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Alumni Profiles

Jeffrey Hewitt, advocate, philanthropist, lawyer, and nurse

Lienhard alumnus Jeffrey Hewitt '81 died of a cardiac arrest on December 23, 2010 in Massachusetts at age 59. A double Pace alumnus, Hewitt was President of the Lienhard Advisory Board and a generous donor and advocate for the Lienhard School of Nursing. In June 2011, Lienhard held a memorial service and tree planting ceremony, which was attended by many members of the Hewitt family.

Sharon Lewis, College of Health Professions' communication director, was fortunate enough to interview Hewitt for Lienhard’s newsletter before his sudden death. We are re-printing that article on the Lienhard 50th website.

Hewitt wore a variety of hats -- artist, philanthropist, lawyer, and nurse. His interest in nursing started when his daughter was born, and his passion for the field did not wane, despite exploring other professions.

While his wife went through a long labor, according to Hewitt, “There was a nurse that came and took over and enabled me as a coach, and enabled my wife as a mother giving birth to get the job done. The doctor was pretty understanding, but he mostly wasn’t there. And yet this nurse was there - as I remember - the entire time. She must have pulled a triple [shift]. That’s just how it is in my mind... It was the way she subordinated herself and her needs to our needs that made me want to become a nurse.”

Hewitt served on the advisory board for Lienhard and supported the school through both philanthropic gifts as well as his time and expertise. In late 2010, he sponsored a conference at Pace that focused on palliative care - a field that he became interested in after working in the nursing cardiac ICU and later the neurological ICU.

According to Hewitt, in the nursing cardiac ICU, “We did everything we could to keep people from dying.” When he worked in the neurological ICU, he observed that “death is often the outcome.”

He said, “I did a complete turnaround in terms of what I needed to be able to do - as a surgical cardiac ICU nurse, I was very proud of the fact that I kept my patients alive. But then when I went to the neurological/neurosurgical unit, the whole problem was different. I went from the one side of trying to do everything you can to save everybody to the other side of learning how to let go, and that death is not the enemy. And that lateral lesson led me eventually into bereavement work and hospice work, and up to the Palliative Care Conference.” Hewitt started support groups for families of patients in the neurological ICU, working with a chaplain and a social worker.

He said, “The end-of-life was my interest because I also saw that as something where nursing care is paramount. Hospice is not about the doctors; it’s not about medical care - it’s about nursing care. Beginning of life issues could also focus on certified nurse mid-wives. I’d be very interested in establishing not only the efficacy but the superiority of the certified nurse midwife to the OB-GYN.”

Hewitt said he supported nursing school events partly because nursing was a professional path he did not continue to pursue. “I believe in nursing power and in the power of nursing - very much so. And in its power to reform the way people look at the world. We should be integrating some of the aspects of nursing into the high school curriculum, so that people come out as human beings able to take care of themselves and others on a day-to-day basis. I’m not talking about how you start an IV. I’m talking about a way of looking at the world which nursing provides, and the principles -- simple values like compassion, social justice, and peace.”

The program at Pace really spoke to me

Before attending Pace University, Patricia Kelly, PhD, MPH, FNP (’79), RN performed street theater to raise awareness of issues close to her heart. The group was called Mass Transit Theater; the idea was that mass transit moves people from place to place and that theater could move people to change the world. “So we performed around issues from women’s rights to redlining [denying jobs, services, housing, etc. based on race],” she said.

Dr. Kelly, who is now a professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and editor of the journal of Public Health Nursing, was a single mother in her late 20s, working part time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She had a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Urban Studies from SUNY-Albany. She says, “I wanted a career that was financially secure. Nursing had a proud tradition for women, and it was appealing for me as a feminist. The program at Pace really spoke to me. It was so innovative. There were other programs closer to home that I could have done, but I wanted to focus on being a nurse practitioner in community settings and working with underserved populations. The program at Pace was exactly what I was looking for.”

