The University of Maryland School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni Award was established to honor and recognize alumni for their dedication to excellence and exceptional professional achievements. The award is presented at the annual Alumni Reunion.
Distinguished Alumni Honorees
J Taylor Harden, PhD, MS '77, BSN '72, was commissioned in the basement of the then-University of Maryland School of Nursing Parson’s Residence Hall. Upon graduation, she served on active duty at US Walson Army Hospital in Fort Dix, New Jersey, followed by work at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Washington, D.C. Harden subsequently returned to the University of Maryland School of Nursing for an advanced degree. She is a Vietnam-era veteran and one of the first nurses to apply for and receive a transfer of service from the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Active Reserve to the U.S. Air Force Active Reserve as a flight nurse. She served at Andrews Air Force Base (AFB), Castle AFB, Lackland AFB, Mather AFB, McGuire AFB and Sheppard AFB.
Harden is a National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence (NHCGNE) Distinguished Educator, having taught at schools and departments of nursing across the nation. She is an internationally recognized gerontologist, research administrator, and educator. She is executive director emeritus of NHCGNE and former assistant to the director for special populations at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Bethesda, Maryland.
Harden spent 14 years at the NIA and served as acting deputy director in 2008. While at the NIA, she conceived and/or expanded program initiatives such as the Butler-Williams Scholars Program (previously the Summer Institute on Aging Research), Grants Technical Assistance Workshop, Directors Regional Workshops, National Advisory Council on Aging Task Force on Minority Aging Research, and the first NIH Women of Color Research Network-Women in Biomedical Careers. She was an early program administrator on two seminal research projects: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation and the Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research. These major NIA initiatives combined Dr. Harden’s passion and commitment to women’s and minority health.
Harden achieved national recognition for her work to advance minority health and health disparities research while supporting mentoring and career development initiatives for early career and underrepresented minority scientists in aging. She wrote the NIA MSTEM Advancing Diversity in Aging Research through the Undergraduate Science Education Funding Opportunity Announcement that remains active after more than a decade. Harden served as executive director for the multi-million-dollar John A. Hartford Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity research and career development program grant, which morphed into a non-profit association in 2016 and was affiliated with the American Academy of Nursing, Gerontological Society of America, and New York University Rory Meyers School of Nursing. The program supported almost 300 pre- and post-doctoral scholars and fellows across the nation.
Harden continues her mentoring and career development activities as part of the Betty Irene Moore Nurse Fellowship in Leadership and Innovation National Advisory Committee. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, New York Academy of Medicine, and American Academy of Nursing. "Strong Deeds, Gentle Words" is her abiding motto.
(left to right) Mary Etta C. Mills, ScD, MS ’73, BSN ’71, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, and Dean Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN
Mary Etta Mills is a professor in UMSON's Department of Organizational Systems and Adult Health. Formerly, she has been the associate dean for academic affairs at UMSON and vice president for nursing at University of Maryland Medical Center.
Research, teaching, and professional activities have included extensive work in the fields of health services organization, quality of care, and patient safety, as well as development of the field of nursing informatics. This work has provided key direction in the development of integrated information and organizational system networks that support clinical and managerial decision making to improve care quality.
Dr. Mills led development of the first master's (1988) and first doctoral (1991) programs in nursing informatics in the world. Her interdisciplinary research and training grants totaling over 10.5 million dollars have focused on:
- developing the field of nursing informatics
- advancing the field of health services administration through strategic academic-service partnerships designed to advance the preparation of hospital-based nurses to achieve multi-focal preparation in leadership and clinical education.
Dissemination of this work has included over 100 peer-reviewed publications, numerous book chapters, four books, and more than 150 peer-reviewed presentations and posters.
Future leadership for the fields of informatics and health services has been a focus through her service as dissertation chair for more than 40 PhD students. International work in health services and informatics has provided educational direction to the Canadian Health Services Center, Pan American Health Organization, Saudi Arabian Health Services, and Taiwanese universities.
