The UNC Greensboro School of Nursing is excited to welcome seven new faculty members this fall. They come from different backgrounds and are experts in various fields. One faculty member served as a firefighter, while another faculty member is using her theater background to teach nursing students in new ways.
Read their stories about why they became nurses and learn more about their research and what drives them to share their knowledge with students.
Dr. Michael Callihan
Dr. Michael Callihan’s research as a nurse scientist was influenced by a back injury he sustained while working as a firefighter.
Callihan served as a firefighter for eight years and part-time as a paramedic in a hospital’s emergency department. He had surgery on his back several years ago, and he was looking at needing another procedure after he reinjured it.
“I did some research into just different exercises to strengthen the lower back, and within two weeks of starting the exercises, I was actually pain-free,” Callihan said. “So I thought, ‘Well, there has to be something out there preventative-wise, fitness-based that I could look at and really start utilizing.’
“And I found there wasn’t really anything like that out there. So I just decided to make that my mission and my goal and went down the path of the PhD.”
Callihan brings his research in injury prevention to the School of Nursing as an associate professor.
Previously, as a faculty member at the University of Alabama, he combined his weightlifting background and work with athletes to help determine the proper way for nurses to move without getting injured during their shifts.
He approaches nurses as “industrial athletes” who have movements specific to their profession.
“Offensive linemen, their strength training program looks different than the wide receivers’ strength training program,” Callihan said. “So why aren’t we targeting nurses very much related to their movements?”
As the son of a Baptist minister in Ohio, Callihan learned the importance of helping people in need. He decided at age 32 to go back to school to become a nurse like his older sister, his wife, and his mother-in-law.
“I’ve been able to combine some of the stuff from the sporting world to the occupational setting, and I’m starting to see some movement in the right direction now,” Callihan said.
Michael Callihan, PhD, RN, CEN, NRP
Title: Associate professor
Hidden talent: “I play the upright bass for a southern gospel group.”
Favorite non-nursing book: “I haven’t read a book for pleasure in probably 25 years.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “Really, I love to cook anything. I love to run the smoker. I made pulled pork for our student body [at the University of Alabama], sat out and smoked pork all day long. We did the pulled pork sandwiches and that kind of stuff. So really, I like to grill and grill and smoke. That’s my big thing. I was the cook at the firehouse for several years while I was there and really just love to cook anything. I’m not a good baker. I can’t make instant cookies, but everything else, it’s very relaxing to me to cook.”
As a child, Brittany Coker needed surgery on a few occasions to repair a broken arm and have several cysts removed.
Coker said it would have been scary back then to come out of surgery and not recognize any of the nurses at the hospital in Tarboro where she was being treated. But she felt fortunate to see a familiar face in the hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit.
It was her grandmother, who worked as a nurse for more than 30 years.
“And so she was there when I woke up from surgery,” Coker said.
Coker followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and became a hospital nurse. As a nurse manager, she enjoyed working with nursing students and providing them with the guidance they needed to succeed in the profession.
Coker is continuing to teach students, this time as a clinical instructor in the School of Nursing. Her expertise is in adult health, leadership, and rehabilitation.
“I really love teaching. I love helping people grow, so in my roles, one of the things that I took pride in was helping people meet their goals, whether it be to become a charge nurse or a clinical coach,” Coker said. “I’ve encouraged a lot of people to go back to school to further their education.
“I just like to watch people grow, and I think that that’s really a big aspect of why I wanted to do education.”
Coker said she knew from an early age that she wanted to become a nurse. She also considered becoming a physical therapist or an occupational therapist after she sustained a knee injury while playing soccer during her junior year of high school.
But Coker realized she was better suited to be a nurse with her caring demeanor and calming nature. Along the way, she became an expert in brain injuries.
While working as an assistant nurse manager in a hospital’s neuroscience unit, she helped care for patients who had suffered strokes and traumatic brain injuries.
“I just really fell in love with that population,” Coker said. “I figured out a way to bond with them and build a rapport with them, where they trusted me. If I came in the room, I could be a calming spirit for them.”
