Alumni in the News

Ernest Grant, MSN ’93, PHD ’15, Elected as Vice President of ANA

Ernest GrantRepresentatives at the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Membership Assembly elected Ernest James Grant, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN, of the North Carolina Nurses Association, to serve as vice president of the professional association that represents the interests of the nation’s 3.4 million registered nurses (RNs).

The voting representatives of ANA’s Membership Assembly also re-elected two members of the nine-member board of directors—Treasurer Gingy Harshey-Meade, MSN, RN, CAE, NEA-BC, Ernest Grantof the Indiana State Nurses Association; and Director-At-Large Recent Graduate Jesse M.L. Kennedy, BSN, RN, of the Oregon Nurses Association.

Grant works as a nursing education clinician in the UNC Hospitals Burn Center. He earned a PhD in nursing from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He previously served as a director-at-large on ANA’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008 and as president of the North Carolina Nurses Association from 2009 to 2011.

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Lynn Kendrick Erdman Named to National Nursing Leadership Role

Lynne ErdmanA career that has taken Lynn Kendrick Erdman BSN ’77 from bedside nurse to the executive ranks of several major health organizations reached another milestone in January 2014. That’s when she was named CEO of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) in Washington, D.C.

It’s the newest challenging role for Erdman, who started out in North Carolina as a neonatal intensive care nurse, served as founding director of the Presbyterian Cancer Cancer in Charlotte and later held senior positions with the American Cancer Society, American College of Surgeons and Susan G. Komen Global Headquarters.

She can pinpoint the moment her leadership journey in healthcare began in earnest: It was when she met School of Nursing Dean Eloise Lewis as a sophomore in college.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is a woman who has it together!'” Erdman says. “She was an amazing nursing leader who earned respect, and she’s the reason I ended up at UNCG. It was a great choice because my experience at UNCG was probably as diverse as my career has been.”

With clinical training that exposed her to nursing in rural, community and hospital settings, Erdman says she learned a great deal more than just the science of nursing. She was also schooled in the art of understanding patients and their personal and emotional needs.

She recalls visiting a farmer during her student days to assess his health. He was a bit standoffish at first but he began to warm to her. During a follow-up visit, he said he’d fixed a meal for her. Erdman followed him to the kitchen to find that he’d prepared a delicacy — cow’s tongue.

“I couldn’t believe I was eating this!” says Erdman, who grew up a city dweller in Charlotte. “But it was one of those early lessons in figuring out how to get close to patients even when they’re from a background that I’m not familiar with. There’s always a story behind every person, and you’re a more effective nurse when you know it.”

Erdman later earned her MSN at the University of South Carolina and steeped herself in a wide array of nursing roles, from labor and delivery to oncology and hospice care, before embarking on a career in healthcare administration. Though she has filled executive and board roles for numerous national organizations, she maintains close ties to North Carolina. In 2013, she and her husband, David Erdman, endowed the Lynn Kendrick Erdman Scholarship Fund in Nursing at UNCG.

She recently finished a four-year term as chair of the N.C. Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control and has served as consulting faculty for Duke University’s Graduate School of Nursing since 1994. She still spends weekends in Charlotte with her husband, commuting to Washington D.C., each week.

She relishes the opportunity to focus once again on nurses and their patients in her new role at AWHONN.

“Caring for women and infants and advocating for their health and well-being has been the foundation of my professional career,” Erdman says. “It’s a great privilege to represent AWHONN’s 25,000 nurses.”

Recent Graduate Deanna Griffie Finds New Calling as Nurse

Deanna GriffieSome people grow up knowing they want to be a nurse.

For others, like Deanna Griffie, the realization sneaks up on them gradually.

When Griffie ‘BSN 14 earned her degree in May through the School of Nursing’s Hickory Outreach Program, she took another big step in a personal transformation that continues to surprise her — and proves the continuing appeal of the nursing profession to those in search of new careers.

After spending a few years at home when her two children were very young, Griffie embarked in the late 1990s on a decade of work as preschool and kindergarten teacher in Lincolnton. By 2007, she was feeling ready for a change but wasn’t quite sure what to do.

Her experiences as an educator showed that she liked working directly with people and finding ways to help them. It slowly dawned on her that she could have that same kind of impact as a nurse.

“I really resisted that idea at first,” Griffie says. “No one in my family had ever worked in healthcare. I didn’t know if it was the right fit. What if I fainted at the sight of blood?”

