The 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award and Decade Awards saluted four years of winners.
Amid the excitement of centennial kickoff programming, Yale School of Nursing (YSN) also celebrated a golden anniversary: 50 years of the Distinguished Alumni Awards.
The first recipients were drawn from classes 1926 through 1948, and the decades of their YSN educations include devastating lows, such as epidemics of polio. But they also include historic triumphs, such as a woman in New Haven who is considered the first patient ever cured by penicillin.
More than 100 Yale nurses and midwives have been honored as Distinguished Alumni since 1973, and two years ago the Decade Award was introduced to salute the accomplishments of Yale nurses and midwives early in their post-YSN careers.
Discarding the gloom of the Covid-19 years that precluded in-person celebrations in 2020, 2021, and 2022, this year’s ceremony celebrated the latest winners and the honorees from those years.
“The Distinguished Alumni Awards and Decade Awards recognize YSN graduates who became leaders—leaders who had the vision, spirit, and perseverance to do what it took to innovate, create, and implement groundbreaking efforts,” said Dean Azita Emami, PhD, MSN, BSN, RNT, RN, FAAN. “Those efforts are making a meaningful difference in the lives of countless people, raising the visibility of our profession, and reshaping health care in America.”
Lucinda Canty ’94 MSN, PhD, RN, CNM, FACNM, FAAN
Dr. Lucinda Canty is a certified nurse-midwife, Associate Professor of Nursing, and Director of Seedsworks Health Equity in Nursing Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her BSN from Columbia University, her MSN from Yale University in the nurse-midwifery specialty, and her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Canty is an artist, poet, and historian. Her research interests include the prevention of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity, reducing racial and ethnic health disparities in reproductive health, and eliminating racism in nursing and midwifery. Her scholarship has led to the development of Lucinda’s House, a Black Maternal Health Collective, to promote maternal health equity through community collaboration and programs that provide support and education.
She currently hosts web discussions on “An Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing,” in The American Journal of Nursing, which she co-authored in 2022. In 2022, she was inducted into the American College of Nurse-Midwives as a Fellow. In October, she was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing.
Ann Kurth ’90 MSN, PhD, CNM, MPH, FAAN, FACNM
Dr. Kurth leads in health and higher education, with a passion for health equity. As the 10th Dean of YSN, she worked with faculty, alumnae, students, staff, and colleagues across Yale to advance YSN’s mission of better health for all people.
During her seven years as dean, she helped lead YSN to its highest ranking (4th in US/7th globally); doubled operating budgets, tuition revenue, and endowment; increased student and faculty representativeness and created the first philanthropy board She co-led Yale’s sustainability Initiative; contributed to its strategy for diversity and inclusion; and co-founded the Yale Institute for Global Health.
Currently, Dr. Kurth serves as President of the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), the first nurse and epidemiologist leader in its 176-year history of advancing healthier lifespans for all.
Decade Winner: Pritma Dhillon-Chattha ’18 DNP, MHA, RN
As a proud first-generation, Yale-educated nurse and executive leader, Dr. Pritma Dhillon-Chattha is fully committed to improving lives through innovation in healthcare. Her most recent venture, Lavender, is the largest online psychiatry and therapy office founded and designed by nurses to offer more impactful mental healthcare. Lavender and its growing team of 83 has helped more than 6,000 people through more than 60,000 appointments since launching in May 2020.
Dr. Pritma Dhillon-Chattha’s 20-year nursing career also includes founding and successfully exiting two prior startups; serving as Provincial Director of Electronic Quality & Safety for the largest health system in Canada; and being hired as the first nurse by one of Canada’s largest airlines to create their occupational health, safety & wellness program.
Her loyalty to her convictions has created an avalanche of amazing opportunities, including multiple current faculty and public service appointments, professional speaking engagements, board appointments, and ultimately her own loving family of two beautiful children and a supportive husband.
Decade Winner: Brighid Gannon ’18 DNP, PMHNP-BC
Dr. Gannon is a doctorally prepared psychiatric nurse practitioner, a native of New York City, and the co-founder of Lavender, the largest nurse owned and operated telepsychiatry practice in the United States.
In addition to her role at Lavender, Dr. Gannon is the founder of Ivy Psychiatry, a healthcare organization that provides psychiatric care for patients living in skilled nursing facilities. She believes that mental health care is a human right and fundamental to overall wellness. Her mission is to re-imagine how psychiatric care is delivered in order to make the mental health journey more effortless, kind, and effective.
Prior to entrepreneurship, Dr. Gannon was the Associate Director of Behavioral Health at the Institute for Community Living’s (ICL) Tillary Street Women’s Shelter in Brooklyn, NY. Even though she no longer works in the shelter, she has remained deeply committed to her previous nonprofit employer, ICL. In recognition of that commitment, Dr. Gannon was honored with the 2022 ICL Hero Donor Award.
Read more about the 2023 Decade Award winners here.