Brittany Coker, MSN, RN, CBIS
Title: Clinical instructor
Hidden talent: “Normally, I camp at least once a year around Thanksgiving, but we like to pick a place that we’ve never been and go there just to experience it, learn about the culture, learn about the city. I’m a big (ECU) Pirate fan. We love football and baseball. We travel with the team. So normally, my boyfriend and I, we try to pick a place we’ve never been and go to an away game there so that we can experience the atmosphere and just see something new, learn about a new place.”
Favorite non-nursing book: “I haven’t had a lot of time to read in a long time.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “I try to cook all the time. I enjoy it. It’s kind of like a stress reliever. I don’t know if there’s one thing that I cook all the time. Honestly, I like to try new recipes. In the last couple of months, I’ve tried at least five new pork recipes I’ve never had before.”
Dr. Carrie Doss
Dr. Carrie Doss had no interest in being a botanist like her grandfather or one of the other scientists in her family who focused their work around biology.
She was more interested in interacting with people and learning how to care for them, especially when they needed surgery.
While in high school, Doss worked as a volunteer at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro. She also took part in a program at the hospital known as Medical Explorers, which introduced teenagers to different medical careers.
“When we met with a lot of different medical specialties, I started to really like all the different things you can do in the field of health care, especially nursing,” Doss said. “So that was what steered me towards becoming a nurse.”
Doss is now a nurse scientist after earning her PhD from the School of Nursing in May and joining its faculty as a clinical assistant professor a few months later. She was the 100th student to successfully defend her dissertation in the School of Nursing.
Doss’ research focused on analyzing health care from an economic perspective, an area that allowed her to take several economic courses through UNCG’s Bryan School of Business and Economics as a PhD student in the School of Nursing.
“Nurse leaders need to be armed with the most up-to-date data and be able to speak the C-suite lingo in order to compete for financial resources,” Doss said. “I would like to bridge that gap and present in a factual manner, ‘Here’s the data. Here are the results. Here is why we should continue to invest in our nursing workforce.’”
Doss has since made the transition from nursing student to faculty member, and she said it has gone smoothly.
“It’s fun being like ‘Oh, I’m not a PhD student anymore. The transition to being part of the faculty team has been really fun, and I’m very happy to be here,’” Doss said.
Carrie Doss, PhD, RN, CNOR
Title: Clinical assistant professor
Hidden talent: “I feel like it’s not necessarily a talent, but I really enjoy metal music. My husband is a bassist in two metal bands, so we go to a ton of concerts and shows and all that fun stuff. We’ve traveled for shows and been to many rock festivals. I’m also learning to crochet and quilt at the beginner level.
Favorite non-nursing book: “I love anything by Malcolm Gladwell and am reading The Tipping Point right now.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “Although I don’t normally enjoy cooking, I make a mean deviled egg.”
Dr. Tiffany Gibson
As a teenager, Dr. Tiffany Gibson applied to several North Carolina universities as she tried to narrow down her options and decide which college to attend.
When she took a tour of UNCG’s campus, something seemed different.
“I just fell in love with the environment because not only had it started off as a woman’s college, but I saw just great diversity and inclusion,” Gibson said. “You didn’t feel like you were just a single person. You felt like you were part of something, that everybody was there from various backgrounds, and it was just a wonderful environment.”
UNCG feels like home to Gibson. She joined the School of Nursing’s faculty as a clinical associate professor one year after earning her PhD from UNCG and 22 years after graduating with her BSN.
Gibson comes from a family of educators, but she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a nurse.
When Gibson was around age 9, her great-grandmother suffered a stroke that required everyone in her family to pitch in and help take care of her. Gibson did her part, regularly visiting her great-aunt’s house to do whatever was needed for her great-grandmother.
“I fell in love with the caregiving process and how to navigate that and how when the nurses would come over for assistance when we needed respite care,” Gibson said. “And so that’s when I decided I wanted to work in health care.”
It wasn’t until years later that Gibson realized she wanted to be a nurse educator like the mentors who inspired her as she worked toward her PhD. She was teaching part-time at another university when she asked her students in class one day what motivated them.