(left to right) Dean Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN; Dan O’Neal III, BSN ’66; and Carmel McComiskey at All Alumni Reunion 2019.
Daniel J. O’Neal III graduated from the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) in June 1966. After graduation, he served on active duty at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in a MASH hospital in Vietnam, and as faculty in an Army LPN program. He continued in the Army Reserves for another 27 years, the last decade as chief nurse in three different hospitals, ending with assignment as the mobilization counterpart of the assistant chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
Clinically, he has been staff nurse, head nurse, clinical specialist, and evidence-based practice specialist. He worked as a staff nurse on weekends during his nine years at the American Nurses Association (ANA). Just before retirement, he returned to clinical patient care at a very large veterans hospital where he was a staff nurse with other important nurse roles and titles.
He served as full time faculty here at UMSON (1972-1978), at the Universities of Pennsylvania and South Carolina, and part time at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
When he was an UMSON faculty member, he developed his political activities with a Governor’s appointment to the Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee in 1975. As a lobbyist at ANA, he had liaison responsibilities for selected congressional committees and federal regulatory agencies. At the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), he was the point person for science policy and managed both the agency’s external correspondence, its public presence, and its web or print publications.
He continues his science writing today. He has a solid background in performance improvement and in the development of standards of care, standards of practice, and performance measures in patient care. For the past decade, he has served as board or committee member of a nursing education accrediting organization. There, he helped develop and implement accreditation standards in nursing education.
In Indiana, you’re more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car accident.
That startling statistic spurred a statewide response that began in the governor’s office and found a partner in academia. "Responding to the Addictions Crisis," a $50 million initiative funded and led by Indiana University, aims to reduce substance abuse disorders, opioid-related deaths, and the number of babies born exposed to the drugs.
At its helm stands Robin Newhouse, PhD ’00, MS ’99, BSN ’87, RN, FAAN, distinguished professor and dean of the Indiana University School of Nursing.
"I’m passionate about getting care to people who need it and about the role nurses play in addressing public health priorities," Newhouse says. "People have shared with me stories of how substance abuse and addiction have affected them and their families across settings. These are the kind of issues nurses should be engaged in and leading."
The project draws on a vast partnership, involving policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels; businesses; nonprofits; hospitals; research institutes; the state justice department; and the community. As lead investigator, Newhouse heads the project’s steering committee and scientific leadership team.
She is also the principal investigator for two of the project’s studies. The first will test and implement a screening tool kit that nurses can use to identify those with risky substance use and then refer them for treatment. The second will evaluate how best to utilize the health care workforce across the state to address the addiction crisis.
The work suits Newhouse, whose career has focused on improving health services processes and outcomes. Her research has produced evidence-based practices that have refined care for patients with heart failure and those struggling with substance abuse. It has also supplied evidence of the quality and effectiveness of care that advanced practice registered nurses provide.
"I’ve worked with the most amazing nurses and have seen the impact they had on patients. My greatest legacy would be to help them understand the vital role they play in delivering care that improves patient outcomes," Newhouse says.
Her achievements have earned her a place in Sigma’s International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame and have garnered her accolades such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center President’s Award. In 2017, Newhouse was elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine, one of the medical field’s highest honors.
Most recently, she was recognized as UMSON’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award winner for her professional achievements and commitment to the School.
Newhouse served many years as an UMSON faculty member and as chair of the Department of Organizational Systems and Adult Health. She also founded the Frank and Robin Newhouse Scholarship Endowment, which supports UMSON students whose work focuses on health services research and care outcomes.
Achieving a positive outcome in the opioid crisis will require a group effort – one Newhouse is delighted to lead. "I often serve as a connector," she says. "I listen to people’s potential solutions and I connect them to the people who can bring those solutions to reality. Working together, we can halt this epidemic."
Photo courtesy of the Indiana University School of Nursing.
Dedicating the past three decades to critical-care nursing is an impressive accomplishment. But for Karen McQuillan, MS ’86, BSN ’81, RN, CNS-BC, CCRN, CNRN, FAAN, the real reward is investing in nursing’s future.
