Alumni in the News

Laurie Kennedy-Malone, Deborah Lekan and three UNCG alums; Ashley Bryant BSN, Candace Harrington, MSN, adult gerontological nurse practitioner and Tomika Williams, PhD, MSN, adult and gerontological nurse practitioner were recognized as Inaugural Distinguished Educators by the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence 2018 Leadership conference.

The objectives of the conference are to:
-Communicate and disseminate advances in the multi-disciplinary knowledge of aging, diversity, and caregiving for Persons with Dementia (PWD) to the research community.
-Increase collaboration between senior and junior scholars studying interventions for caregivers of PWDs and those with other disabling conditions related to aging.
-Enhance research collaboration among junior and senior researchers on the topic of caregiving.
-Supplement clinician knowledge on diverse caregiving needs and resources.
-Communicate and disseminate knowledge on technology to enhance family care for PWD and others with disabling conditions related to aging.
-Develop leadership skills to influence research, education, practice and policy in aging, caregiving and care for PWD.

Full list of those recognized can be seen by clicking here .

Roxanne Pecinich honored by Rockingham Community College

Working at Rockingham Community College, Roxanne Pecinich has been able to combine two loves — nursing and teaching.

“I had always really wanted to be a teacher, so 20 years into my career (as a nurse), I decided to go back to school and get more education,” said Pecinich, assistant professor of nursing at RCC.

She got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at UNC-Greensboro, then decided to teach nurses “because I wanted to leave a little bit of a legacy to my profession by training the best nurses I could to take care of the two communities I live and work in.”

Pecinich lives in Mebane and was a staff nurse at Alamance Regional Medical Center for 21 years in the maternal child area. She stopped floor nursing last year but is still employed by the hospital teaching childbirth classes.

She has taught at RCC for 10 years. Pecinich’s dedication to her students and to the field of nursing were recognized recently when she was selected as one of The Great 100 Nurses in North Carolina for 2018 by The Great 100 Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to annually recognizing the top 100 nurses in the state and awarding nursing scholarships to deserving students.

Over the years, Pecinich has touched the lives of many, including Catherine Gaither, who nominated Pecinich for the award. Gaither started working with Pecinich as a labor and delivery nurse in 2004, taught community childbirth classes with her and is an adjunct nursing instructor at RCC.

“She embodies all a nurse is and is truly so deserving,” Gaither said of Pecinich. “She has a wonderful, homey personality that makes everyone feel at ease, and now she’s bringing that into her work with her students.”

Pecinich encouraged Gaither to finish her four-year degree.

“She was instrumental in helping me know, ‘I can do this,’” Gaither said. “I will always be indebted to her.”

Pecinch will be honored as one of The Great 100 Nurses in North Carolina in October during a black-tie gala in Winston-Salem.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime award, and probably the greatest honor nurses can receive in North Carolina,” Gaither said.

Pecinch said she is extremely grateful to be recognized.

“It is the icing on the cake after 39 years of working in the nursing profession, in various capacities, to realize that my work has been appreciated and recognized as to doing a good and meaningful job and I have touched so many lives in my career,” she said.

Pecinich said that growing up, she wanted to be a first- or second-grade teacher, but she also wanted to take care of people.

“Back in 1976, teachers were not getting jobs, but nurses did, so I had to put myself through school with no help at all from parents, and I needed a job right out of school, so I went into nursing and found that nursing has a lot of teaching in it,” Pecinich said.

She teaches the first-year associate-degree nursing students at RCC, conducting classes and taking students into various hospital settings for clinicals (hands-on nursing).

“I really love it when I start a new semester with people that really don’t know anything about what a nurse does, and I start seeing the light bulb come on in their brain that says, ‘I really want to do this nursing thing,’” Pecinich said.

Many of the students quickly realize nursing is much different than they envisioned.

“Many people come into the nursing program thinking they can be a nurse, but it really is nothing like the TV shows you see and not very glamorous,” Pecinich said. “The ones that really want to be a nurse are the ones that fight to continue in the program because the nursing program is not easy at all.”

In her 39-plus years, Pecinich has seen many changes in nursing.

“When I first started, nurses did not have as much responsibility as they do today,” she said. “The nurses today are the eyes and ears of the doctor, and we are valued for our nursing judgment and critical thinking.”

She is excited to see so many new opportunities for her nursing students.

