A Zoom image of grad students with Cav Man
Cav Man joined nearly 200 School of Nursing graduate students for a ceremony celebrating seven award-winning graduates.

"Here come my students," said CNL program director Emily Drake, a professor of nursing, as nearly 200 individuals crowded into a virtual awards ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

Then, she corrected herself.

"Wait, they're not my students anymore," laughed Drake, clad in the velvet regalia she'd wear at any graduation event. "They're my colleagues."

Students waved, chatted, did virtual and in-person thumbs up on Zoom as the Class of 2020 nursing graduate students gathered to celebrate the end of their schooling, the profession they share, and one another.

During a ceremony that alternated between serious and light-hearted, and with a virtual visit from Cav Man (who expressed his enthusiasm for awardees with a few characteristic bobs of his head), it was a celebration like no other in the School's history, given the continued physical distancing required by COVID-19. Many graduate students - who make up a little more than half of the nursing school's population - are already on the frontlines as caregivers, nurse managers, and leaders during the global pandemic.

That truth proved both sobering and determined.

The ceremony also marked several graduate students who received awards in 2020, including:

  • LUCIE NDAYA (CNL `20) who earned the CNL Clinical Excellence Award, which recognizes a graduating CNL student who maintained an exemplary level of performance across all clinical settings
  • BRAD GARMON and JULIANNA HEYWARD (CNL `20), who earned the Outstanding Capstone Award for 2020 for their work titled, "Lowering delirium prevalence with nurse-driven care bundles on ventilated patients," done at Culpeper Hospital's ICU
  • MAY GALLANOSA (DNP `20), who earned the Outsanding DNP Scholarly Practice Award for "Educational interventions for primary care providers to promote a trauma-informed care approach in a student health setting"
  • CAIT DREISBACH (PhD `20), who earned the Verhonick Research Award for the quality and strength of her dissertation, titled "The influence of maternal obesity on microbial function and impaired glucose tolerance during pregnancy"
  • TRINA KUMODZI (PhD `20) and SALLY HAINES (MSN `20), who both earned the Barbara Brodie Scholars award for their work - Kumodzi for her doctoral dissertation focused on firearm violence, and Haines for her work as a nurse practitioner.

"I encourage you not to be too humble, andI encourage you to sing your own praises, and step up every time someone asks what you do, where you're making your mark."

Dean Pam Cipriano to graduate students at the virtual awards ceremony

"2020 has been a year that none of us will forget," said Dean Pam Cipriano, "and your influence is needed now more than ever before. The spotlight on nursing around the world has emphasized that you are intelligent, well-educated, and ready to deal with anything, jumping toward danger, instead of away from it. it's really a time for nurses to be recognized but elevated and tapped for your expertise and guidance." 

Added professor Kathryn Laughon, PhD program director, "Science is more important than ever, as is your ability to help us understand what is truth, what is known, and unknown. This PhD means more than it ever did."

MSN and DNP program director Clareen Wiencek lauded the pioneering graduates as "firsts."

"You're first to enter the healthcare workforce during a global pandemic," said Wiencek, "and first to join your colleagues on the COVID-19 frontlines."

In her closing remarks, Cipriano - herself a critical care nurse with 40 years' experience - urged nursing students to "not be too humble" about the power of nursing, and its ability to change policy, practice, education - and people's lives.

"Recognize that you have incredible talent that now you're going to share with the world," she said, adding, "and even more important is to be sure that poeple know what you do. Everyone has this very traditional view of the actual caring component [of nursing] but they have no idea that we're changing the world ... [nurses are] setting policy, we're changing education, we're contributing to science in ways that are changing people's lives.

"I encourage you not to be too humble," added Cipriano. "I encourage you to sing your own praises, and step up every time someone asks what you do, where you're making your mark, because that's the only way we'll move the needle in terms of the impact that nurses are having world-wide."

She also spoke to graduates' poise and pedigree.

"As a UVA grad, you're way ahead of others ... We add our pride in looking at you moving on to the next phase, and we're here to continue to cheer you on and support you any way we can."