“It brings me a great deal of joy to mentor future nurse leaders. By helping them develop confidence and skills, I know they will make a difference for many people going forward,” explains McQuillan, who received UMSON’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award, an annual honor in recognition of dedication to excellence and exceptional professional achievements.
McQuillan has made a positive impact on countless lives in her 30 years as a trauma clinical nurse specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, which she calls “a fascinating place to work.”
Dealing with a wide range of patient conditions and potential treatments has always been intriguing, McQuillan says. “I first became enthralled with critical care nursing when I would pass the trauma center as an UMSON undergrad,” she recalls. “Then, once I began working there, nurses and attending physicians would teach us all about trauma, its consequences, and treatment. I learned so much.”
Since she began at Shock Trauma in the mid-1980s, McQuillan has witnessed many changes. “Improved technologies mean we can support nearly every body system now,” she explains. “Injury repair is often less invasive or done in stages versus all at once so that patients recover faster.”
Other changes are a result of more sophisticated multidisciplinary protocols and order sets, which allow nurses to implement interventions based on specific criteria. “Today’s regulatory landscape challenges nurses to ensure preventive interventions are in place,” she continues. “But the time and effort involved to document compliance can impact the time we have to be with patients and families, which is vital to the delivery of compassionate care. Family has become a more integral partner in decision-making—they can be at the bedside 24-7 and are even present during resuscitation at some facilities.”
The experience she’s gained during her three decades in the field has led to McQuillan’s roles as a prolific author, editor, and lecturer on trauma topics; she has also held numerous leadership positions, including serving as president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in 2015-16. What would she tell a nurse entering the profession today.
“Ensure you find time for activities that are rejuvenating, and work to develop resilience,” she advises. “Humor is invaluable, as is seeking support from family and colleagues. You need to take care of yourself so you can continue to care well for others.”
Growing up, Elizabeth "Liz" Ness, MS ’93, RN, enjoyed playing "school" with her Suzy Smart Doll, so she thought she might have a future as an educator. However, as time went on, she fell into a career that would become her passion.
Ness, the immediate past president of the University of Maryland School of Nursing Alumni Association, recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award at the 2016 Alumni Reunion. The annual award honors an alumnus for their dedication to excellence and exceptional professional achievements. A 35-year nursing professional, Ness serves as a nurse consultant for education at the Center for Cancer Research (CCR), National Cancer Institute. She is responsible for developing and implementing orientation and professional development programs related to clinical research for CCR. But a career in nursing almost didn’t happen. Ness first considered nursing as a high school student, but quickly began to have a change of heart.
"I wanted to be a nurse midwife, but that desire passed after my first semester of anatomy and physiology," Ness said. "But I didn’t know what else to do, so I stuck with nursing, which has worked out."
Ness went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Boston College. Following graduation, she began working as a staff nurse at what is now Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) while pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. After completing her master’s degree in nursing education, Ness began weighing her options. She didn’t want to leave GUMC, but a golden career opportunity fell into her lap.
"A nurse that I knew was looking for more research nurses for a new Phase I clinic. I was becoming a Phase I research nurse at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University; not that I really knew what that meant," Ness recalls. "That was 23 years ago and I’m still involved in clinical research, which is my passion – working in some capacity as a nurse in clinical research."
Although she was initially unsure about her career path, she is thrilled about how everything has fallen into place. Ness simply learned all that she could about research nursing and incorporated it with her educational background. She encourages other nurses to consider what they can contribute to the field as well.
"There is a whole world of opportunities for nurses in clinical research. I had a blank canvas to work with and have developed an educational curriculum for research nurses," Ness said. "I challenge nurses to learn more about clinical research, as it is through clinical research that we achieve our strongest level of evidence to practice."
Ness is not only an advocate for clinical research but is also a strong supporter of the School of Nursing. She has been a generous donor since 2000 and recently endowed a scholarship, The Eva Carlson Ness Scholarship Endowment. Additionally, she has been a dedicated volunteer since 2008, participating in countless alumni events, including the Alumni Speaker Series, student-alumni speed networking, and career services workshops and seminars.