Although Pace’s program was challenging, Professor Kelly says it opened up a world of possibilities for her. “Pace was the most incredible opportunity for me. It was the most difficult two years of my life. The curriculum was dense. I was commuting between Brooklyn and Briarcliff. I was a single parent with no money. But I am so grateful to Pace because my degree opened so many doors and they kept opening.”

Professor Kelly remembers her nursing professor Elizabeth Plummer fondly saying, “She was completely old school, but when she talked to students, patients, and staff, her caring was so apparent. She just commanded universal respect.”

After obtaining her master’s from Pace, Professor Kelly worked in an emergency room in Brooklyn and later at Middletown Community Health Center (MCHC). She became the executive director of MCHC and went on to get her master’s in public health. She worked in Brooklyn in HIV care for women, and later moved to Chicago where she taught at Rush University and got a PhD in public health.

Professor Kelly’s career has provided her with many opportunities to influence the field of nursing, and when asked where she’s had the most impact, she answers without hesitation: teaching. “Students don’t routinely get outspoken professors talking about social change and social justice in nursing school; many respond to it.”

The former street theater performer still delights in being an activist, though now she expresses herself through her teaching and her writing. As the editor of Public Health Nursing, she writes editorials for the six issues per year. She has written about health and human rights, unintended pregnancies, mass incarceration, and more. “It’s a great soapbox,” she says.

When asked what advice she has for aspiring health care professionals, she says, “I am a huge believer in education as a lifelong process. You don’t know what doors will open as you move and learn and meet new people. Keep yourself open to the tremendous opportunities out there as you take a new class or clinical or even a new degree. Take advantage of the clinicals that are beyond your comfort level. Get out of the zone you came in with in order to learn new things. Hang out with people different from you to enrich your experience.”

She also says, “There is so much pressure on young people today to have 5-year goals and 10-year goals. There’s pressure to find a job that sets you on ‘the right’ path. I don’t see that as valid. You need to be open to meeting someone who says ‘how about this?’ because it could change your outlook and your life.”

Shaping home health care policy

Michele Quirolo, MSN, RN, CHCE, ‘87 is the president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Hudson Valley. She’s helping to shape home care health policy, and she’s a proud Pace alumna who credits Lienhard for preparing her for her current leadership position.

Quirolo has been intimately involved in the health care reform effort as it relates to home care. The health policy class she took at Pace was critical to the work she does now as the chairperson of the board for the National Association of Home Care and Hospice.

“I’m honored to do it,” says Quirolo. “It’s great to have a seat at the table, and I always make sure people know I’m a nurse.”

In addition to her position as CEO of the VNA of Hudson Valley and her lobbying activities, Quirolo also teaches a leadership and management course. She encourages nurses to consider going into leadership positions, and also urges nurses to be active politically. “The nursing profession is extremely powerful. As a group, nurses have enormous potential power to shape health policy.”

Quirolo acknowledges that leadership positions can be difficult. She says it’s a 24/7 job, but the benefits are immeasurable: “better morale, better care, and the opportunity to create a better working environment.”

Quirolo’s dedication has paid off: The VNA of Hudson Valley has been named to the HomeCare Elite, a compilation of the most successful Medicare-certified home health providers in the United States. This review identifies the top 25 percent of agencies, ranked by an analysis of performance measures in quality outcomes, quality improvement, and financial performance.

Quirolo says she has never been afraid of taking risks in her career, and she carries that philosophy with her every day, encouraging people to implement their ideas “without squelching their creativity.”

She says, “I think allowing people to take a risk is important. If you aren’t willing to take risks, you just maintain the status quo. And there’s no growth.”

A pioneer in the field of nursing

Mary Clark, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC, (’88) knew from the tender age of five that she wanted to be a nurse. “The school nurse let me help clean abrasions when the other kids skinned their knees.”

From there, Mary Clark was hooked on helping people and became a pioneer in the field of nursing, establishing independent nursing practice in the state of Washington. She says, “I am very passionate about nursing’s unique role within health care and how nurses work with patients to make them healthier and happier.”

