Nine Graduates Selected as Pin Recipients for their Leadership, Service, and Achievement
By Megan Hinners
The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing is proud to honor nine graduates with nursing pins, presented by the Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO). A proud tradition of service, select pins are passed on each year from a past graduate to a new graduate as a sign of the recipient’s achievement and promise. This year’s commemoration was held through a virtual celebration on April 27.
Established in 1927, the NAO includes graduates from degree and certificate programs. It works closely with the School of Nursing to promote fellowship and recognition among school alumni, advance school programs, further high standards for nursing education and practice, and support students in various ways, including scholarships and awards.
This year, seven graduates received pins donated by individual alumni. In addition, one received a pin from the Board of Visitors (BOV), and one received a pin from Dean Linda D. Scott, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FNAP, FAAN, marking the fourth year the Dean’s Pin has been presented to a graduate for their leadership and service to the school.
Of the nine total recipients, eight are earning their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree from the traditional program, and one is graduating from the accelerated program.
Meet the NAO 2022 Pin Recipients
Raquel Burnham ’22
Raquel Burnham notes that as a child she was constantly surrounded by health care and was drawn to be part of the interdisciplinary team, more specifically a calling to nursing. “I appreciated the abundance of career paths that nursing provided, while allowing me to be specialized within the field and have room to constantly grow in the profession.”
That drive to constantly better herself has been evident throughout her time at UW–Madison. A first-generation college student, Burnham has had to rely on resiliency and perseverance as she faced multiple challenges during her nursing journey. Despite those challenges, she has set wonderful examples for many of her family members and peers.
“As a first-generation college student, I value and dedicate everything I do throughout my undergraduate experience to those before me that never had the means or ability to obtain a bachelor’s degree,” says Burnham. “Receiving this nursing pin by nomination from my research Principal Investigator and becoming a part of such a valued, long tradition, reinforces my experiences and represents my successes and those of my family.”
As a result of her hard work and determination, Burnham has received several awards and has been recognized for her perseverance throughout her undergraduate career as a member of the traditional BSN program, including being selected to be in the School of Nursing’s Honors program. She has also received multiple scholarships including the Charles A. Eckburg Foundation Scholarship, the Nina Sween Memorial Scholarship, and the Kay M. Schaus Scholarship.
Burnham has a wide array of volunteering experience providing services to the community beyond the UW–Madison campus and has a passion for creating a more inclusive and diverse community.
Her volunteer work includes devoting time as a Health Occupations and Professions Exploration (HOPE) mentor with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County at UW Health. As a HOPE mentor, she worked with local high school students, particularly those who are first-generation, to help them learn about the variety of professions in health care and what paths are available to achieve those careers.
In addition to her volunteer work, Burnham has made significant accomplishments and contributions to the School of Nursing and nursing research. “Raquel has a strong passion for creating a more inclusive nursing education for nursing students,” says Maichou Lor, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing. “She identified the lack of inclusive and diverse clinical manifestations of racial/ethnic minority populations in course lecture materials and curriculum. As the elected student representative on the School of Nursing Curriculum Committee, she subsequently brought up her concern, and this initiation resulted in a partnership with Elsevier publishing company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. The partnership has allowed her to work directly with their publishing faculty to discuss plans on how they could measure the lack of diversity and inclusion, and plan to change their materials and programs to be more inclusive. One significant contribution that Raquel was involved in was serving and presenting on a panel at Elsevier and the National League for Nursing (NLN) to discuss gaps in nursing curricula and the need for more diversity and inclusion efforts in nursing education.”
Burnham also created an innovative honors research project to better understand the experiences and challenges of Hispanic adults with hearing loss and their caregivers. “Through this project, she found that hearing loss was a stigma in the Hispanic community, and there is a need for community educational initiatives on hearing loss and services,” says Lor. “Caregivers play a large role in their loved one’s hearing loss care, which needs to be addressed and worked with by physicians as well. This community-based project led her abstract to be selected to present at the 2022 Midwest Nursing Research Society Conference (MNRS) in Illinois.”
Throughout her undergraduate journey, she has also held several leadership positions in the Multicultural Student Nursing Organization (MSNO), including serving as vice president, president, and most recently the liaison for the School of Nursing where she helps connect MSNO members to the School of Nursing and provides opportunities and aid to students to navigate through the nursing program.