Marla De Jong, PhD, MS '96, RN, CCNS, FAAN, was a lieutenant colonel when she deployed to Iraq in 2006 to serve as program manager for the Joint Theater Trauma System. While there, she was an integral part of a team of physicians and nurses that transformed the military's trauma care system, saving a higher percentage of wounded personnel than in previous wars.
De Jong is the recipient of the 2014 University of Maryland School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni Award. An Iowa native who earned her BSN at Grand View College before signing on as an Air Force nursing intern at Offutt Air Force Base in eastern Nebraska, she attended the School of Nursing from 1994 to 1996, earning a master's degree in Trauma-Critical Care Nursing. She earned her PhD in nursing from the University of Kentucky in 2005.
There's not much Darlene Curley, MS '82, BSN '80, has not accomplished in her career.
Over the last 30 years, she has been a nurse, a businesswoman, a politician, and an executive. Curley says her career has taken her wherever she felt like she could make a difference—something she doesn’t believe would have been possible without the education and foundation she received at the School of Nursing.
Curley, who earned her BSN in 1980 and her MS in community health nursing/administration in 1982, was recognized for her accomplishments as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
"I’ve been very fortunate in my career, and it starts with attending the University of Maryland, which shares a common mission with me in wanting to improve the health of the community," Curley says.
Since 2009, Curley has served as the executive director of the New York-based Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, a philanthropic program dedicated to tackling today’s most pressing nursing workforce issues.
She also served as a state representative in the Maine legislature from 2002 to 2007, where she established herself as one of the legislature’s top health policy experts. There, she was appointed to the Health Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the State’s Long-term Care Oversight Committee.
"My experience in health care helped me become an advocate for patients, especially those who need help with Medicare and Medicaid. There’s just insufficient support in those areas," says Curley.
Prior to entering politics, which also included a run for Congress in 2006, Curley was founder and CEO of a home health care and medical staffing business, Community Homecare, Inc. She also served on the faculty of the University of Southern Maine and was Director for Strategic Planning for Healthsouth Corporation/Advantage Health.
"I’ve always had an interest in community health and home care," Curley says. "I saw there was a growing demand for home care in the 1980s and worked to help address that need, especially in rural areas where there were often shortages of primary care physicians."
Today, at the Jonas Center, Curley is able to tackle some difficult issues head-on. This includes a recent initiative at the Jonas Center to direct close to $14 million of its own funds (and secured pledges of another $10.5 million in leveraged funds) to prepare 1,000 nurse faculty members and clinical leaders for training, with an emphasis on mental health issues. Mental health is a growing issue nationally, she says, especially as it pertains to veterans returning from war.
Curley encourages today’s nurses to explore continuing educational and advanced-degree opportunities to help them keep pace with the ever-changing health care landscape.
"There continues to be a growing need for health care workers, and there are so many more opportunities for nurses today to fill those specialized roles," she notes.
The 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Dorrie K. Fontaine, PhD, MS '77, RN, FAAN, dean, University of Virginia School of Nursing, and Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing. A passion for critical care nursing underlies Dr. Fontaine's distinguished career as a clinician, scholar, researcher, educator, and nurse leader. At the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Nursing, Dr. Fontaine has implemented appreciative inquiry methodology as the basis for the school's strategic planning and launched an interdisciplinary process to create a transformational model to provide compassionate end-of-life care across the health care spectrum. In addition, she has been a strong advocate for interprofessional education, engaging both medical and nursing students in collaboration with the dean of the UVA School of Medicine. During her tenure, the Macy Foundation awarded both the UVA School of Medicine and the UVA School of Nursing $746,000 for a two-year grant focusing on educating third-year nursing and medical students with an interdisciplinary approach. Her priorities as dean at UVA include continued work in promoting healthy work environments, building more interprofessional collaborations, and increasing diversity in both the faculty and student populations.