At 32 years old, with four children to support, she chose to obtain a nursing degree in Midway, Washington. She says, “In 1972, Merrily Allen and I, with the University of Washington Nursing Department and WAMI, the Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho Regional Medical Programs, an initiative developed by the federal government for rural and underserved areas, opened the second rural nursing clinic in Washington. Volunteers from the community helped fundraise by holding garage sales.” Clark and Allen also obtained the first nurse license in the advanced role in Washington.

Mary Clark describes her journey to Pace University saying, “After many years in rural practice, some in rural Alaska and overseas in Guam, I looked for a University that was open to our new nursing paths. Lienhard School of Nursing at Pace University was it. They had accelerated, individualized classes, open minded mentors, and new programs for rural and small communities. I left Pace feeling that my MSN provided the pride and knowledge of being a nurse in the advanced role.”

She looks back fondly on her time at Pace, saying the professors personalized how and what they taught. She remembers how professors and students engaged in meaningful conversations and how faculty and staff created a caring environment. She remembers Lillie Shortridge-Baggett directing the nursing program. “She was always there for the students.” In addition to hard-working faculty members, staff members contributed to the warm environment. “The woman who answered the phones made the best lasagna in the whole world.”

Clark is still in practice for Norton Sound Health Corporation in rural Nome, Alaska, providing Health Aide Training to the 15 villages there. She says, “These young women and men are the primary healthcare workers in their villages. It has been such a pleasure to watch them come in as young eager teenagers, though they have a heavy burden to carry when they go back to their homes. That is why I keep going up...They are now my kids, and I am so proud of them!”

When asked what advice she has for aspiring nurses, she says, “As a nurse who came up through the ranks, I am very passionate about nurses getting a strong foundation in nursing before obtaining a doctorate. Nursing offers a unique view. In my opinion, you must get your nursing identity first before pursuing higher degrees.”

Build a strong foundation for your future

When Maria Lariccia Brennan (‘81), DNP, RN, CPHQ, was a child, a community health nurse named Angela Scalera took care of her sick grandmother. Scalera became Brennan’s role model, and they keep in touch to this day.

Scalera encouraged Brennan throughout her successful nursing career, from her start as an associate’s degree staff nurse and nursing care coordinator at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn to her current role as Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at St. Joseph's Healthcare System (SJHS) in Paterson, New Jersey.

Brennan notes that getting her BSN from Pace helped her build a strong foundation for her future. “Pace strengthened my clinical skills – my critical thinking and physical assessment skills. I remember working in White Plains Hospital; in a rehab center for developmentally disabled children; and in community health in New Rochelle, just to name a few. “

Later, when she was in her master’s program at Hunter College, she met a professor who had a PhD in business and realized she could go down the management path. She switched from clinical to administrative nursing and never looked back. A life-long learner, Brennan graduated with her DNP in May.

Angela Scalera, the nurse from Brennan’s childhood, hasn’t been the only one following Brennan’s career. CHP’s Dean Harriet R. Feldman, PhD, RN, FAAN, has congratulated Brennan over the years for the many awards and accolades she has accumulated. For example, under Brennan’s direction, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center was the 2010 recipient of the ANCC Magnet Prize. Also in 2010 Brennan received the Nurse Empowerment Award. In addition, she received the Governor's Nursing Merit Award in 2008 for exceptional nursing leadership, guidance and service in New Jersey. Brennan was selected among the state's top nursing leaders to receive this award, which represents excellence in nursing, compassion in care and technical proficiency. She also received the 2007 Nurse Executive Award from the Organization of Nurse Executives NJ (ONE/NJ).

Dean Feldman approached Brennan to serve on the College of Health Professions Advisory Board after seeing the impressive improvements Brennan made to her hospital. Brennan decreased the RN vacancy rate at St. Joseph’s Healthcare System from 12% to 2%, maintained 100% capacity for clinical learning experience rotations of local college schools of nursing, focused on Nursing Research and Practice, created a "Productivity Model for Nursing" to ensure the correct number of nurses to meet patient needs, and assisted in the creation of plans for extensive SJHS facility expansion.