“These volunteering experiences illustrate Raquel’s mentorship and leadership in creating opportunities and an inclusive environment for minority and first-generation students on campus and beyond,” says Lor, adding, “I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Raquel to receive the nursing pin.”
Burnham’s pin was donated by Stephanie Swartz ’74, who chose to donate her pin because she wanted to give back to the School of Nursing for the excellent education she received.
Swartz found her way into nursing because she wanted a career where she would be able to help people and utilize scientific evidence in the process. Her career spanned multiple states, roles, and decades along her journey until she retired in 2020.
Swartz began her career as a new graduate at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, working in the critical care unit where she was the first new graduate hired into that role. From there, her love of skiing took her to Colorado, where she spent three years balancing shifts at the Vail Valley medical center with time on the ski slopes.
Her journey then took her to Virginia. “Former School of Nursing Dean Dr. Rose Chioni recruited me to come to the University of Virginia where I worked jointly in the emergency department and with their nursing school,” says Swartz.
She returned home to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to assist with family matters and found a role working at Gundersen Health. There, she spent 42 years in various administrative positions, including chief nursing officer, hospital vice president, and director of four service lines including emergency services, critical care, neurosciences, and medical surgical.
In remembering her time at UW–Madison, Swartz fondly reminisces about classes at 1402 University Avenue in the old School of Nursing building, recalling, “There was such camaraderie between faculty and students.”
When asked what advice she has for new graduates, Swartz says, “Be confident with the education you received at UW–Madison School of Nursing and take risks to improve yourself and contribute to others.”
Burnham hopes to do just that. “In the future, I plan to become a certified perioperative nurse (CNOR) and a certified surgical first assistant, and to explore different leadership or management roles within perioperative services,” she says. Her post-graduation plans include completing a nurse residency in the OR at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago, where she will look to embrace both a new city and a new profession.
Maica Ho ’22
Nancy Dextrom ’66 was in high school when she had the opportunity to work in the business office of a small community hospital in northern Wisconsin for two summers. “In my daily contacts, I was enthralled with the nurse who administratively was in charge of the hospital,” she says. “After two summers, I decided that I would become a nurse and model myself after her unique traits.”
After graduating from the School of Nursing and getting married, Dextrom and her husband served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Upon returning to the United States, she worked as a staff nurse for the Visiting Nurse Service, Veterans Administration, and a small community hospital in Wisconsin. From there, she moved to Michigan in 1975 and began an administrative track that opened the door to new opportunities, including assistant director of nurses, patient education coordinator, associate chief of nursing education, director of med/surg nursing, and eventually CEO of the Rogers City Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I have always enjoyed new opportunities to learn new roles as a nurse,” Dextrom adds. “Leadership roles require advanced skills. I have never been satisfied with the status quo and have always been focused on raising standards for nurses as well as the entire workforce.”
Like Dextrom, Maica Ho began her nursing journey in high school. “I grew up always wanting a career in health care,” she says. “In high school, I decided to become a certified nursing assistant in an assisted living facility/nursing home as part of this pursuit. Through the memorable relationships I developed with my residents, I not only felt fulfilled but also realized that I am well suited to caring for people in this capacity. The experience helped shape my path into nursing.”
Throughout her journey as an undergraduate in the traditional BSN program, Ho has been actively involved in Delta Phi Lambda, helping to promote, educate, and inform the student-body on Asian awareness, empowering women leaders, and advocating for social justice and environmental awareness. She has also been involved in the Vietnamese Student Association, helping to execute fundraisers to support the philanthropic work of building schools for children in Vietnam.
In addition, Ho has held significant roles in the School of Nursing as well as the surrounding community. As she has worked towards dual degrees in nursing and human development and family studies, she has held down four jobs and is actively involved in the multicultural community. All these extracurricular efforts have helped fuel her passion for contributing to health systems through actively seeking opportunities around her.
Her hard work in the classroom has earned her Dean’s List honors throughout her academic career at UW–Madison. A member of the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing, she notes that her time at the School of Nursing has helped her develop an interest in patient advocacy. “Through nursing school, I developed a great passion for advocacy-related work and refined my skills to provide individualized care to patients across their lifespan. The School of Nursing helped challenge me to become a better nurse leader, and I will continue this work through the nurse residency program at the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine at University Hospital post-graduation.”
