At a series of small receptions throughout May, members of the nursing Class of 2021 celebrated the advent of their graduation in a seminal moment at UVA, in history, and for the nursing profession.
On Friday, May 21, 281 of them will walk with fellow graduates from the Batten School of Public Policy, the School of Medicine, and the School of Education and Human Development across UVA's storied Lawn and process to Scott Stadium to earn their degrees after more than a year of disruption, adjustment, exhaustion, fear, but, ultimately triumph. Not only did they persist, they shone, and merge into a profession that lies at the heart of how humanity has survived a global pandemic.
The UVA School of Nursing class is comprised of 88 BSN graduates; 38 RN to BSN graduates, 6 RN to CNL graduates; 38 CNL graduates; 86 MSN graduates and 6 post-master's certificate graduates; 15 DNP graduates; and 4 PhD graduates. Included among its ranks are:
- RN to BSN graduate Trisha Durfee, a UVA Health nurse who is winner of the Susan Hutchinson Memorial Award, and who was among the very first nurses to organize and staff the COVID testing clinics in Charlottesville and who has been a faithful vaccinator for the BRHD/UVA Health clinics since COVID-19 vaccines debuted last December
- two stellar BSN graduates who will serve in the U.S. Army upon graduation: Hannelore Tahmassebi and Emily Sterling
- the multi-talented Christina Ngo, a BSN graduate, violinist, and Lawn resident, who was named the nursing student who contributed the most to UVA
- the always-involved Sydney Tweedy, two-time Nursing Student Council president and a faithful, hard-working, and energetic leader, who was named the nursing student who contributed the most to the School of Nursing
- academic and clinical stand-out Margaret Gillen, who earned the Anne Pollok Hemmings Clinical Excellence Award for her prowess across clinical environments and her poise with acutely ill patients and their families
- Larissa Laso Rodriguez, a DNP graduate, an acute care cardiology nurse practitioner at Bon Secours in Richmond whose capstone - "Call to C.A.R.E." - earned multiple accolades, including the 2021 Outstanding DNP Scholarly Practice Award, work that has already had a sustainable impact on her own health system by reducing hospital re-admissions
- Labor and delivery nurse Azra Faisant, an RN to CNL graduate and full-time nurse at UVA Health who herself gave birth during graduate school, whose capstone project - "Reducing needle stick injury during cord blood draws" - earned the 2021 Capstone Award
- Former lab scientist and EMT Sabina Baidoo, a CNL graduate and Conway Scholar who earned the 2021 Clinical Excellence Award for her skill and poise across clinical environments
- Biology and psychology major Byron Clanor, a CNL graduate who worked in a substance abuse clinic before pivoting into nursing, and who also earned the 2021 Clinical Excellence Award for his bedside nursing and patient care skills
- PhD graduate Catherine "Cat" Elmore, a clinical instructor who was critical to the training and deployment of third-year community health student vaccinators at the Seminole Square COVID-19 clinic, whose dissertation - "Examining cervical cancer control for refugee women living in the United States" - earned both the 2021 Global Health Visionary award and the 2021 Verhonick Research Award
- And BSN graduate Paige O'Brien, who facilitated how fellow students, faculty, and staff learned to navigate challenging conversations with individuals who have diverse perspectives as part of an Anti-Racism Working Group, and who offered her generous spirit, poise, and spunk to every nursing event and initiative under the sun and earns the Z Society Edgar Shannon Award for Academic Excellence.
Nurses have been repeatedly lauded as the most ethical, most trusted professionals. These individuals in the great Class of 2021 join or return to the profession of nursing with their heads high, their voices raised, and prepared as clinicians, scholars, and disrupters.
We salute you ALL.