Alumni Night recognizes accomplishments, celebrates PAHO/WHOCC

By Pareasa Rahimi

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing hosted its annual Alumni Night on September 14. The event provided an opportunity for alumni to network and reconnect with fellow classmates and faculty. It also recognized the accomplishments of outstanding alumni for their impact on health care and the community.

The event also was a celebration of the 30th anniversary and seventh consecutive designation of the School’s Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. To view photos from the evening, click here.

Florence A. Hixson Distinguished Alumni Award

Photo of Pandora Hardtman

Pandora Hardtman, DNP, CNM, FACNM, FAAN (DNP 2012), is the recipient of the Florence A. Hixson Distinguished Alumni Award. Hardtman is Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer at the Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics and has more than two decades of midwifery experience as both a clinician and consultant.

Established in 1989, this award is the highest honor bestowed by the School 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. It is named for the School’s first dean Florence A. Hixson, Ed.D.

Born and raised in the Caribbean, Hardtman was motivated to enroll in the UAB School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program because she wanted to make a difference in care practices around her. After earning her DNP, Hardtman worked for three years in Rwanda through the Human Resources for Health Project, an initiative funded by the Clinton Foundation in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and a consortium of more than 20 academic institutions in the United States.

Hardtman was honored as one of the School’s 70 Visionary Leaders for her work on a state, national and international level. In 2021, she received the prestigious Dorothea M. Lang Pioneer Award from the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

Marie L. O’Koren Alumni Award for Innovation

LeRoy Marklund, DNP, MPH, RN (DNP 2015), is one of two recipients of the Marie L. O’Koren Alumni Award for Innovation.

Photo of LeRoy Marklund

This award is named for the School’s second Dean, Marie L. O’Koren, EdD, MSN. 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.

Marklund is a 30-year U.S. Army Veteran and Clinical Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University College of Nursing. In May 2020, he was recalled out of retirement and served on active duty in support of the COVID-19 pandemic at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, as a Critical Care Nurse and Director for the Clinical Nurse Transition Program. Marklund serves on the TAMU Troops to College Committee and Honor Council along with involvement with the TAMU Health Science Center – Interprofessional Education and Research Steering Committees for Disaster Day and Operation Border Health Preparedness.

Photo of Tedra Smith

Tedra Smith, DNP, CRNP, CPNP-PC, CNE, CHSE (MSN 2004, DNP 2011), is the second 2023 recipient of the Marie O’Koren Alumni Award for Innovation award. Smith is an Associate Professor Assistant Dean of Graduate Clinical Education – MSN, and Director of Pediatric Partnerships at the UAB School of Nursing and holds a position at Children’s of Alabama as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Smith has been actively involved in simulation with undergraduate and graduate students for the past decade. Smith also co-leads the Clinical Scholars program which is a 12-month program in collaboration with Children’s of Alabama designed to increased participation of bedside nurses in quality improvement and leadership development. She currently serves on the Editorial Board for Pediatric Nursing Journal and serves as a reviewer for other journals focused on pediatric health care and teaching initiatives.

Young Alumni Merit Award

Janvi Jani, MSN, RN (BSN 2016, MSN 2022), is the recipient of the Young Alumni Merit Award. Jani is a Clinical Implementation Specialist, Adjunct-Faculty, Nurse Leader and Educator.

Photo of Janvi Jani

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

Jani has professional experience in clinical, operational, administrative and informatics roles in healthcare. She currently works within the Medical Affairs team at Blue Spark Technologies where she implements a continuous temperature monitoring device at healthcare facilities by educating the clinicians and providers and optimizing staff workflows, while serving internal stakeholders with software development, design and testing. In addition, Jani collaborates with graduate nursing programs at UAB and Duke as a career panelist and speaker to guide and support future nurses in the areas of digital health and technology innovation.

JoAnn Barnett Award for Compassionate Care

Katherine Byrd, MSN, CRNP (BSN 2015, MSN 2018), is one of two recipients of the JoAnn Barnett Award for Compassionate Care.

Photo of Katherine Byrd

Barnett, a UAB School of Nursing 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, Barnett 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.

Byrd currently works as a full-time Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at HEALS Inc., a school-based non-profit clinic in Huntsville. She also works on an as-needed basis for Urgent Care for Children as a Nurse Practitioner providing acute care for pediatric patients. While working on her graduate degree, she also completed the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a program for graduate students to participate in a mentored experiential learning and leadership development program designed to increase skills and commitment to more effectively address the health needs of underserved people. Byrd is passionate about providing excellent, personalized pediatric care. She stays current with her practice by participating in the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners conferences in addition to several Extension for Community Care Outcomes yearlong programs.