“I was asking the students their why, and they told me their why,” Gibson said. “And then a student said, ‘Dr. Gibson, what’s your why? Why do you mentor us for free? Why do you take the time, your time on weeknights, to talk to us?’
“I said because I had great educators and providers, and everybody has been in my corner pushing me.’ And I said I want to be that to other people. Everybody didn’t have my great experience, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be an educator.”
Tiffany Gibson, PhD, APRN-BC, WHNP-BC
Title: Clinical associate professor
Hidden talent: “I am an excellent cook, actually wanted to be a chef before I went back to school, and I have my own little barista center at my home. Like I have an espresso machine. Everybody always says, ‘We don’t need Starbucks. We just need Tiffany’s house.’ And I’m an avid reader. I read probably 22 books a month.”
Favorite non-nursing book: “My favorite non-academic book would probably be the story of Josephine Baker, and the reason being is because she as a woman went through a time where she broke barriers. She played the game that she had to play to get things done, and I think that it’s a story of resilience. That’s one of the first books I fell in love with that really showed how beyond political and societal norms that one could break those barriers. And she’s you just she made some sacrifices, and she did it her way.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “My favorite thing to bake is my five-flavor pound cake. One of my favorite things to actually cook is my homemade fettuccine alfredo. My kids love fettuccine, but it’s one thing that everybody in the house eats. You put a lot of love and care in and change it up. It’s just one of my favorite things to just sit and cook with them.”
Dr. Audra Lewis
When Dr. Audra Lewis was a child, she collected the green stamps that her grocery store gave customers as an incentive for being frequent shoppers.
Shoppers could redeem the green stamps for free items, ranging from golf clubs to kitchenware. Lewis, at around age six, traded in her collection of green stamps for a toy nurse’s kit that included a small stethoscope, a reflex hammer, and a tray of fake food.
“So I used to play nurse when I was little,” she said.
Lewis is continuing to stage nursing scenarios that seem believable in her new role as a clinical associate professor and the director of the School of Nursing’s Simulation Center for Experiential Nursing Education (SCENE).
She relies on her experiences as a nurse and her background in writing and theater to design real-world simulations that give School of Nursing students the opportunity to practice the skills they learn in the classroom.
“I just really enjoy it because practicing on your own is fine and practicing on something like a sponge or a cardboard box is fine, too,” Lewis said. “But until you actually put everything together, then you can really mess up, make mistakes, and get better. That’s what I love about simulation.”
Lewis was age 29 and a mother of a two-year-old child when she considered going back to school to become either a nurse or a teacher. As it turned out, she eventually became a combination of both as a nurse educator.
Lewis said her theater background helped her overcome the sense of imposter syndrome she experienced as a new nurse. She felt like she was playing a role whenever she would visit a patient, and she has incorporated that into the simulations she sets up for her students.
“So you play a role, if you will, until you feel comfortable. And that’s part of simulation, is getting your students to feel comfortable,” Lewis said. “They’re playing. We’re playing a role, and we’re acting until it feels real.”
Audra Lewis, PhD, RN, CHSE
Title: Clinical associate professor and director of the Simulation Center for Experiential Nursing Education
Hidden talent: “I’m doing pottery right now, but I’m not good at it because I just started my class. And I knit. I’m fluent German. I do a lot of things, but I wouldn’t say well.”
Favorite non-nursing book: “It’s called ‘The Red Tent.’ It’s based on biblical stories about Leah and Rachel, and it’s about the female experience.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “Pasta. I love pasta, and I love trying new spices and new flavors, new recipes. I’m horrible at sauces.”
Dr. Tené Turner
Dr. Tené Turner understands that chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, don’t just impact her patients but their entire families as well.
As a nurse practitioner with a background in women’s health and family and acute care, Turner has tried to teach patients and their families that their diets, genetics, and cultural backgrounds can contribute to a chronic disease.
“All that should be addressed, and it’s not often addressed. But that’s something that is my passion,” Turner said. “I tried to educate and not only the patient, but if they have their daughter with them or their spouse with them, educate the whole family.”
