Sharon Veith won the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Service for 2022. She has been the UVA School of Nursing's liaison to Charlottesville’s Westhaven neighborhood for more than five years, working with community members, steering committee partners, and many agencies that serve within the community.
Veith epitomizes the award’s purpose: “to recognize a faculty member whose work demonstrates the greatest positive impact in a particular place or community and who has undertaken that work together with students.”
In her work, Veith emphasizes how important it is to be genuine and committed in a role like hers, working with a public housing community that has not always been well-served by organizations. Counter to that history, the Westhaven Nursing Clinic has been “a vital place of connection and support for over 30 years,” Veith wrote in a reflective statement.
Colleagues describe Veith as “a true public servant” and “a role model” to everyone at the University.--
“Public service requires respect, humility, authenticity, kindness, and relationships . . . Our mission is to provide a safe place with a holistic approach to improving the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the community while building trust and bridging gaps.”
Her nominators, including partners from the Blue Ridge Health District and Associate Professor Emma Mitchell, wrote about how helpful she has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. They noted that she reached out to families personally to help remove barriers to getting them vaccinated.
The vaccination effort that Veith helped coordinate resulted in about 600 vaccines administered through 10 vaccine clinics in the community. Veith spent hours working with community partners to organize the clinics as the pandemic conditions changed and required more volunteer hours.
As a clinical instructor, Veith brings students to work in the clinic for 12-week rotations, but they don’t just learn the activities of a community nurse, important as those are. They also learn about the community they are serving, meeting weekly with residents with whom they are paired.
The nursing students learn to contribute beyond the traditional nursing roles, including the pick-up and delivery of food directly to the community kitchen, helping with things like a telephone that isn’t working, and developing an after school curriculum to teach elementary and middle schoolers about health, careers, and self-care.
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They especially made an impact with children during the vaccine drives, Veith noted. At the vaccine clinic for 5- to 11-year-olds, UVA students set up a fun area for observation and to allow for questions and concerns. Although only 16 children had been registered at first, when other children walked by after school, they went and told their parents, and by the end, 43 children had been vaccinated.
A colleague called her “a true public servant” and “a role model” to everyone at the University.
The collaborative award, which also requires student involvement on projects, recognizes diverse departments and disciplines who’ve had an impact on societal wellbeing in a particular area. The selection committee for these public service awards includes members of the Charlottesville community, as well as UVA faculty.
Provost Ian Baucom, Vice Provost for Academic Outreach Louis Nelson, and other University officials feted the group of winners at a recent reception where UVA teaching awardees for 2022 were also celebrated.