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Alternative Spring Break – Puerto Rico, Day 5

By Lindsey Zwecker
Photographer: Trisha Cabantac

Today, March 14th, the group had an amazing day at the Salvation Army. The corps organized for us to present a variety of health topics to a regular group of older adults. The director introduced all of us and a couple of the group members led the room in different songs to start the morning.

We then proceeded to teach the group in pairs about nutrition and diabetes, how to do self-breast exams, Alzheimer’s disease, and hypertension and smoking cessation. A few of us were able to speak to the crowd in Spanish but for the most part Gladys translated what we presented in English to the group and helped us answer the audience’s questions.

The adults were very engaged and interested in our topics. After the presentations, we led different stations for each topic. At one station we took blood pressures, at another we took blood sugars, we did breast exams, and we continued the conversation about Alzheimer’s.

They were very grateful for us and it was so rewarding to teach them about health and wellness. Once everyone had been assessed the corps fed us another amazing lunch of churrasco con arroz and grandules, and guineitos en escabeche. The group then headed back to the hotel for an afternoon off. We, the students, decided to go souvenir shopping and secretly go to a local bakery where we picked up some pastries to celebrate Dr. Zhang’s birthday at dinner! We ate at a local pizza place for dinner and of course got ice cream again.

Alternative Spring Break – Puerto Rico, Day 4

By Lindsey Zwecker
Photographer: Trisha Cabantac

For our fourth day in Puerto Rico, the group had quite the adventure. We started off going to a local Salvation Army store in Ponce where we fed and took blood pressures of some homeless people. We got the chance to practice some Spanish medical terms and worked on communication with the local people. We served 96 people that morning. Afterwards we went to National University College and met with nursing students. We had the opportunity to mingle with them and hear about their program and Dr. Zhang gave a lecture on NCLEX questions and how to prepare for it.

Next, we ventured to the main Salvation Army building in Ponce where they cooked us lunch, our favorite meal so far this trip, chicken with gandules and arroz. We then went back to the hotel to rest for a couple hours before heading out on the major adventure of the day, street medicine. The group piled in the van and we traveled to Cayey, Puerto Rico to meet people from the organization Initiative Comunidad (IC). On the way, we stopped for dinner at beautiful restaurant, Pastelillos, on the ocean where we ate some interesting paradillas. These were 12-inch-long empanada-type foods that were stuffed with chicken, beef, conch, shrimp, cheese, and the best of all… shark. The views were beautiful and the group had a wonderful time looking at the water and sitting on the beach. Of course, we took lots of pictures.

After dinner, we ventured further to Cayey. On the way, we stopped and purchased sandwich making supplies to feed the homeless with IC. We made our way to the group leader’s house where we then made sandwiches and hygiene kits to hand out. Once all the supplies were ready we headed back out on our van following behind the group leader’s car to different places where IC meets different homeless people. The goal of the experience was to feed and talk to these people in order to establish a relationship and help them out. We went to five or six different areas in Cayey and Cidra and fed them the sandwiches, coffee, juice, and a delicious soup. It was a wonderful experience to see these people and how they live and most significantly hear their stories. We finally headed back to Ponce around 1 a.m. and went straight to bed for our early morning on Wednesday at the Salvation Army Health Fair.

Alternative Spring Break – Puerto Rico, Day 3

By Lindsey Zwecker
Photographer: Trisha Cabantac

Today, March 12th, we learned all about the healthcare system and the role of nurses in Puerto Rico. We began the day at the Salvation Army in Ponce. We gathered in the dining hall where we were welcomed by lovely table settings, cold water, and freshly made coffee that the director provided for us. Our first presentation of the morning was from Sr. David Espinet, president capitulo de Ponce, the president of the Ponce chapter of the Puerto Rican nurse’s association. He talked to us all about the different types and roles of nurses here as well as the different degrees a nurse can receive from universities. It was very interesting for the group to learn about the differences and similarities of the healthcare system here versus in the mainland United States when it comes to the profession of nursing. The most shocking thing that we learned was that a single nurse on a unit may have up to 20-25 patients at one time that they are responsible for. Crazy to compare to the 4-5 patients that a nurse cares for in the mainland United States.

After Sr. Espinet’s presentation we got to hear from the director of the Salvation Army in Ponce who told us about the history of the Salvation Army in Ponce and more about the programs and activities that the Salvation Army runs. She then guided us on a tour of the beautiful facility.