Ho will receive her pin from Dextrom, who chose to donate her pin because she appreciates the meaning behind the tradition. When asked what advice she has for graduates, Dextrom reflects, “Nursing is a lifelong learning experience since there are so many jobs that require you to learn more.”
For Ho, the pin holds significance because it symbolizes what she admires most about the nursing profession. “Nursing is a combination of both tradition and innovation,” she says. “The profession has an extensive history and has evolved through the efforts and drive of individuals and institutions with the common goal of providing compassionate care. As the world changes and our patients’ needs change to suit, there is a need for leadership and collaboration to address emerging challenges. In this context, I hope to continue my current research and clinical work to positively impact my community.”
Chaya Miller ’22
School of Nursing clinical instructor Jennifer Drake says that traditional BSN student Chaya Miller is always engaged and committed to her learning. “She is a bright student and has excellent insights to share. Her life experiences provide an alternative perspective which has enhanced class discussions and increased knowledge of her peers.”
As a first-generation college student, Miller has experienced multiple hardships along her journey towards nursing, including living with chronic pain since childhood. But the adversity has helped shape her into the driven, self-sufficient person she is today, and has fueled her commitment to being a nurse as well as reinforced her passion to be a voice for her community.
“Her journey to become a nurse has been fraught with hardships. These experiences have become steps along the road which led her to becoming the nurse she dreamed of. Despite this journey where nothing said, ‘persevere’ or ‘try again,’ she did anyway. She is an incredible example of a Badger nurse,” Drake concludes.
“I chose nursing because I have first-hand experience of the inequalities that can happen within the health care setting and understand how many patients may feel alone. I want to help change that,” says Miller. “I want to be the person who believes the patient and is there for them and them only. I’ve been told many times I am a natural caregiver and have outstanding bedside manner; this is because I love what I do and enjoy being that sunshine on my patient’s most rainy, dark days. It makes everything so worth it!”
Miller has used her undergraduate journey to already start advocating for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. She has been assisting with a project led by School of Nursing professor Linda D. Oakley, PhD, RN, that explores the impact of the threat of dying young among the Black young adult community. Witnessing the impact of gun violence on her own community growing up has fueled her passion to improve the health of the Black community even more.
“One of the most important things I look forward to doing with this degree is becoming an advocate for those whose voices are silenced,” says Miller. “I want to lessen the disparities and share the knowledge I’ve gained with underrepresented communities.”
Born and raised in Madison, Miller notes that she would eventually like to become a travel nurse to learn as much as she can about different cultures and health practices performed across the country.
Her pin is donated by Jane Jordan Farrell ’61, who decided to pursue a career in nursing after working for several summers as a nurse’s aide. “I loved sciences and decided on nursing as my career after my junior year of high school,” she notes.
Farrell spent her career primarily in nursing education: teaching in nursing schools, advocating for staff development, working on several teaching projects for the UW extension, teaching pre-natal classes for expectant parents, doing clinical testing for Excelsior College in New York, as well as 11 years as the director of the Excelsior Clinical Performance in Nursing Center in Madison before she retired. “For many years, I also worked part time doing bedside nursing,” she adds. “I wanted to make sure my teaching was still relevant to current practice.”
When asked what she remembers most fondly from her time at the School of Nursing, Farrell notes, “My classmates and our sharing of so many clinical experiences and discussions in the dorm afterwards. Many of these friendships are still active after over 60 years.”
“I believe I graduated from the very best nursing school, which provided me with the knowledge and skills I needed,” says Farrell. “Whatever version of nursing I was currently employed in, I found great satisfaction and tried to perform as we had been taught – to always treat the patient or students as a real person who deserved the best care I could provide.
Farrell wanted to donate her pin to a graduate who would love it as much as she did throughout her career. “I have always loved and been so proud of my UW–Madison Nursing pin,” she says. “I always wore it whenever I worked at my various nursing-related jobs. I want to give it to someone who will love it, wear it, and feel pride in it as I always have.”
For Miller, the honor of being chosen to receive a pin is greatly appreciated. “Receiving this nursing pin is such an honor and means a lot to me,” she says. “I am proud to join the long line of phenomenal nurses and be a part of the rich tradition in the UW–Madison Nursing program.”