So she signed up for a phlebotomy course, figuring that would be a quick way to test her mettle. The class went better than she’d hoped — so well, actually, that she decided to go all-in on a career in nursing. That meant taking some pre-requisite classes and then enrolling in the RN program at Gaston College. It also meant waiting tables to pay the bills and still finding time to stay closely involved with her teenage children.

“We all pulled together,” she says. “It was good character building.”

She became an RN in 2011 and started working full-time at Catawba Valley Medical Center, eventually settling into the outpatient infusion area. She also planned to study in an RN to BSN program, and the UNCG Hickory Outreach Program immediately jumped to the top of her list.

She liked the program’s mix of face-to-face and online instruction. What really sold her, though, was the example of Dr. Donald Kautz, director of the program.

“His energy and his passion stood out,” Griffie recalls. “He exuded real professionalism.”

With scholarships from UNCG and financial contributions from Catawba Valley Medical Center, Griffie enrolled in the program in August 2012. “My employer was very, very supportive of this partnership with UNCG,” she says. “And the program itself worked seamlessly. The professors were very understanding that we’re juggling a lot of balls with school, and families and careers.”

With her degree now in hand, Griffie is moving into a newly created role with Catawba Valley Medical Center as an oncology nurse navigator. She will work with lung and colon cancer patients and their families to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible from diagnosis through treatment.

“I had so many ideas about how to do this particular job, so I’m really excited to start it,” Griffie says. “This is something I feel called to do.”

Dr. Kathryn M. Lanz, a rising star in gero-palliative care

Kathryn LanzIn the complex and rapidly changing world of palliative care, Dr. Kathryn M. Lanz BSN ’01, MSN ’05 is a rising star.

She oversees gero-palliative care programs at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). She co-directs a major, multi-million federally-funded nursing initiative in western Pennsylvania. She also received the national Nursing Leadership Award in Palliative Care from the Project on Death in America at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Annual Assembly.

Much of the credit for her success, she says, goes to the UNCG School of Nursing.

“I truly believe UNCG helped prepare me for everything that’s happened — not just being a good clinician but also being a leader,” Lanz says.

That special relationship started during her senior year of high school when Lanz was being recruited by several universities as a volleyball player. Having watched her grandmother care for her ailing grandfather, Lanz knew she wanted to become a nurse.

But playing a varsity sport while also studying to be a nurse wasn’t going to be easy. Many of the universities she visited said that it was not feasible to do both.

“That’s why I chose UNCG,” Lanz says. “They told me right up front that we could make this marriage work between athletics and academics — and, in the end, it worked really well!”

Still uncertain of what kind of nurse to become, Lanz was asked by a professor to help care for 29-year-old man who was dying of stomach cancer. It proved to be a turning point in her life.

“I immediately found purpose in that room,” she says. “It was natural and didn’t feel uncomfortable, and, from that moment on, I knew I wanted to help people in palliative crisis.”

After graduation, she began her career as a hospice nurse. Before long, she found herself frustrated by processes that made it difficult to respond quickly to the needs of patients and their families. Returning to UNCG for her MSN and nurse practitioner degree, she gained the scope of practice and confidence to help start a palliative care program in Greensboro that strengthened communication between families and providers to ensure value-based care.

Determined to drive even broader systemic change, Lanz began commuting regularly to Nashville, where she earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at Vanderbilt University. Her studies focused on health system analytics and evidence based implementation science for palliative care.

Along the way, she met a Pittsburgh resident whose grandmother was dying. As Lanz counseled him via email about how to care for her, their relationship blossomed. She married and moved to Pittsburgh. She and her husband Matthew Lanz now have a young daughter, whom she proudly calls “my greatest accomplishment.”

At UPMC, Lanz played a critical role in pursuing a $19 million, multi-year grant to improve the quality of care in 19 skilled nursing facilities around Pittsburgh. She now serves as co-project director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Award to Reduce Re-hospitalizations — an effort aimed at identifying best practices that can enhance geriatric-palliative care in skilled nursing facilities nationally.

The North Carolina native still maintains her ties to home. Her sister, Leslie McNeill Thomas (who is a UNCG MBA grad) and her loving parents Phil and Nancy McNeill reside in Greensboro. “I’m always looking for reasons to return to the area,” she says.

More recently, Lanz traveled home to complete studies to become a Duke Johnson & Johnson Advance Practice Nurse Fellow. “I’m grateful to UNCG every day,” she says, “for giving me opportunities to figure out the next steps in my nursing journey and how to act on them.”