Cullen Moore didn’t have a clinical rotation scheduled for Aug. 6, so he booked two events to attend that morning. If he rushed, he could make them both on his day off.

Moore had agreed to serve as an usher at the doctoral hooding ceremony for the newest graduates of UNC Greensboro’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Nurse Anesthesia concentration. His job was to help the guests to their seats inside the UNCG Auditorium and then assist in directing them once the ceremony ended.

But first he had to give a PowerPoint presentation at WakeMed in Raleigh. He was nervous about how it would go.

Moore admitted he was prepared to skip out on being an usher if his presentation on the environmental and financial impacts of certain anesthetics didn’t go well.

“But my presentation went amazing,” said Moore, who’s a third-year Nurse Anesthesia student. “It was probably the best presentation that I’ve ever done.”

It’s a good thing he made it to the doctoral hooding ceremony.

Moore and two other DNP students who worked as ushers, Kelsey Getzloff and Wingate Williamson, were surprised to hear their names called toward the end of the ceremony. They were then invited onto the stage where they had just directed the graduates to go only a few minutes earlier.

Cullen Moore in a clinical
Cullen Moore in a clinical.

Getzloff, Moore, and Williamson were announced as the first recipients of the Merit Scholarships, which was established this year through the Raleigh School of Nurse Anesthesia (RSNA) endowment. The former RSNA became the UNCG Nurse Anesthesia program in 2015.

The three students were each presented with a $25,000 scholarship to cover the costs of their final year in the Nurse Anesthesia concentration.

As it turned out, Dr. Nancy Shedlick, coordinator of the Nurse Anesthesia concentration, had requested Getzloff, Moore, and Williamson to be ushers as a way to get them to attend the graduation.

“At the ceremony, they were saying, ‘The recipients of this scholarship are all in attendance, and none of them know they’re getting it.’ And there was only a handful of us there, so I was thinking, ‘Oh wow,’” Williamson said. “Then I started to get a little nervous like ‘I wonder who it’s going to be.’

“But yeah, I was completely caught off-guard. I was not expecting that at all.”

Even Dr. Debra Barksdale, the new dean of the School of Nursing, and Dr. Lori Lupe, director of the DNP program, were left speechless as the scholarships were announced.

Getzloff, Moore, and Williamson were awarded the scholarships based on their GPA, their commitment to the program, and their positive attitude towards their peers. They’re scheduled to graduate next August.

“I felt like I had won the lottery. I didn’t even buy a lottery ticket, and I won the lottery.”

Kelsey Getzloff

One of their classmates, Tania Bardsley, was presented with the Matthew DiNardo Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship given annually to a rising third-year Nurse Anesthesia student at the doctoral hooding ceremony.

In addition, Susan Sorrells recently gave a $50,000 gift to establish the Julie Sorrells Timmons Scholarship in Nurse Anesthesia in memory of her sister who graduated from the RSNA in 1993 and mentored UNCG Nurse Anesthesia students before her passing in 2018. The scholarship, which can be awarded immediately for $2,500, will help support Nurse Anesthesia students who demonstrate financial need.

Getzloff and Williamson have been close friends since they worked together as nurses in the intensive care unit at Duke University Hospital in Durham. They were in each other’s wedding party, and they talked about someday becoming certified registered nurse anesthetists.

Kelsey Getzloff
Kelsey Getzloff in a clinical.

Both were accepted into UNCG’s Nurse Anesthesia concentration in the Fall 2019.

Two of the Nurse Anesthesia students who graduated on Aug. 6 worked with Getzloff and Williamson at Duke University Hospital. They’ve become a tight-knit group of friends.

Since there was a limit on how many guests could attend the ceremony, the two graduates reached out to Shedlick to see if Getzloff and Williamson could serve as ushers. That way all four friends could celebrate the moment together.

The two graduates were unaware that Shedlick wanted Getzloff and Williamson there for a very different reason – so they could receive the Merit Scholarships.

“So for me, shoot, I had had this on my calendar a year ago to go and be present at this ceremony and hopefully be involved in the ceremony so that I could support these two good friends of mine,” Getzloff said.

Getzloff, Moore, and Williamson said it’s a huge relief to know that the scholarship will cover their last year in the Nurse Anesthesia concentration, especially since the coursework and clinicals are so demanding that working became untenable while they’re in school.

“You can try to plan to not have a job for three years and what that might look like, but then to experience it, it’s rough,” Moore said. “I have student loans, so this takes a huge weight off my shoulders of just how are the next 12 months going to look. Now it just helps you sleep a little easier.”

Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing

Photography by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing, and provided by Cullen Moore and Kelsey Getzloff