Shannon Fitzgerald ’80 MSN
Starting with her days at YSN, Fitzgerald has been dedicated toward the removal of unnecessary barriers to practice for Nurse Practitioners (NPs). In the 1980s in Nevada, she worked toward prescriptive authority and equitable third-party reimbursement for NPs and continued similar work in Washington state. She served two terms as a member of the Washington State Nursing Care Commission and was delighted to participate with nursing advocacy organizations to eliminate the last barrier to full prescriptive authority in Washington state.
Mary Geary ‘74 MSN
At 15, Geary helped administer the Sabin polio vaccine in Louisiana. After graduating from YSN, she taught in New Jersey and served as a Chief Nurse Executive in Florida. Relocation to Los Angeles brought a major transition to a West Coast Regional VP role for a company managing rehabilitation units in hospitals. Geary later started her own consulting company focusing on operational improvement, interim executive roles, and executive coaching. As President of the YSNAA she expanded mentoring programs and for many years conducted a popular negotiation skills seminar.
Beth Baldwin Tigges ’84 MSN, PhD
Dr. Tigges is a Regents’ Professor at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing, in Albuquerque, NM. She has led or co-led multiple U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) interdisciplinary initiatives to address knowledge gaps in research infrastructure, team science and mentoring, and she has promoted the concept that leadership should be a priority for all nurses, regardless of role or seniority. She co-developed and led psychometric-testing of the first set of scales to measure organizational mentoring climate and an observational rubric for scoring mentors’ behavioral interactions with mentees.
Decade Winner: Nicole Seagriff ’11 MSN, DNP
While at Yale Dr. Seagriff recognized the need for access to primary care services for underserved patients and completed an additional year of training through the nation’s first nurse practitioner residency program at The Community Health Center, Inc (CHCI). Diagnosed with breast cancer twice before age 35, Dr. Seagriff is President of The Pink Agenda, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to raising money and awareness among young professionals for breast cancer research and care. The Pink Agenda has raised nearly $7 million and reached over 1,000 participants through its Speaker Series and other events.
Read more about the 2022 recipients here.
Wailua Brandman ’94 MSN, APRN, PMHCNS/NP BC CHMRP, FAANP
Brandman was the first Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) in Hawai’i in 1995 and the first PMHNP to become a primary care provider (PCP) in 2009. In 2007, he co-founded the Hawai`i Association of Professional Nurses, serving as founding president. He co-founded the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Hawai`i chapter and is a past president. He was member-at-large of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Board of Directors and was instrumental in achieving full practice for APRNs in Hawai’i in 2011.
Terri Clark ’76 BA, ’79 MSN, PhD, MA, CNM, APRN, FACNM
For 42 years, Clark has used her YSN nurse-midwifery education to teach in midwifery graduate programs as well as to provide full scope midwifery care in New Haven, the Bronx, and San Diego. She has worked directly and taught with midwives and health care providers in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Ecuador. Clark’s scholarship and publications are focused on topics related to the development of ethical international midwifery education. She is Professor Emerita at Seattle University College of Nursing.
Decade Winner: Stephanie Tillman ’12 MSN, CNM, FACNM
Tillman is a midwife, writer, and activist. She trains consults on resource development, provides legal consultation, and publishes regularly on abortion, trauma-informed care, and queer inclusivity. Among her leadership roles, she is Chair of the American College of Nurse Midwives Ethics Committee. On sabbatical from clinical practice, she is now a PhD student in Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University focusing on consent in sexual and reproductive healthcare exams through frameworks of feminist ethics and queer theory. You can follow her on Instagram @FeministMidwife.
Janet Parkosewich ’85 MSN, ’08 DNSc, RN, FAHA
Recently retired from her inaugural role as a nurse researcher at Yale New Haven Hospital, Parkosewich’s nursing practice spanned over 52 years. She is known for her work in the acute care setting for driving practice innovations that ensure quality of care and responsiveness to patients’ needs. This work has focused primarily on reducing delays for treatment to ST-segment myocardial infarction, increasing awareness of heart disease in women, and establishing infrastructures for advancing the scholarly work of acute care nurses through evidence-based practice and research.
Brenda Penner ’76 MSN
After graduation, Penner worked at YSN as a clinical instructor/lecturer. Now retired, she has worked as an Army nurse, clinician, certified nurse midwife, director of nursing, manager, educator, and consultant working in women’s health, public health, home health, and hospice. She recently served on YSN’s Alumni Association Board of Directors and organized Yale Day of Service events in Oregon and New Haven. She is responsible for YSN’s award-winning, largest Yale Day of Service project, Newborns in Need.
Deborah Van Dyke ’86 MSN, MPH
Van Dyke founded Global Health Media Project (GHMP) in 2010, a non-profit organization that designs and produces video and animation to teach frontline health workers and families in low-resource settings. GHMP has produced more than 250 videos in numerous languages on topics such as newborn care, breastfeeding, nutrition, and diabetes. As of 2023, more than 7,000 organizations use their videos including WHO, UNICEF, MSF, Save the Children, Health Ministries, teaching institutions (including YSN), and NGOs large and small.
Check out the full list of 50 years of winners here.
For more information on the people, stories, and events that compose the YSN Centennial (September 2023 – May 2024), please visit nursing.yale.edu/centennial.