Photo of Tray NeSmith

Tray NeSmith, MSN, ACNP-BC (BSN 2010, MSN 2013), is the other recipient of the award. NeSmith has dedicated more than 27 years to community service. Starting as a paramedic in 1996, he progressed to become a flight paramedic and further trained in mass casualty management and terrorism response. NeSmith has worked in both the ER/hospitalist service and private practice. He also worked during the pandemic in several underserved areas in remote Alaska, enhancing his rural medicine experience. In 2021, NeSmith established his private practice, Marshall Primary Care in his hometown of Arab, Alabama. His commitment to underserved populations extends not only to his personal community but also globally, demonstrated by his medical work in Guatemala’s Villa Nueva where he volunteers as frequently as possible.

Career Achievement in Nurse Anesthesia Award

Krista Niedermeier, DNP, MNA, CRNA (BSN 1989, MNA 2006, DNP 2013) is the recipient of the Career Achievement in Nurse Anesthesia Award.

Photo of Krista Niedermeier

This award recognizes a nurse anesthesia graduate who has made significant contributions to the nurse anesthesia profession, while improving the quality and safety of patient care.

After earning her BSN, Niedermeier worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s of Alabama. Niedermeier always had a passion for pediatrics and a desire to become a CRNA, and after having her daughter, she decided it was time to pursue her dream. After graduating from the Nurse Anesthesia Program at UAB, she worked in the anesthesia department at Children’s of Alabama. In 2019, she became the Assistant Director of the department, and in 2020, was named the Director of Anesthesia. Niedermeier has been on the Board of the Alabama Association of Nurse Anesthetists since 2015 and is completing her term as President of the association this year.

Rising Star in Nurse Anesthesia Award

Photo of Elliot Barnwell

Elliot Barnwell, DNP, CRNA (DNP 2021), is the recipient of the Rising Star in Nurse Anesthesia Award. Barnwell is an alumnus of UAB and currently practicing as a CRNA at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida on the cardiac anesthesia team.

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.

Barnwell’s clinical specialty is cardiothoracic anesthesia in adults, with a newfound interest and opportunity at Mayo Clinic for heart and lung transplants. He previously taught pathophysiology as an adjunct faculty member in the UAB School of Nursing’s DNP Nurse Anesthesia Pathway and would like to teach more in the future.

Rachel Z. Booth Global Health Leadership Award

Juanzetta Flowers, PhD, RN (BSN 1966, MSN 1983, PhD 1985), is the recipient of the Rachel Z. Booth Global Health Leadership Award.

Photo of Juanzetta Flowers

This is the inaugural year for the Rachel Z. Booth Global Health Leadership Award. This award, named for the School’s third dean, Rachel Z. Booth, PhD, RN, FAAN, recognizes an individual who has significantly impacted global health through leadership and service. During her career, Booth made tremendous contributions to nursing and health care around the world.

Flowers has left a positive mark in the field of nursing for her leadership, work in combating infant and maternal mortality, lowering death rates from cervical cancer, demonstrating the value of progressive outpatient healthcare and showing the power of nurses’ involvement as advocates for their profession and for community good. After graduating from UAB’s Nurse Practitioner Program, Flowers established herself as a pioneer nurse practitioner in Alabama by participating in successful teamwork to lower Alabama’s high cervical-cancer death rate. The dedication and inspiring efforts of Flowers and her colleagues led to Alabama’s cervical cancer death rate dropping during a four-year period from number one to 49th among the nation’s states.

In the early 1990s, Flowers worked with Booth to establish the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre at the UAB School of Nursing. It was the seventh in the United States and the 36th in the world. She also worked with Booth to establish the Board of Visitors, a group of leaders who contribute time, knowledge and philanthropy to the School. She looks back on her career, especially the time spent at the UAB School of Nursing, as incredibly interesting and rewarding.

Doreen C. Harper Community Partner Award

Mark Wilson, MD, is the recipient of the inaugural Doreen C. Harper Community Partner Award.

Photo of Mark Wilson

This award is named for the School’s immediate past dean, Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN and recognizes an individual who delivers innovative health care and partners with local communities to promote health and wellness. During her tenure as dean and her career, Harper established numerous community partnerships to significantly impact the health of individuals in Alabama and beyond.

Wilson became Health Officer of Jefferson County, Alabama in 2011, overseeing the various programs of the Jefferson County Department of Health. Prior to this role, he served on the Jefferson County Board of Health for three years and worked for over 20 years as a general internist in indigent health care at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham, including several years as Outpatient Medical Director and Chief of Staff. Since coming to the Jefferson County Department of Health and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, his priorities have included advancing health equity, improving birth outcomes, addressing the drug addiction crisis, advocating for tobacco-free policy, supporting the development of a trails and greenway system to facilitate outdoor activity, and more recently, establishing a strategy to address violence as a public health problem. He also has worked to expand partnerships between the health department and other community organizations to pursue common goals related to public health.

In 2016, Wilson helped create a vital community partnership between the the Jefferson County Department of Health, several philanthropic foundations and the UAB School of Nursing to launch Nurse Family Partnership of Central Alabama. With ongoing support from the Jefferson County Board of Health, Wilson facilitated the growth of NFPCA to meet the needs of vulnerable, at-risk mothers in Jefferson County and helped position the program for sustained expansion across multiple counties in Alabama.

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