Brennan's influence also included a global mentoring program, which came as a request from nurses in Bangkok, Thailand, who spent two intensive weeks learning from her. In addition, Brennan has mentored other organizations nationally and locally to improve patient care and nursing practice.

As Chief Nursing Officer of St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, Brennan has lead St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in attaining their fourth Magnet re-designation.

In December 2006, Brennan was elected to the Board of Directors of the ONE/NJ. She now serves as the president-elect of the Organization of Nurse Executives of New Jersey, and as a member of the Board of Directors, where she advocates on behalf of nurses and works at the state level to elevate the profession. Indeed, Brennan’s passion for nursing comes through when she talks about how nurses are well positioned with health care reform and the Affordable Care Act to have a voice. “I’m a huge advocate of Advanced Practice Nurses and elevating their role.”

Brennan sits on several advisory boards but says, “I have a special place in my heart for Pace. I’m so grateful for the incredible experience I had at Pace. The professors were excellent; the peer group of students I studied with was fabulous. I have all good memories of my time there.”

When asked what advice Brennan has for future health care professionals, she says that health care is a great career. “From nurses to PAs to audiologists and speech pathologists, they are all needed for the future. In addition, because healthcare is so diversified, you are not limited to working in a hospital.”

She says, “Nursing and other health professions are nobles ones – where else can you give back to humanity, work with your community, and get a huge sense of personal satisfaction from deeply meaningful exchanges and interactions?”

Advice for Alumni: Stay in touch

Dr. Linda Mundy graduated from Pace University in 1978 and has used her nursing degree throughout her varied career.

Linda Mundy recognized in high school that she was service oriented, which naturally led her to the field of nursing. She received a New York State Regents nursing scholarship and went to Ulster County Community College - the only college she applied to, for her two-year AAS degree. She then received a scholarship from Pace. She says, “Pace was great. I still have notebooks and textbooks from that era. One course that I took allowed me and another student to design a nursing project at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining. That was really a great opportunity. I worked on their medical unit. I tried to create an educational program for the men who had lifetime terms of incarceration and who were diabetic. It was inspirational in giving me the opportunity to create something that did not exist within the prison infirmary system.”

Dr. Mundy started out in critical care nursing, then worked in refugee healthcare on the Thai-Cambodian border after the Khmer Rouge regime. She says, “I met a variety of infectious disease physicians and fellows, medical students, and really dynamic nurses who worked in the field to deliver health care to people who had survived years of living through a genocide in Cambodia. That experience was informative in helping me really think about the opportunities we have as Americans and enhanced my enthusiasm for continuing my education. I thought long and hard about what those opportunities would be, and I decided to go back to school and do pre-med education at the City University System of New York while working as a nurse at New York Hospital to support myself along the way.”

Throughout her career, Dr. Mundy has worked across disciplines. Currently she has her own healthcare business working primarily in the pharmaceutical industry on the design of innovative antibiotic treatment therapies. She says clinical trials require her to be able to facilitate discussions with a variety of people working across disciplines, from statisticians to research nurses. She has also worked across disciplines in her infection control work, as an HIV practitioner, and in work involving medication adherence.

When asked what advice Dr. Mundy has for College of Health Professions students she said, “Be fully engaged in the educational process; work really hard. It’s a luxury to have a great education and to be around strong professors.”

Dr. Mundy recommends current students take advantage of the coaching, networking, and mentorship opportunities Pace offers. She says, “Also, spend some time in introspection and contemplation about what your strengths are - what you’re good at and what you can contribute - either individually or as a member of a broader team.”

She also advises recent graduates and other alumni to stay in touch with friends. She maintains lifelong friendships with two colleagues from Pace - Marilyn Marinaccio (now Albanese), who was a fellow nursing student, and Joan Cangialosi (now Nelson), who studied accounting. She says, “The three of us have maintained a friendship through college. It’s been great to watch each other as families grow and careers evolve.”