Afterwards, the group went to a fun lunch at a restaurant called Bankitos, where we ate burritos, quesadillas, and taco salads. Once our stomachs had settled and we debriefed the morning we were off to our next location, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico (PUCPR), the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. There we met some lively nursing students and had the privilege of swapping information about our programs and learn about the life of a Puerto Rican nursing student. It was amazing to hear how passionate and enthusiastic the group was about the nursing profession. The greatest part of the day however, was when one of our students, Lauren Duncan, asked them to salsa dance for her. Two students jumped up began to dance and proceeded to teach Lauren as well. Soon the whole group, PUCPR students and Emory students broke out into dance, teaching each other and became submersed in laughter and amusement.

Once the dancing settled down and the group finished trading stories we were given a tour of their nursing school. We soon learned that their education is not very different from ours. Their simulation labs have similar, if not the same, manikins as we have at Emory, and we saw a student participating in a “check-off” exam for a skill just like we do. We quickly learned that the Puerto Rican students actually have many English textbooks and that all of their equipment and medicine is in English. But, they have to additionally know everything in Spanish so that they can explain things to their patients. We were amazed at their intelligence and how simple they thought it was even though they are learning nursing and medicine in two languages.

We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Fusión, an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant, and then again with some delicious local ice cream. Tomorrow we are starting off the day feeding the homeless of Ponce and meeting another group of nursing students at an additional university.

Alternative Spring Break – Puerto Rico, Days 1 & 2

By Lindsey Zwecker
Photographer: Trisha Cabantac

We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico around 3 o’clock yesterday the 10th and immediately headed off in our van to Ponce where we are staying and spending most of our time. All 11 of us squished into this large van with our luggage and the group lit up with excitement. Everyone ooo’d and aww’d at the beautiful mountains and sighed at the evident damage from hurricane Maria. Our first stop was Raítes a delicious restaurant where Gladys, our trusty Puerto Rico native, pre-ordered us monfongo with shrimp and flan, Tres Leches, and guava with white cheese for dessert.

After dinner, we headed to Ponce. Even in the dark we were amazed at how beautiful the city was. We were all exhausted from traveling and went straight to bed.

In the morning of the 11th, we had a great breakfast in the hotel and then explored the city center of Ponce.

We then headed off to the boardwalk in Ponce where we got to do some souvenir shopping and eat some delicious authentic Puerto Rican food. And possibly the highlight of the day, feeding fish and pelicans sardines by the dock.

Afterwards we headed to a fair in Salinas where the national guard is stationed. There we got to meet Gladys’s son, Ricadro, and listen to some live salsa music and again do some shopping. We ended the day with a great dinner at the hotel and some ice cream from a local shop. And to cap it all off, we happened upon the municipal orchestra playing a set in the street in front of the capital building.

We are grateful to enjoy some site seeing for our first two days but are eager and excited to get to work and learn about the healthcare system in Puerto Rico tomorrow.

School of Nursing students earn honors at Annual Pride Awards 2018

Tara Noorani, left, and Sasha Cohen at the Annual Pride Awards 2018 held at the Miller-Ward Alumni House on Feb. 28.


Two Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing students were recognized Wednesday, February 28, at the Annual Pride Awards 2018 held the Miller-Ward Alumni House. Sasha Cohen was presented the Outstanding Transgender Advocate of the Year Award and Tara Noorani was presented the Fierce Leadership Award. The peer-nominated Pride Awards recognize the great work many people do behind the scenes to advance LGBT equality.

Learn more about our student winners in the following Q and A.

Sasha Cohen: Outstanding Transgender Advocate of the Year Award

Sasha Cohen

Home town: Gloucester, MA
Major: AMSN, FNP
Graduation date: December 2019

How does it feel to have won the Outstanding Transgender Advocate of the Year Award?

It feels amazing to be recognized by Emory for my work with the transgender community but more importantly it is an honor to be able to advocate for my community in spaces where they are underrepresented.

What are some of the specific things you have accomplished at Emory and/or the SON that you feel contributed to you earning this award?

Since the beginning of my AMSN program, I have been fiercely advocating for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ topics to increase understanding of the unique social and health care needs of this population. I have advocated to individual professors as well as SON leadership to increase LGBT content. Through these efforts I have had the opportunity to present lectures on caring for gender expansive youth in both the undergraduate and graduate courses. In addition, I have engaged faculty and students on the subject of transgender rights and created a community space for open dialogue about LGBT health in many classes, where previously there had been none. I have joined the research team, LGBT Gen2, a collaboration between students and faculty, to increase knowledge of the needs of this understudied population. As a member of the Dean’s Executive Student Council I have had the opportunity to work closely with Dean McCauley to strategize about diversity and inclusion and the SON and improve the experience of diverse students in nursing. I also work at the Office of LGBT Life, which has given me the opportunity to interact with gender non-conforming undergraduate students, which has been a wonderful experience.