Chinaza Nwosa ’22
Born and raised in Nigeria, Chinaza Nwosa started college at the young age of 16. “I was not sure what profession I wanted to pursue, but I knew it was something in the health care field, but not medicine” she says. “Since childhood, I had always been full of compassion, empathy, and was very knowledgeable. I had the opportunity to shadow all aspects of nursing in my junior year of college, and that was when I felt the strong calling. I had never felt satisfaction from any other thing I had done.”
Nwosa first earned a degree in biology, followed by a master’s in business administration and management, with the goal of being in a managerial nursing position in the future.
With that objective in mind, she began her studies at the School of Nursing as a member of the Accelerated BSN program, which she describes as a tough, but rewarding experience. “This program is challenging,” says Sherrelle Jackson, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, clinical assistant professor at the School of Nursing. “She has shown great improvement throughout the rigorous ABSN program and has continued to demonstrate a performance of professional skills and behaviors that portray the profession of nursing. She overcame obstacles by seeking guidance from faculty, peers, and clinical site preceptors, and has shown continued growth and passion for the nursing profession. She will be a great addition to the field.”
“Finishing my nursing degree further grounded me in resilience, excellence, and advocacy,” Nwosa explains. “After graduation, I will be working in a cardiac care unit, with the hopes of going on to be a critical/family nurse practitioner.” Nwosa also notes that she would like to pursue working in a nurse educator role in the future and hopes to partner with non-governmental organizations in Nigeria to provide cardiac care to the populations challenged with economic disparities.
Nwosa received her pin from Eileen Smit ’69, MS ’77, who says that she has never regretted her decision to enter into nursing. “I wanted to have a career that involved helping others and was academically challenging,” she says. “My interest was always in psychiatrics nursing. After spending my first year as a VISTA volunteer in Galveston, Texas, I spent the next years working in inpatient/outpatient psychiatric nursing settings.”
After earning her master of science in nursing, she then had a 37-year career as a nursing faculty member at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. “I loved the creativity and flexibility of teaching,” says Smit. “In 2010, I received a Distinguished Faculty Award.”
Smit made the decision to donate her pin because she would like to pass along the pride that she felt when wearing it. “I would like someone who will be practicing nursing to have and wear it. I have always been proud of being a UW graduate.”
Smit looks back on her time at the UW–Madison School of Nursing fondly, noting that it is difficult to pinpoint one favorite memory from her time at the University. “I remember nursing faculty who had high expectations but supported me. I remember patients that helped me learn the joy of nursing. And I remember walking two miles to campus from my apartment when it was -10 degrees for a seven a.m. clinical.”
When asked what advice Smit has for School of Nursing graduates, she says, “Keep caring. We are with people at some of the most important moments of their life. What we do and how we do it matters and makes a difference.”
Nwosa will take that to heart as she embarks on her nursing journey and is grateful for the honor of being chosen to carry on the tradition. “Receiving this nursing pin from such a prestigious body is an immense honor,” she says. “I am beyond touched and extremely grateful. I will put in my all to continue the legacy of the Nurses Alumni Organization. Like John Ruskin said, ‘The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.’”
Rey Okoene ’22
Growing up in Nigeria, Rey Okoene’s mother — a midwife — would provide antepartum care for mothers without access to health care and deliver babies in their family home to give back to the community. “After experiencing so many births, I loved to witness these families express profound gratitude to ‘matron’ — as [my mother] was fondly called,” says Okoene. “I fell in love with nursing, the privileges we have at those pristine moments, and the important roles we play in the life of our patients and families.”
Earning her degree from the traditional BSN program, Okoene has earned high academic honors in her time at the School of Nursing. Even with facing the challenges of navigating the difficult tasks of nursing school, clinicals, raising a young daughter, and immigrating to a new country, she has achieved a high level of academic performance throughout her undergraduate career, being named to the Dean’s List multiple times. Known by her peers as someone who epitomizes strength, compassion, and resilience, she has also spent time volunteering for COVID-19 and flu vaccination clinics and has participated in student advisory groups while at UW–Madison.