Leadership

Although Kathy Kettles didn’t dream of becoming a nurse, her nursing education taught her powerful lessons about what’s important in life.

Kathy Kettles grew up in an Irish American neighborhood in the 50s and 60s and says her options were limited to several fields. “The thing you would become: nurse, teacher, secretary, nun, or the avant-garde choice -- social worker -- in my mind, those were the only possibilities.” Furthermore, her mother was a child of the depression. “She impressed upon me that I needed to always be able to support myself.” Kettles’ desire to help others while being able to support herself led her to the field of nursing.

While at Pace University, Kettles established relationships with professors that would shape her thinking for years to come. “You had real relationships with your professors at Pace. I knew my professors; I could talk to them. It was a personal education. For me, that was the very best. You had personal relationships that made a difference in your life.” Nursing Professor Alice Reilly was one of many inspiring professors. “She was a wonderful educator.” Reilly encouraged her students to use independent judgment as nurses to determine the right course of action for their patients, to anticipate problems and to be advocates for patients. Nursing Professor Dolores Gariepy was another person who had a major impact on Kettles’ education and practice. “She was a wonderful teacher. She was tough, fair, and very smart. She really influenced me as a nurse.” Kettles recalls a particularly fulfilling project: “I studied a lot in nursing about leadership, and different styles of leadership - it was one of the things I enjoyed most about the nursing program at Pace. Each of us had to develop a seminar for the class, and I did mine on facilitative leadership, which is also connected now to why I love mediation.” Kettles discovered after several years in nursing that she was a natural advocate. She decided law was a better fit for her and a field where she could be more independent and feel more empowered. She returned to Pace to obtain her law degree, and went on to a very successful career in litigation, representing both patients and those in the health professions. She has started a mediation practice and looks forward to eventually devoting all of her time to mediation. She says she has many good friends who are also nurse attorneys, and those who combine the two fields, “really bring a different dimension to the practice of law.” Kettles says nursing taught her how to deal with life and death and the meaning and importance of care. “Although I didn’t dream of becoming a nurse, I am very glad that I became one because I think it made me a better person, and certainly I know it’s made me a much better lawyer. I had no idea how much nursing was ultimately going to give me.”

Eileen Rice (class of ’82)

Eileen Rice (class of ’82) recently came back to Lienhard to present her research on emotional intelligence and nursing. A recipient of the Alexander Gralnick Research Award, Professor Rice told a story about a nursing student who had excellent grades, but lacked other qualities – including emotional intelligence – necessary to be an effective nurse. For example, she insisted on continuing to feed a patient who clearly did not want to take in any more food.

According to Rice, “Nursing schools need to test for emotional intelligence before accepting students into their programs. Sure it’s expensive, but it’s no more expensive than academic testing. It’s an investment. If we find low emotional intelligence is correlated with not graduating, it will save us a ton of money and it will save students aggravation because they will decide to pursue another path rather than spending their resources studying in a field that isn’t right for them.”
Rice believes that students should be screened for their communications skills, their ability to perceive and understand their patients’ emotional state, their ability to help their patients problem-solve emotionally charged issues, and more, to ensure they are clinically ready to be nurses.