“Everything in the health-care field is changing constantly, and whatever department you are in, you have to keep up with the growing environment,” Pecinich said. “Our community population is also smarter, because they have easy access to information, so we need nurses that are intelligent and think critically and can keep up with the changes to save our patients’ lives.”

Married for 43 years to Wayne Pecinich, Pecinich has two grown daughters and three grandchildren. One of her daughters has been a nurse for a year.

“My children and husband have sacrificed a lot during my nursing career,” she said. “Quite a few times, they have had to take a back seat to my work.”

In the little bit of spare time she has, Pecinich enjoys reading, and she also is a dog groomer. She is studying to become a certified nurse educator, and she is the incoming president of the UNCG nursing alumni association.

Does she ever tire of her hour drive to work at RCC?

“I love it here, or I would not travel so far,” she said. “I do a lot of community events with the students, so I do consider Rockingham County my home also.”

Alumnus Named ANA President

UNC Greensboro’s School of Nursing graduates take giant steps ‒ from the impact of daily patient care and outreach to becoming leaders in the nation’s top nursing organizations. One of those is Dr. Ernest J. Grant ’93 MSN, ’15 PhD.

Grant grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina, as the youngest son of seven children. After high school, he enrolled in Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College for the Licensed Practical Nursing program, and the rest is history. Big history.

Grant received his master’s degree in nursing from UNCG in 1993 and later returned to earn his doctorate. In 2015, he became the first African American male to graduate from the university with a doctorate degree in nursing.

This month, he was elected president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the premier organization of the nation’s four million registered nurses. He is the first male to hold the position at a time when, on average, under ten percent of practicing nurses are male.

“I am extremely delighted and humbled to have the opportunity to advocate for the nation’s four million registered nurses, the nursing profession and those whom we care for,” said Grant. “I could not have gotten this far in my career without the education I received at UNCG – an education I use every day to advance health and health care.”

Grant, who was previously ANA vice president, is an internationally recognized burn care and fire safety expert. He oversees the nationally acclaimed North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he has coordinated prevention outreach programs for more than 35 years.

After Sept. 11, 2001, he volunteered at the Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center, and cared for patients injured during the attacks on the World Trade Center. For his service he received the Nurse of the Year Award from then president George W. Bush. Grant has also served as a consultant to the government in South Africa preparing fire safety curricula and advising the Congress on burn prevention law and policies.

“His activism and political advocacy locally, state-wide and nationally has advanced the nursing profession and inspired many students and colleagues to follow in his footsteps,” said Dean of the School of Nursing Dr. Robin Remsburg. “His expertise in burns has taken him across the country and the world.”

Grant teaches as an adjunct faculty member for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, where he works with undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the classroom and clinical settings.

He also gives back to UNCG, remaining active on the School of Nursing Advisory Board. The year that he earned his doctorate, Grant established the Ernest J. Grant Endowed Scholarship in Nursing to provide support for multicultural male students with financial need seeking degrees in nursing.

He has been named UNC Greensboro Alumnus of the Year and in 2010 became the first African American male president of the North Carolina Nurses Association.

“We know that our students, our alums, can do whatever they set their minds to,” said Remsburg. “Ernie is a stellar example.”

Col. Vivian P. Dennis, US Air Force

Colonel Vivian P. Dennis ‘85 is retiring after 30 years of active duty service as an officer and nurse in the United States Air Force. Col. Dennis is the Master Clinician, Inpatient Services, 633 MDG, and Joint Base Langley- Eustis. She closely collaborates as the Inpatient Optimization JBLE lead for the Tidewater enhanced Multi-Service Market with operational control under the Defense Health Agency (DHA). Col. Dennis is responsible for the development and leadership of the Air Force Surgeon General’s initiative to critically evaluate and grow competent nurses. She has the heart of a mentor and seeks to share her experiences with young UNCG nursing students to better prepare them for their careers as she has done with thousands of US Air Force nurses throughout her career.

Col. Dennis was commissioned in 1985 after graduating from UNC Greensboro with a B.S. in Nursing and an MBA, Healthcare Management with a dual degree in Human Resources. Her Air Force career began as a staff nurse in L&D / OB GYN at Dyess Air Force Base, TX and subsequent assignments including Neonatal Nursing, Health Professions Recruiting and Director, Theatre Medical Systems Operations, Falls Church, VA.

Why did you choose UNC Greensboro?
Because of the School of Nursing’s reputation. If I am not mistaken, UNCG was ranked quite high for students passing the NCLEX the first time.