Her BSN marks her second degree, having earned a previous degree in geology.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Okoene now leads a not-for-profit Christian Fellowship, whose work in women’s health education and outreach has impacted more than 120 pregnant women, new mothers and babies, and a few communities in Lagos, Nigeria. She has supported new mothers through teaching breastfeeding techniques, educating others about signs of postpartum depression, offering nutrition support, as well as pregnancy and wellness education. In 2021 alone, she helped welcome 21 babies into the world.
In addition, she collaborates with communities and health professionals in Nigeria, creating outreach efforts for underserved communities. “I am very passionate about health education, health promotion, and health prevention through teaching these populations simple and easily accessible techniques.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that I have found my purpose,” she says. “My experiences as a mom and the outstanding education I have received in our great institution will always put me ahead in my practice as a well-rounded women’s health nurse.”
Okoene was awarded the pin donated by the School of Nursing’s Board of Visitors (BOV), a group of leaders from the health care and business communities who provide strategic guidance to the school. The pin donated by the organization recognizes a student’s leadership and strategic guidance, and Okoene is an outstanding example of both.
She is thankful for the recognition, saying, “I am deeply honored by this gesture. This pin will always serve as a succinct reminder to continue to rise above challenges on those good and not so great days.”
David Sohl ’22
The Dean’s Pin, added in 2019, was awarded to David Sohl, a traditional bachelor of science in nursing student who has made a lasting impact on the school through his leadership, compassion, and desire to help others.
A returning student, his classmates note that he has faced some hardships and struggles as he has started his nursing journey. Despite the challenges, they emphasize that Sohl is one of the most caring and thoughtful individuals in the School of Nursing, and despite the challenges, including working two jobs while attending classes and clinicals throughout his undergraduate career, Sohl is always willing to help where he can and offer to support those in need.
Prior to enrolling in the School of Nursing, Sohl spent four years in the United State Army serving as a combat medic and gaining a great deal of medical knowledge overseas. During his service, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, and provided selfless service to fellow soldiers on the front lines.
Sohl has also dedicated time to volunteering, helping organize a local inclusive youth scouting group, as well as providing community service to senior citizens in the area.
“Nursing is a long-term goal I set over a decade ago, from my experiences as an Army medic deployed to Afghanistan,” says Sohl. “Caring for others and services in the field of health care have both been a personal passion, which I believe the apex of those noble endeavors exists together as a nurse. I am proud to be honored by those that paved the way before me and provided role models and leaders. Thank you, and I will strive to enable others to also manifest their wealth of potential for the betterment of our communities.”
Ashley Thomas ’22
Ashley Thomas began college with dreams of attending medical school to practice as a physician. However, as she gained more experience with health care, she soon realized that her place was at the front lines of patient care. “I chose nursing because it is a challenging yet rewarding career that offers interminable learning and the privilege of helping others every day,” she says.
A first-generation student, she notes that she has worked hard through adversity to obtain a dual degree while balancing work and extracurricular activities. Though she admits to struggling during her first semester and feeling unsupported, she persevered and is graduating with a bachelor of science in nursing and a bachelor of science in Spanish. “My acceptance to the traditional BSN program has been one of my greatest achievements,” she says.
Thomas has been active as a leader both in the classroom and in the community. A member of the traditional BSN program, Thomas has repeatedly earned Dean’s List honors throughout her undergraduate career and is a member of the Beta Eta At-Large chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing. In addition, she was the student-elected representative for the Curriculum Committee and spent time as a peer tutor for pre-nursing courses.
The Seymour, Wisconsin, native was also active in volunteering both locally and abroad. “I was a volunteer through AIESEC (formerly the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) in Arequipa, Peru, for two months. My projects focused on improving accessibility to care related to the United Nations’ third sustainable development goal, Good Health and Well-Being,” says Thomas. On top of that, she also volunteered for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Dane County, The Bandana Project, and community clean-up efforts.
On top of her academic and volunteer efforts, Thomas was also a student researcher through Tiny Earth, analyzing soil for antibiotic discovery to combat the current antibiotic crisis in health care.
She has also been active in her commitment to improving quality and accessibility of care for marginalized communities, particularly Spanish-speaking patients. “My experience with Spanish culture has already helped me cross cultural barriers to provide care,” says Thomas. “I have spoken with Wisconsin State Senators in regard to the inaccessibility of care for non-English speaking patients, and I am committed to improving matters at the patient/family level, as well.”