Choose one or two of these accomplishments and elaborate on what positive outcomes were created.

I have noticed many changes that have come as a result of my advocacy and that of my fellow students. The most wide spread change I have noticed is that people are generally more inclusive of LGBTQ+ populations in our classes and on campus.  The faculty, staff, and leadership at the SON have been very receptive to conversations about equity and inclusion and many classes have begun to discuss caring and reducing health disparities for the LGBTQ+ population.

Why is it important for you to be an Outstanding Transgender Advocate?

As someone who identifies as transgender I often don’t have a choice but to advocate for myself in many areas of life. I am privileged to be able to create space for myself and other transgender people in arenas that we have been historically been shut out of and I do so on behalf of the many members of my community who experience disproportionately high rates of violence, poverty and discrimination. It is my hope that advocating for the transgender community during my time at Emory will help to foster a culture of affirmation among my nursing school colleagues in caring for this population, who desperately need trans-competent healthcare providers.

What are your career aspirations? Do you plan to seek more education or begin working after graduation?

I am passionate about providing my LGBTQ+ community with empathetic and affirming care as a Nurse Practitioner. This career path necessitates the ability to lead with vision and clarity in order to forge new paths in transgender medicine. I am committed to continuing the work I have begun at Emory to advocate for marginalized communities and work towards health equity for all.

What made you choose to pursue nursing?

As a non-binary transgender person, my interest in pursuing a career in advanced practice nursing is both personal and professional. As a medical assistant working at an LGBTQ+ FQHC in Oakland, CA I saw how crucial the NP role is in making sure that patients feel seen, heard and cared for and knew that role would be the best fit for my interests and passions.

Tara Noorani: Fierce Leadership Award

Tara Noorani

Hometown: Moorpark, CA
Major: Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN
Graduation date: December 2018

How does it feel to have won the Fierce Leadership Award?

This award feels like a victory for my community; not only for other LGBTQ+ nursing students, but for patients who embody these identities as well. The driving force behind this work is to enhance the health of sexual and gender minorities and to reduce the disparities endured by their communities. To be a part of making this happen, alongside my nursing colleagues, is a dream come true.

What are some of the specific things you have accomplished at Emory and/or the SON that you feel contributed to you earning this award?

The LGBTQ+ nursing initiatives started with a written proposal in which I requested to partner with Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing NHWSN leadership to make our curriculum content, research concentrations and clinical experiences more inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities. Shortly after, I began working with nursing professors to integrate these topics into their courses; many of whom have allowed me to present in their classrooms. In addition, I’ve worked alongside research professors to create abstract proposals that outline successful models for developing LGBTQ-inclusive education in health professions schools.

Choose one or two of these accomplishments and elaborate on what positive outcomes were created.

The accomplishment I am most proud of is the development of a student group called SpeakOut at NHWSN. It was created to promote evidence-based trainings that support the health and wellbeing of racial, gender and sexual minorities. We have started planning our first transgender healthcare competency training event by partnering with organizations in the greater Atlanta community. We plan to host this event at NHWSN in late spring to foster interdisciplinary teamwork amongst nursing, PA, MD, and public health students with interests in LGBTQ+ health.

Why is it important for you to demonstrate this kind of Fierce Leadership?

Nursing leadership is important to me because we need more nurses in positions of power and influence. The lens through which we see health is comprehensive, multifactorial and intersectional. It’s fitting that the word “fierce” is used here because being a leader isn’t always comfortable or convenient. Leadership can be daunting, but our advocacy as nurses must be relentless and determined if we are to truly amend the systemic structures impacting health.

What are your career aspirations?

I plan to begin working as an FNP where I can integrate trans affirming care into my clinical practice. Too often primary care providers believe this warrants a specialist referral when in reality, this creates more barriers for an already marginalized community. I believe healthcare is a human right and my experiences at Emory have expanded this belief to include the provision of gender affirming care. I also hope to build upon the work I started at NHWSN and continue integrating sexual and gender minority health into health professions education.

What made you want to go into nursing?

I went into nursing to dismantle the barriers that prevent people from living their healthiest lives, both physically and mentally. I believe a nurse’s responsibility extends beyond the clinic doors and into the communities they aim to support. So many of the conditions seen in practice are routed in racial and economic injustice and therefore, I intend to utilize nursing as a means for social change.