The Gralnick Award provides funding (up to $5,000) for psychiatric and mental health nursing research and psychosocial research. Applicants must be Lienhard School of Nursing full-time faculty, professional staff, students or alumni.
Rice said the Gralnick award was “tremendously handy.” She said, “As a nurse, you pay for your PhD out of pocket and hope the federal government will help through HRSA grants and state money. After three and a half years of paying out money for a PhD, I had very little left.”
Rice didn’t always want to be a nurse, though she got experience from a young age. “I was a papergirl and visiting nurse. In junior and senior high school, I had a paper route and delivered papers to my elderly neighbors. Sometimes I was the only person they saw all day. They would ask questions like ‘does this look infected to you?’ because no one else was checking on them.”
In her senior year of college, she wanted to be a veterinarian. “In my final rotation, I realized animals can’t talk. I don’t know where they hurt.” A biology major, Rice later completed a program for non-nurse college grads.
“It was wonderful to get my RN license and master’s at once.”
After graduating, Rice went on to become an ER nurse.
Her advice to current students? “Hospital experience is invaluable. Get as much education as you can and put that aside and get the experience. You can have tons of education, but your first day on the job, you’re all right there in the trenches.”
She also has advice for nursing schools, nurse educators, and medical schools: test students for emotional intelligence, and if someone has low emotional intelligence, steer them clear of fields where they need to have a good bedside manner.
“Good nurses – those with high emotional intelligence – know what to do when they walk into their patient’s room and he or she is fighting with a family member. That’s a very stressful situation. The tendency is to want to leave the room and let the family fight it out, but nurses need to know how to diffuse the tension, calm everyone down, and teach the family and the patient what they need to know to take care of that patient. A great deal of emotional intelligence is needed.”

Get Ahead

Amy Rajan graduated in 2009 from Lienhard School of Nursing at Pace University and founded a health initiative on Long Island called Get Ahead.

Amy recently came back to Lienhard to address current students. She says, “Pace University has given me a solid nursing foundation and a diverse range of invaluable experiences, from ICU preceptorships to working at the Henry Street settlements. These experiences have given me the ability to think with vision and to think outside the box. I am truly grateful and proud to be an alumna of the Lienhard School of Nursing.”

While working on Long Island not long after graduating, Amy observed high incidences of preventable chronic illnesses, especially in underserved communities. She saw teenagers with Type 2 Diabetes, an illness that used to be nonexistent in young people. When a 25-year-old patient tragically died of diabetes complications, she and her colleague Anuli Erike teamed up to do something.

They started a health initiative called Get Ahead (Active Healthy Education Awareness Disease Prevention). Their mission is to prevent and decrease the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. Through innovative and effective nutrition and lifestyle education, they seek to empower youth and provide them with the tools they need to fight this silent epidemic.

Amy and Anuli started Get Ahead to encourage young people to make healthy decisions, and they’ve taken this message to high schools and church youth groups. They’ve worked with a local mayor who provided support for a talk show segment and PSAs about moderation.

They’ve expanded their work internationally, taking their passion for preventing illnesses like diabetes to Nigeria, a country where health concerns focus more on TB, malaria, and AIDS. According to Amy, as Nigeria becomes more urbanized, there are more chronic diseases like diabetes. Patients are not diagnosed and treated early on in the course of the disease, leading to more complications. Amy and Anuli’s next endeavor takes them to Washington DC where they will be working with George Washington University on a Get Ahead initiative for Nigeria that involves Dr. Patience Goodluck Jonathon, the First Lady of Nigeria.

Amy got an internship with UNESCO Center for Peace (an entity of the United Nations) as an MDG (Millennium Development Goals) & Global Health Coordinator. In 2013, she worked collaboratively with George Washington University and UNESCO on implementing the vision of Get AHEAD in Nigeria. She coordinated programs for other countries, and took a lead role in facilitating the global health aspect for the International Model United Nation's conference for youth in Washington DC.

When asked which professors inspired her, Amy talks about taking pathophysiology with Professor Berro (pictured here with Amy) and how the class applied directly to some of the patients she’s seen. She talks about how Professor Berro’s energy and enthusiasm made the class fun. Amy also says she looked to Dr. Karen “Toby” Haghenbeck for inspiration. She also enjoyed the nursing leadership class she took, saying that course inspired her, especially while she was dealing with personal challenges in her life.

When asked what advice she has for current students, she says they should follow their passion and not be afraid to take risks. She also advises students and recent graduates not to feel intimidated by others in the field who have more years of experience. According to Amy, youth can be an asset because young people have time, energy, and enthusiasm to work towards their goals; young people should not wait for others to lead if they feel passionate about an issue.