Prior to her 2008 appointment at UVA, Dr. Fontaine was associate dean for academic programs and clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing (UCSF). Before going to UCSF, she held associate dean positions and taught at Georgetown University School of Nursing.
In 2003–2004, she served as president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the largest specialty nursing organization in the world. That association recognized her contributions with its Lifetime Member Award.
Dr. Fointaine was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing in 1995, is a recipient of the Society of Critical Care Medicine's Presidential Citation, and is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. One of her alma maters, Villanova University, honored her with a Medallion for Contributions to the Profession in 1999. Dr. Fontaine received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Villanova University, a Master of Science from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, and a PhD from the Catholic University of America.
The 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient was Donna Sullivan Havens, PhD '91, RN, FAAN, a professor in the University of North Carolina School of Nursing at Chapel Hill, where she teaches and mentors doctoral students in health care systems and outcomes.
Dr. Havens delivered the Distinguished Alumna Lecture, "Designing Systems to Shape Desired Outcomes: It All Began in Maryland "at the April 30, 2011 Alumni Reunion.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Havens has studied and published about the organization of nursing and outcomes in hospitals; the nursing work environment; nurse executive leadership, turnover, and outcomes; staff nurse decisional involvement; magnet hospitals; and frontline staff engagement in quality and safety initiatives.
She describes the purpose of her work as "Designing systems to promote desired outcomes (how to do it and how to make it stick)." She developed the Decisional Involvement Scale, an instrument used in the U.S. and internationally to identify levels of actual and desired staff nurse decisional involvement and to monitor change and associated outcomes over time. She is the principal investigator on two five-year initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop hospital capacity to implement what research teaches health care professionals about the organization of the nursing work environment and outcomes in 11 Pennsylvania hospitals (Building Capacity for Better Work & Better Care and Spiraling Upward for Nurse Retention & Quality Care). These action research studies are built on a foundation of partnership with hospitals to implement features of evidence-based nursing work environments to improve the quality of nursing practice and patient care.
Dr. Havens is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) as well as a member of AAN's Expert Panel on Quality and Expert Panel on Magnet Advancements. She is a member of the American Nurses Association; the American Association of Nurse Executives, from which she received the 2009 Nurse Researcher Award; and Academy Health. She serves on the National Advisory Board of the Forum for Shared Governance and the American Organization of Nurse Executives Future Care Delivery Committee, and she is a commissioner on the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet Recognition Commission.
Dr. Havens earned a diploma in nursing from the Grace New Haven School of Nursing at the Yale Medical Center in New Haven, Conn., a BS in nursing from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Penna., an MSN from Villanova University, and a PhD in nursing with an emphasis in health services research from the University of Maryland School of Nursing. She completed post-doctoral research on the organization of nursing and outcomes in the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
The 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient was Myrna Eileen Mamaril, MS '93, RN, CPAN, CAPA, FAAN, nurse manager, Pediatric Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), Johns Hopkins Hospital.
At the Alumni Reunion on May 1, 2010, Mamaril delivered the Distinguished Alumna Lecture, "Legacy of Leadership."
Mamaril is nurse manager of the Pediatric Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and has more than 30 years of clinical expertise in perianesthesia nursing. A captain in the Naval Reserves, Mamaril was instrumental in opening the Pre-surgical Testing Unit and the Ambulatory Procedure Unit services at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Mamaril is recognized as a leader in nursing, which is apparent through the numerous honors she has received during her nursing career. Most recently, she was awarded the JoPAN Mary Hanna Journalism Award for Research and the University of Colorado President's Award. In 2007, she was named a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.
Mamaril began her nursing education at the Lutheran Hospital of Maryland's School of Nursing, where she received her diploma in nursing in 1968. She received her BSN from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 1988 and her MS in Trauma/Critical Care Nursing from the University of Maryland School of Nursing in 1993. Since graduating from the School of Nursing, she completed a post-master's certificate in administration, as well as post-graduate research studies in inferential statistics.
Note that in 2015, an honoree was not named because UMSON inducted 25 inaugural Visionary Pioneers as part of the School's 125th-anniversary celebration.