting leadership and innovation in the School. With several charitable gift options to choose from, Disch decided to move forward with a planned gift for its flexibility and long-term effect.

“The best part of a planned gift is that it is set up in a way where I will be able to give more financially to the School at the end rather than if I were to donate money right now,” Disch said. “The School has created leaders in the field of nursing and health care for as long as I can remember, and I am hoping this planned gift not only continues that, but also inspires students who may not think of themselves as leaders to pursue leadership roles.”

Disch has held many leadership roles, including president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the American Academy of Nursing, as well as serving as chair of the board for two major health systems.

One influential role she holds near and dear was serving on the Board of AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons), and eventually becoming chair of the board. With no experience at AARP, Disch convinced the nominating committee that a “fresh set of eyes” and a nursing leader was what AARP needed.

“Historically, teachers and business leaders had served on the board at AARP, but I believe that my insight as a nurse, and pushing change every chance I could get, set me apart from the rest of my colleagues at AARP,” Disch said. “When I was named chair, there were more than 35 million members. For me to help lead a national agenda to improve the health of older Americans—and to also demonstrate nursing’s abilities to lead large organizations—was an experience I will never forget.”

While Disch has distinguished herself among professional and organizational associations, she continues to share her leadership perspectives across her networks of influence.

Disch also tells her colleagues, students and friends to always listen to other people’s perspective because you will never fully understand the problem if you don’t put yourself in their shoes. She hopes that others seek to follow that advice as it is crucial to seeing the big picture, no matter the situation.

In addition to other awards and accolades, the School named Disch a Distinguished Alumna in 1994 and a 60th Anniversary Visionary Leader in 2010.

For more information on giving, contact Senior Director of Development Jeannie Horton, jhorton@uab.edu or 205-975-2443.

Last modified on March 23, 2022

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