For Thomas, receiving a pin helps connect her to the legacy of those that have come before her. “It is an incredible honor to be receiving a pin and to be a part of such a special tradition,” she says. “I have always admired the close ties between the School of Nursing and its alumni, and it is a great privilege to be joining and contributing to the legacy of Badger nurses. Thank you so much!”
Thomas’ pin was donated by Molly Meyer ’71, who says that it was a childhood dream to become a nurse. Meyer chose to donate her pin because she wants to carry on the legacy and tradition. “My pin means a great deal to me,” she says. “I think it is important to pass it along to the next generation and continue a legacy of providing excellent patient care and practice.”
Meyer looks back at her time at the school of nursing fondly, noting that she has many favorite memories saying, “There are many, including forming relationships with my nursing peers. Many of the faculty members positively impacted my experiences during nursing school.”
Meyer’s career spans more than four decades and carried on the legacy of impacting students as a nurse educator that made such a difference on her undergraduate experience. After briefly working at a local hospital after graduation, she began working at Yale Health Plan (YHP), a new PPO/HMO for Yale University, in December of 1971. Two years later, she became certified as an adult nurse practitioner through a course offered by YHP that was taught by providers and the faculty from the Yale School of Nursing. “I worked as an advanced practice nurse practitioner for more than 45 years,” she says. “I was also an assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Nursing and was a preceptor for many years.”
In addition, Meyer helped establish the athletic medicine clinic, working with Yale University student-athletes for more than 40 years, and worked in student health, as well. On top of that, she had an internal primary care medical practice for more than 40 years and coordinated and ran the medical oncology practice.
As a result of her time at Yale, the university recently established an award called the Molly Meyer Humanitarian Award, which is given annually to male and female student-athletes whose character exemplifies selfless devotion along with compassion and concern for their team, the community at Yale, and beyond.
Meyer’s advice for School of Nursing graduates is simple: listen. “Listen to learn from your colleagues and your patients.”
Thomas will take that advice with her when she begins her career in the trauma life support center at UW Health, adding, “I look forward to the opportunity of guiding future nurses’ practices as my preceptors did for me.”
Max Wuest ’22
Maxwell Wuest says that the dedication to serving and caring for people is what drew him to the profession, adding, “I chose nursing because there’s no greater career than one that’s centered around serving others. I hope to make the world a better place through my military service and as a medical professional.”
Wuest will be graduating from the traditional BSN program after maintaining high academic performance while encountering some challenging situations in his personal life, working part time, and performing duties for the Army Reserves. “This includes extra training, promotion preparation, teaching soldiers, and monthly drill attendance,” explains Wuest.
Throughout his nursing undergraduate journey, Wuest has partaken in the United States Army Best Warrior Competition and has mentored other competitors in the successive competition. “This entailed physical training, mental preparation, and missing days to weeks of class time in order to train my peers,” he says.
A member of Sigma Theta Tau for his high academic performance, Wuest also volunteers for “Sharing a Legacy,” an organization run by Schlaefer Optometrists that helps provide eyeglasses, sunglasses, and eye exams to Nicaraguans.
Wuest is also currently taking part in a research study regarding the health of dementia care workers, performing research and providing information to dementia caregivers to help them administer care efficiently while also easing their workload.
Cathryn Eckberg ’71 donated the pin that Wuest received. “It is a symbol of UW nursing that I would like to be held by a new generation of Badger nurses,” she says. When she looks back at her time at UW–Madison, she fondly remembers clinical presentations where she and her fellow nursing students had the opportunity to truly learn about disease, human response, and facilitating recovery.
Eckberg comes from a medical family, and notes that she appreciates that nursing is a personal profession built on trust and relationships. “[It] allows for an individual to make a lasting and positive effect on the quality of life of another human being often at a time when that person is extremely vulnerable,” she says. “It is a profession that combines science, compassion, and presence.”
It’s because of those reasons that she chose nursing. After graduating from UW–Madison, Eckberg continued to pursue educational opportunities. “I immediately entered into the master’s program in maternal-child nursing at the University of Colorado,” she says. “I then was head nurse of outpatient pediatric clinics at the University of Iowa before entering my pediatric nurse practitioner (NP) program at UCLA. During all my postgraduate education, I supported myself working as a staff nurse or private duty nurse.”