Turner is now educating her students in the School of Nursing’s new family nurse practitioner program. She joined the faculty as a clinical assistant professor after previously serving as an online adjunct professor for another university.
“I feel like I’m getting connected with my students already, way more than I have with the students that I taught online. Unless it was that one student that consistently emailed you every week,” Turner said, laughing.
“I know what their face looks like. I may know what their voice sounds like. I actually can be in touch and in tune with them, and I like that better.”
Turner said she decided at age 14 that she wanted to work in medicine after she watched the film, Father of the Bride Part II. She was impressed by seeing a young doctor looking so confident as she helped deliver a baby.
Turner was initially a pre-med major in college, but she started thinking about switching to nursing after speaking with several nurse practitioners she knew from church. They told her she was “too nice to be a doctor” and should instead become a nurse.
“I saw the answer from volunteering at a hospital,” Turner said. “I felt like nurses thought more like how I thought as far as taking care of patients.”
Tené Turner, DNP, ARNP
Title: Clinical assistant professor
Hidden talent: “I sing for church. My husband has written three albums, and I sing on them with him. I do a lot of background singing. And I have a couple of solos on those albums. I also like to cook. I like to sew, and I can crochet.”
Favorite non-nursing book: “I read a lot, but the one that sticks out in my mind, that I think is my favorite of all time, is a book called Kaleidoscope by Danielle Steel. Out of all the books I’ve read, it’s the most complex of a book. It takes you through a lot, and so I do like that book, and I like how the characters come out of the story. I think that was one of the books that made her notable. My husband (Dennis Turner) also has a book too (The Boy from the Ditch). It’s a pretty great book, too, so I’m not saying that because I’m his wife.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “I’m pretty good with all the baking things, savory and sweet, so good casseroles, good cakes, and cookies. I make very good macaroni and cheese, vegan and dairy. I’ve actually mastered those two. Let me think of what else. I’m learning how to season meat properly. My husband, who is of Southern background, is the one who seasons meat very well, and I’m learning from him. And then just certain rice dishes because in my background. My folks are mostly Bahamian with my maternal grandmother being Cuban. They’re Caribbean, so we make a lot of rice dishes. A lot of rice.”
Barbie Wright showed an interest in becoming a nurse at an early age.
Her parents have a photograph of her as a child excited to listen to her father’s heartbeat with a toy stethoscope. She eventually developed a passion for treating pediatric patients.
“Children are just so precious to me. Life is so precious, and I just enjoy caring for something so delicate and so intricate,” Wright said. “And there’s so much love towards babies and children and just helping parents learn how to care for their kids.
“Some kids find themselves not in great situations, and to be able to help them when they don’t necessarily have a voice for themselves, all of that was just very appealing to me.”
After working for more than two decades as a hospital nurse, Wright made the transition from the bedside to the front of the classroom. As a new instructor in the School of Nursing, she’s sharing her expertise in pediatric nursing with students in the classroom and clinical settings.
“I loved working with moms and babies. I loved babies just from a really young age and knew that that was the specialty that I wanted to go in,” Wright said. “Even in nursing school, that was my preferred patient population to work with.”
Wright had done some teaching in her previous roles as a nurse, but she said she decided to become a faculty member for the first time after earning an MSN in nursing education last year. She was looking forward to the change of pace, and she’s already enjoying the opportunity to interact with her students.
“I really love teaching, and at this point in my career, since I’ve been a nurse for 23 years, I was just wanting to use my experience and use my knowledge to help the next generation of nurses,” Wright said. “We always need good nurses.”
Barbie Wright, MSN-NE, RN
Title: Clinical instructor
Hidden talent: “I do play the guitar. I was in the praise band, so I would play and sing in the praise band with churches.”
Favorite non-nursing book: “The Bible is very important to me. It’s something that I read on a daily basis, so it’s kind of the foundation for the way I live my life.”
Favorite thing to cook or bake: “My husband would say I’m good at helping him and taste-testing. I guess an Italian meal. He enjoys cooking a whole lot more than I do.”
Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing
Photography by Alex Abrams and Doug Burke Photography