Student Spotlight – Ann Craven

By Andy Goodell, Communications Manager
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

Ann Craven

Ann Craven, of Monroe, Georgia, has seen her interest in nursing research flourish at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. That’s not all. Craven says that the Emory School of Nursing is a place where a metaphorical “no closed door” culture permeates. She says she feels free to explore many different roles important to the diverse field of nursing.

Craven is currently enrolled in the Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) program where she has found her nursing research mentor in Assistant Clinical Professor Linda Grabbe. In her time at the School of Nursing, Grabbe has taken her under her wing, teaching her everything she’s wanted to know about being a nursing researcher since her interest was piqued in this area.

“She is a life-long-learner, and her excitement for research, holistic health, and resiliency is contagious,” says Craven. “Dr. Grabbe is so passionate about education and the importance of studying areas such as resiliency, first responders’ health, stress, mindfulness, and so much more. Everyday her work directly impacts the lives of so many in the Atlanta community.”

The School of Nursing is a place where opportunities exist for Craven to grow throughout her career.

“I cannot imagine getting my BSN from any other school,” says Craven. “Emory’s School of Nursing creates an unparalleled learning environment in which I am challenged to work hard, develop professionalism, take leadership roles, and prepare for a career as a nurse.”

Craven is the recipient of a Josephine Malone scholarship through the Emory University Hospital Auxiliary. Students awarded the scholarship must enter their final year in nursing school in good academic standing. She says she couldn’t be more thankful for its impact on her education, which will help lead her on a meaningful career path.

When it comes to her personal career path, Craven says she plans to continue beyond her BSN degree toward a PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in the future. A love for research and education continues to motivate her on this path.

Currently, Craven has taken on an important role in a pediatric emergency department, another passion she was able to explore at the Emory School of Nursing.

“Though I am starting out in pediatrics, I enjoy learning about and taking care of all populations, and I especially enjoy studying nurses’ health, stress, and resiliency,” says Craven.

Admitted Students Day fuels excitement about Emory Nursing

By Andy Goodell, Communications Manager
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

Admitted Students Day is an opportunity for future students to really see what the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing is all about. Two participants in Saturday’s event share thoughts on joining the Emory Nursing community and the nursing profession.

Jamie Dalton

Jamie Dalton, of Atlanta, attended Admitted Students Day with a keen interest in the ABSN program.

Dalton says she’s interested in attending the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing because she knows that she can become a confident, skilled nurse at the school. With her first bachelor’s degree being in Human Organization and Development, Dalton says she’s ready to explore her calling in nursing.

“I am ready to jump in with both feet on this new chapter in my life,” says Dalton. “I have the encouragement and support of my family and am ready to learn alongside other students with similar goals.”

Phoebe Chakshuvej, of Dunwoody, Georgia, attended Admitted Students Day, having a strong interest in the AMSN program at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

Chakshuvej says there are a number of things she admires about the School of Nursing including the fact that over 500 clinical sites are available to students and that the SON is ranked 4th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. She also noted that the 100% NCLEX pass rate has stoked her interest in the school.

Phoebe Chakshuvej

Chakshuvej’s interest in health care goes back to her high school days and has stayed with her through earning a BA in Nutrition. Chakchuvej adds that she’s looking forward to building friendships and making unforgettable memories in nursing school.

“In the summer following my freshman year of high school, I decided to volunteer at Northside Hospital,” says Chakshuvej. “The experience I had at Northside allowed me to discover my passion for preventative care and valuable health care service. I shadowed many professions and later realized in college that nursing was the best fitting career for my personality.”


Thank you to all who attended Admitted Students Day on Feb. 3. Keep watching this blog for more posts about those who attended this special day.

Alternative Winter Break – Kingston, Jamaica Team, Day 6

Day 6

While many of the MOP Brothers are taking online classes to be educated on various levels of healthcare, only one is currently an RN. His name is Brother John Paul, and he devoted the first hour of our last day at Bethlehem Home and Lord’s Place to speak with us and encourage us on our paths. Later we celebrated mass with lots of smiling and energetic children, participating fully to the best of their abilities. We spent the rest of the day continuing physical assessments, playing, and eventually saying our heart-throbbing goodbyes.

Brother John Paul reinforced the theme of compassion that has been recurring all week. We must have compassion to be good nurses. As nurses, we must care for the whole person, which in Christian teaching is the union of body and soul. John Paul emphasized that when we care for the body, we also encounter their soul. I think we all learned what that really means this week. Many of the residents (children and adults) housed by MOP have severe cerebral palsy. One 17 year old girl’s neck is so hyperextended that she sees everything either sideways or upside down depending on whether she is positioned on her back or side. She cannot sit or stand or feed herself, but when you get down low to make eye contact with her and call her by name, she’ll give you the biggest smile and the happiest laugh. That’s what it’s like to encounter the soul.