Following the completion of her NP program, Eckberg became a commissioned officer in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), working in that role for three years in three different health care manpower shortage areas. “Sometimes I was the only on-site provider,” she says. Upon completion of her duties in the NHSC, she returned to Wisconsin and worked in college health, rural family practices, as well as a migrant clinic.
After a successful career, Eckberg’s advice for new Badger nurses is to be open to new opportunities. “Explore, grow, try new challenges,” she says. “You can make such a difference.”
Wuest is hoping to do just that. After graduating, he is looking forward to working as a trauma nurse in the UW Health residency program and eventually pursuing career in Med Flight.
“Receiving this nursing pin is a tremendous honor,” he says. “I hope to make my fellow Badger nurses proud as I enter my professional career. Knowing that I’m a part of this tradition inspires me to exceed expectations as a registered nurse and carry on this legacy. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along this journey.”
Nancy Yang ’22
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Nancy Yang to receive the nursing pin,” says Maichou Lor, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing. “She exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea by conducting research with the Hmong community to co-create a pain communication tool, has a passion for reducing health disparities for populations who have limited English proficiency and low health literacy, and she is a leader.”
Lor also notes that Yang is a bright young woman who stands out from her nursing peers, specifically in the area of nursing research, adding, “She has made a significant contribution to an innovative research project funded by the Nursing Institute of Research through the National Institute of Health to improve pain communication between Hmong patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), interpreters, and providers.”
“I grew up being an advocate for my parents, who are English illiterate,” says Yang. “I want to help people like my parents understand the importance of taking care of their health, building trust in our system, and bridging the gap.”
During her time at UW–Madison, Yang has had the opportunity to work in research that is focused on patient-provider communication, specifically focusing on the Hmong population. She works with Lor as a student research assistant, assisting with the revision and evaluation of a pain information visualization (InfoViz) communication tool, and testing the tool in primary care settings.
She has assisted Lor through many different facets, but most importantly, Lor notes that Yang’s art skills have contributed significantly to the revision and finalization of the pain InfoViz that resulted in a culturally and linguistically appropriate tool for the LEP Hmong populations. “We are currently testing the tool in primary care settings,” says Lor.
In addition, Yang is also helping to co-author three manuscripts with Lor that focus on the revision and evaluation of the pain InfoViz tool, a systematic review on research among LEP populations with pain, and the development and evaluation of a pain face severity tool for the LEP Hmong population. “I cannot think of any undergraduate with this level of enthusiasm, dedication, motivation, productivity, and creativity on a research project,” says Lor.
Through her experiences advocating for others throughout her undergraduate journey, Yang has truly enjoyed making meaningful impacts on the lives of others. “I believe a career in nursing will help me fulfill that passion,” she says. “With my BSN, I hope to continue building my research knowledge and hone my clinical skills. I also plan to seek higher education in the near future,” Yang adds.
Yang recognizes the strong tradition that comes along with being chosen as a pin recipient and is grateful. “The School of Nursing’s dedication to leadership and service has helped create extraordinary nurses,” she says. “I am honored to be recognized for my commitment and passion for nursing, and incredibly humbled to be a part of this nursing tradition. No matter how obvious or subtle, the guidance I received did not go unnoticed.”
She received her pin from Mary Moat Cert ’77, MS ’82, who says she wanted to be a nurse since she was two years old. Moat chose to donate her pin because she is proud of her UW education, and she wishes to share the honor of wearing the pin with a new Badger nurse so they can display the same pride.
Moat recalls enjoying working with and learning from new students during her time at the School of Nursing. Upon graduation, she worked as both a staff nurse and head nurse at Methodist Hospital (now UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital) in Madison before earning her master’s degree in nursing in 1982.
She then served as director of nursing, medical-surgical and oncology at St. Joseph’s in Milwaukee before returning to UW–Madison to obtain her nurse practitioner license in 1992. She then spent two years in medical clinics in Milwaukee County, and then spent 20 years at the Milwaukee VA. After a storied career, she retired in 2015 as an adult/geriatric nurse practitioner.
Moat’s advice for new Badger nurses is this: “Hang on to the passion you have for the profession and helping others, and you will never feel you are working.”