Alumni Night awards innovative leaders

By Amanda E.H. Pritchard

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, along with the Nursing and Nurse Anesthesia Chapters of the UAB National Alumni Society, hosted the School’s annual Alumni Night.

The event provided an opportunity for alumni to network and reconnect with fellow classmates and faculty. It also recognized the accomplishments of eight outstanding alumni for their impact on health care and the community. To see photos from the evening, click here.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Linda Norman, DSN, RN, FAAN (DSN 2001), a national and international leader in nursing who has been active in nursing practice and nursing education for more than four decades is this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award Winner.

Photo of Linda Norma

Established in 1989, this is the highest honor bestowed by the UAB School of Nursing and honors an outstanding graduate who has demonstrated leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship who has significantly enhanced nursing within the state and on national levels through clinical and/or administrative practice.

Norman is an American Academy of Nursing Fellow and a UAB School of Nursing Visionary Leader. She currently is Dean Emerita and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

“UAB helped to launch my career in academic leadership in nursing. I had been a department chair at East Tennessee School of Nursing prior to beginning the UAB doctoral program. The experience at UAB gave me the research skills that I have used in many of the research projects that I have been involved with,” Norman said. “The coursework expanded my abilities particularly to enhance scientific discovery. The ability to have a functional minor in nursing academic administration has been invaluable in my career.

“I was honored and humbled at the news,” Norman added. “It is one of my most cherished honors to receive this award. Thank you to the UAB School of Nursing.”

Norman shares this advice with aspiring nursing students. “Take advantage of every learning experience that you are afforded. Explore areas that you are not familiar with. Listen and learn from your faculty and mentors.”

In addition, a number of other alumni were honored with awards for their service and dedication to nursing.

Marie L. O’Koren Alumni Award for Innovation

Photo of Martha Dawson

Martha Dawson, DNP, RN, FACHE (BSN 1976, MSN 1984), is the 2022 recipient of the Marie L. O’Koren Alumni Award for Innovation.

Dawson is an Associate Professor at the UAB School of Nursing. Her practice, leadership and clinical research focuses are in the disciplines of administrative systematology, career progression, organizational injustices and barriers and equality in nursing. She is a member of the Alabama Nursing Hall of Fame, a UABSON Visionary Leader and will be inducted as a Fellow this year in the American Academy of Nursing. She serves as the President of the National Black Nurses Association.

This award is named for the second Dean, Dr. Marie L. O’Koren. O’Koren valued alumni involvement and understood the importance of giving back to nursing education to promote the future of health care. This award recognizes alumni who embody O’Koren’s nursing philosophy and who have made transformative contributions to nursing.

JoAnn Barnett Award for Compassionate Care

Photo of Laua Grill

Laura Grill, MBA, BSN (BSN 1984), president and chief executive officer of The East Alabama Health Care Authority overseeing the authority’s two hospitals, East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika and East Alabama Medical Center – Lanier in Valley, is one of two 2022 recipients of the JoAnn Barnett Award for Compassionate Care.

JoAnn Barnett, a UABSON graduate and neonatal nurse practitioner at UAB Hospital, was a champion for the highest quality of compassionate care for her patients and families. In 2002, JoAnn lost her battle with cancer. That year, the Nursing Alumni Chapter established this award to honor her service to her patients, community and alma mater. This award honors deserving nurses who exemplify the best in nursing care, just as Barnett did.

“I was honored and humbled to be awarded the Joann Barnett Award for Compassionate Care from the UAB School of Nursing. My nursing career of 38 years was founded and formulated by the excellent education I received as a graduate of the program,” Grill said. “I hold in high regard my nursing professors and the late Dean O’Koren and the lasting impression they made in my life and in my career. Nursing is a calling, a passion and a heart for service to others. A career in nursing can open many doors for future growth and make a difference in the way we deliver healthcare, now and into the future.”

Photo of Kelley Vivian

Vivian Kelley, DNP, MSN, APRN (BSN 1985, MSN 1998), is the second 2022 recipient of the JoAnn Barnett Award for Compassionate Care.

After serving as a Nurse Corps Officer in the U.S. Army for 22 years, Kelley retired. During her time of service she was inducted into the Order of Military Merit Medal and awarded a Quilt of Valor. When she was on active duty, she deployed in support of Operation Restore Hope to Somalia and Operation Iraqi Freedom in support of the War on Terrorism. For the past 12 years she has continued serving our nation as an advanced practice nurse for the Veteran’s Health Administration.

Kelley currently is an adjunct faculty member at the Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and serves on the Professional Standards Board, which oversees reviewing credentials of onboarding health professionals.

“Caring with compassion is the heart of nursing,” Kelley said. “My advice to potential nursing students is to remain true and committed to a life of caring. It is ok not to know everything. The only silly or dumb question is the one not asked. If you know the ‘normals,’ you may not know what to call/ name an abnormal finding, but you will know that it is different/abnormal.”

Young Alumni Merit Award

Photo of award winners

The Young Alumni Merit Award honors those who have graduated within the last 10 years and are working in a health care setting, who are making a positive impact on patient care. There are two 2022 recipients.

Jessica Richardson, DNP, CRNP, PMHNP-BC (MSN 2013, DNP 2018), focuses on improving the mental health care of Veterans via the implementation of measurement-based care at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Health Care System. She understands firsthand the value of nurse practitioner residency programs in supporting early career practitioners as they transition into professional roles. Richardson has been tapped to work with the national VA office to support the advancement of VA registered nurse and nurse practitioner residency programs nationwide.

Adam Wilson, BSN, RN (BSN 2018), is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps as an Amphibious Reconnaissance Marine. He currently is an assistant nurse manager in the UAB Hospital Emergency Department. Working with the Emergency Nurses Association, Wilson represented the state of Alabama at the ENA Day on Capitol Hill. He also is a current student at the School, working towards earning his Master’s in Nursing Health Administration.

Rising Star in Nurse Anesthesia Award

Photo of Lyda Nolan

Nolan Lyda, DNP, CRNA (BSN 2015, DNP 2020), is the 2022 Rising Star in Nurse Anesthesia Award winner.

Lyda began his nursing career in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at UAB Hospital before earning his DNP. He currently works as a CRNA in the CVICU at UAB Hospital.

This award recognizes a nurse anesthesia graduate who has graduated within the last five years and emulates excellence as a clinical practitioner and contributes to the nurse anesthesia profession through service and outreach.

Career Achievement in Nurse Anesthesia Award

Photo of Brooke Vining

Brooke Vining, MNA, CRNA (MNA 2003), received the 2022 Career Achievement in Nurse Anesthesia Award.

This award honors nurse anesthesia graduates who has made significant contributions to their profession, while improving the quality and safety of patient care.

Vining began her nursing career in 1998 with the UAB Emergency Department. In 2001, she transitioned to the UAB Trauma Burn Intensive Care unit in preparation for Nurse Anesthesia School and in 2003, after receiving her Master’s in Nurse Anesthesia, she returned to UAB Hospital as part of the CRNA staff. Currently, Vining serves as the Senior Director of PeriAnesthesia Services at UAB Hospital.

Upon receiving the award, Vining said, “This award represents my commitment to give back to the profession that has given so much to me. I have always viewed leadership as an act of service. I feel that if healthcare leaders remain service-minded towards both their patients and the frontline teams, then what follows is most often a win-win for all.”

To those seeking a career in nursing, Vining said the sky is the limit when choosing a career in nursing. “From the bedside to the board room, nurses are not only integral members of all platforms of health care delivery, but also have opportunities to emerge as leaders to the highest levels of corporate leadership,” she said.

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