It may be difficult to understand where this joy comes from in her condition, but I attribute it to God and the Missionaries who serve Him, who have housed this sweet girl for most of her life, showing her every day that she is loved and wanted. She is immobile and nonverbal, but has no pressure ulcers. She wears clean clothes every day and she smiles at anyone who takes the time to say her name. She’s one of many children at Bethlehem Home, all of whom contribute their own unique personality and laughter to this communal family. The Missionaries of the Poor provide more than a shelter. They provide a sense of love and belonging. She knows that she has dignity and value. She is not the only one. These children (and adults) face great challenges with greater love.

The missionaries have limited resources and do not take money from the government. If you’re interested and able to support them please visit If you pray, please keep them and the people they serve in your prayers.

Walk Good and thank you for following our journey,

The Kingston Team

Alternative Winter Break – Kingston, Jamaica Team, Days 3 & 5

Days 3 and 5

Every night we have a couple hours of debrief and then we go out to dinner. We’ve been getting home late and I’ve been fighting a cold. My apologies that I have gotten behind on blogging. Days three and five were very much alike, so I am combining them here. Both days we split up, with a few of us staying at Bethlehem Home and many of us at another Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) center called Jacob’s Well, which houses women with various psychiatric needs. Some of those at Jacob’s Well grew up at Bethlehem Home.

We completed assessments at both centers- physical assessments at Bethlehem Home for baseline record keeping, and psychiatric assessments at Jacob’s Well. Dr. Rodriguez made worksheets to guide our physical assessments, while MOP had forms they created with Canadian psychology students. Through observation, teamwork, and creativity, we were descriptive and thorough as possible, despite many residents being nonverbal. And while we were productive, we also had time to simply interact. On this Kingston nursing excursion, probably the number one most important thing we have learned is to to never underestimate the power of human touch. The residents are full of love, and we made sure there was room amidst our paperwork for conversation, nail painting, and hugging. The Brothers are grateful for our documentation, and we are thankful for the opportunity to get to know their residents better.

Walk Good,

The Kingston Team

Alternative Winter Break – Kingston, Jamaica Team, Day 4

(Note: The Kingston Team’s activities on Days 3 and 5 were very similar and will be posted together at a later time.)

Day 4

“There was a farmer who had a horse and goat that were very good friends. When the horse became very ill, the veterinarian prescribed 7 days of medication. If there was no improvement by the 7th day, he would have to come put the horse down. The goat warned the horse that if he did not eat his food and try to grow stronger, he would be killed. Every day the goat cheered him on, but the horse felt very weak. The goat never gave up, encouraging the horse and coaxing him to stand. On the 7th day, the goat reminded the horse that today was his last chance to show the farmer he was getting better. All of his energy was spent on helping the horse to finally stand up and walk around. When the farmer saw this from his kitchen window he exclaimed, ‘It’s a miracle, my horse is well! We must celebrate with a feast! Let us kill the goat.'”

A nurse told us this story today when we visited the Kingston Public Hospital. She advised us that we always remember we are nurses because we care about our patients and we love being a nurse. Sometimes we will not receive the recognition that we deserve, but we must remember that the call to nursing is driven by compassion, not credit. We will give of ourselves like the goat, even if we are sacrificed in the process. That’s not to say that nurses do not receive recognition in the hospital, but just a little story to remember for the times when our role is perhaps a little taken for granted.

We were very impressed with the Kingston Jamaica Public Hospital and staff. Everyone knew about Emory University, remembered our instructors from the previous years, and were so welcoming toward us. One of the doctors even invited us into a patient room to watch his endoscopy procedure, showing us the difference between healthy mucosa and tumor.

We quickly learned that nurses are very well trained and highly esteemed. All are addressed as “Sister ___” rather than just by first name. The supervisor nurses have their own office, and are all are so kind and friendly toward us and one another. It seems that all the nurses know each other, even from different floors.

The head ICU nurse told us about all of her patients, many of which were car crash or motorcycle traumas that were transferred in from other hospitals. She shared each condition, how they have improved or declined, and her plan of care. She was incredibly knowledgeable; I would trust her with my life. She even visits her prior patients on the floor when they’re doing better, and shared how happy it makes her to see how different they look sitting up in bed.

We toured almost the entire hospital from emergency to med surg to radiology, dialysis, and more. We are so grateful for the experience and the encouragement we received from wonderful nurses who have so much passion for this profession.

Walk Good, even if you’re the goat today.

– The Kingston Team