What is your favorite memory from your time at UNCG as a student?
Plays in Aycock, dorm life, studying 5 nights a week on the 2nd or 4th floor in the library and Dean Lewis and her awesome staff making themselves available to us.

How did UNC Greensboro prepare you for your career as a military officer?
It introduced me to the meaning of persistence, pushing myself and focusing on those things that will get me to the next step. In the military, it was these attributes that were sharpened as diamonds.

What’s the most important piece of advice you want to share with current students pursuing a degree in nursing?
Before nursing school, I thought it was an easy degree. In nursing school, it was unexpectedly difficult. Once a graduate, I felt good about reaching the finish line. Stay in the race because nothing good and great comes easy. A good time to learn that “it is not all about me” but about the patients and families we serve.

Do you have any advice to share with fellow UNCG alumni?
Stay in touch with the university and volunteer as guest board members, lecturers for a semester or two if the opportunity arises. Students want to see people who look like them who are now professionals and have made it a successful career. There are infinite possibilities as nurse leaders.

Top Student Posters

Bursting with pride- Dr. Murtis Worth had one of 11 “Top Student Posters” at SNRS this year! Her posted was based on her dissertation work and is entitled “Structure, Process and Recommendations of Emergency Department Triage in the U. S.” Congratulations on your excellent work!

Pure Excellence: Dr. Robin Bartlett and her School of Nursing journey

“We were not taught that we were going to be mediocre nurses. We were going to be excellent caregivers,” she said. “From the day I walked in the door at UNCG, the focus was on excellence. That was ingrained in us from the beginning.”

Read the entire article here . 

Recent SON Graduate Tamara Caple Takes Leadership To New Level

Cone Hospital Director Tamara Caple finds her life passion in nursing leadership.

Tamara Caple’s name now has a few extra letters and numbers behind it, and they come from UNCG: RN ’99 BSN, ’06 MSN, ‘17 DNP. Earning three nursing degrees demonstrates a passion that took root when she was a young girl.

“Nursing was always what I wanted to do,” says Tamara, who just earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice. “In my head, I’ve been a nurse since I was 3 years old.”

While Tamara was in middle school, her grandmother suffered from Parkinson’s. “It was natural for me to just care for her,” she says. Whether she made grocery lists, helped with the cooking or put things away, Tamara enjoyed the time she spent caring for her.

Today Tamara is a director leading 50 nurses and staff members at Cone Hospital. “I’m mentoring constantly, giving feedback to newer nurses while meeting the needs of patients.” It’s demanding and requires long days, but she loves it. “After a while, it’s not work,” she says. “It’s your life passion. It’s what you do.”

As a nurse leader, she’s had the opportunity to coach many employees about advancing their education, as she has. “Many of them think that nursing school is out of their reach. But I tell them about UNCG. It’s an amazing experience to nurture a nurse tech through nursing school and to have them report to you that they passed their NCLEX exam and will be working as an RN!”

The School of Nursing has been a major part of Tamara’s life since she joined the UNCG alumni as a BSN undergraduate in 1995. An Asheville native, she had applied and been accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. A&T. UNCG was the best fit. “I wanted to be with the best of the best.”

Over the years and throughout her three degrees, Tamara has acquired more than excellent preparation. UNCG has given her an outstanding network and great memories as well.

“One of my favorite professors was Joan Mathews, who unfortunately passed away in 2013,” she recalls. “She served as a mentor to us and took us under her wing, especially as we were chartering the nursing sorority. She was willing to have the difficult conversations with us to prepare us for what was coming next. One lesson she instilled was that your reputation was the one thing that proceeds you: protect it.”

There are many more. “As I reflect on my time at UNCG, I am most proud of the lifelong friendships and professional relationships that I made and have maintained,” Tamara says. “I cherish the high caliber of leadership and instruction I received. And I’m grateful for the school’s continued investment in students as we work to advance the science of nursing. UNCG is empowering nurses to change nursing by teaching them how to be active and involved in the profession.”

If she sounds like a walking billboard for the school, it’s partly true. Tamara, who serves as president of School of Nursing Alumni Association, says she loves to tout UNCG — and its partnership with Cone Health.

“It’s refreshing to know that the School of Nursing and our Cone system have such a collaborative relationship. It should comfort the community to know that we are producing quality graduates who truly understand how to care for patients. Nurses are under a lot of pressure these days, but UNCG nurses make time for the people part and take great responsibility in the care of their patients.”

That’s something that Tamara gets to see on the job every day.