College of Nursing

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Nursing, allied health students celebrate in convocations held Friday

May 9, 2008

Hugs, high-fives and hallelujahs greeted students participating in convocations held Friday in the East Carolina University Division of Health Sciences.

The College of Nursing held its departmental ceremony at 9 a.m. in Wright Auditorium. The students were the first to receive pins emblazoned with the College of Nursing, which transitioned from school to college status last fall.

There were 153 students receiving bachelor's degrees, 39 receiving master's degrees and one doctoral student who joined the ranks of more than 5,000 alumni from ECU nursing. The 48-year-old college produces more new nurses than any other university in North Carolina.

"We know it's the accomplishments of our alumni that bring pride and respect to our college," said Dr. Sylvia Brown, acting dean of the college of nursing.

Diane Poole, executive vice president of Pitt County Memorial Hospital and ECU's 2007 College of Nursing Distinguished Alumna, told the graduates there has been a lot of progress in the four decades since she entered nursing.

Back then, she lived in a dorm with other nursing students whose behavior and dress were closely monitored. She wore a very proper student nurse uniform, and polished her white shoes every day. Glass IV bottles were still in use, and the hospital sterilized many items for re-use. These days, there are disposables.

Quoting tennis legend Billie Jean King, Poole said "each generation stands on the shoulders of the generation before."

"Be mindful of how far we've come, and how far you will take us," Poole said.

She noted the versatility of a nursing degree and the many opportunities it offers. "It's not static; it will never be static," Poole said. "There is nothing more exciting than nursing."

Ashley Dickens of Jackson, who is going to work at PCMH in the surgical intensive care unit, gave the address on behalf of undergraduates.

"We have a purpose," she said. "Our overriding purpose is to improve the lives of other people by providing caring and competent health care."

The Class of 2008 presented Brown the class gift: $475 for the student emergency fund which helps nursing students in crisis.

Deette C. Reel became the first student to graduate from the college's alternate entry program which allows bachelor-degree holders in other fields to enter nursing and graduate with a master's degree. She obtained her master's of science in nurse midwifery.

New graduate Bethany Bartholomew of Greenville completed her bachelor's degree and will be working in rehabilitation at PCMH. "It has been a challenge," she said. She would like to return to graduate school and get a doctor of physical therapy. "So I thought rehab would be a good place to start."

At noon, 210 students - one of the largest in the history of the College of Allied Health Sciences - were honored at convocation in Minges Coliseum. Like nursing, the former School of Allied Health Sciences was re-designated to college status in the fall, said Dr. Stephen Thomas, dean of allied health sciences.

Dr. Phyllis Horns, interim vice chancellor of the ECU Division of Health Sciences and interim dean of the Brody School of Medicine, shared the vital role that allied health plays in the team of health care professionals. "It has never been more essential," she said. "I hope you will practice with integrity and passion, making the world a better place for everyone."

She offered five simple messages: keep learning; value, respect and help others; be a leader; listen to your inner voice; and have some fun. "Above all, you should recognize there is no foolproof method for success," she said. "It differs for all of us."

The day included the hooding of the inaugural class of 30 students as doctors of physical therapy. The program had been a master's degree program prior to 2005. ECU is the first university to offer the doctorate of physical therapy in North Carolina, said Dr. Denis Brunt, department chair.

Dr. Deirdre M. Mageean, vice chancellor of research and graduate studies at ECU, and Dr. Ron Newton, associate dean of the graduate school, helped confer the degrees. "ECU is growing its doctoral programs and we welcome you to the family," Mageean said.

Katherine Woods Stephenson, who graduated with a doctorate in physical therapy, is going to work in an outpatient clinic in the state of Washington. "It's been a great class," said Stephenson, who holds bachelor degrees in botany and biology. Her mother, Nancy Stephenson, is an associate professor of nursing at ECU.

Also recognized during the ceremony was Sarah Elizabeth Jane Parker Womack, who received one of five Robert H. Wright Alumni Awards from ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard during graduation on Saturday.

Addie Chlebnikow Miller, who graduated with a doctorate in physical therapy, gave the student farewell. She challenged each graduate to continue to grow and learn, to be a lifelong student and leader for the betterment of themselves and their patients.