For one mother and son, parallel paths led to Yale School of Nursing

May 17, 2024

By Mallory Locklear

For Vanessa Landegger and her son Dylan Antonioli, nursing has become a family affair — even if they each took their own routes getting there.

Vanessa Landegger and her son, Dylan Antonioli.

Vanessa Landegger and her son, Dylan Antonioli.

Twenty-three years ago, soon after starting medical school, Vanessa Landegger made the difficult choice to leave. Becoming an obstetrician/gynecologist had been her longtime dream, but so had starting a family. And with her first child — eight-month-old Dylan — at home, Vanessa felt pulled thin by two competing centers of gravity.

But Vanessa found her way back to health care and on Monday will graduate from Yale School of Nursing (YSN) with a Master of Science in Nursing. Even more special: she shared her final year at YSN with her son Dylan Antonioli, who just finished his first year there.

Vanessa and Dylan speak to and about each other with respect and admiration. They’re just as quick to joke as they are to praise. And their easy back-and-forth also played a big part in both of their paths to YSN.

After Vanessa left medical school, she and her husband raised Dylan and his two siblings; she went on to get a master’s degree in public health and another in education, and then taught elementary-school science for 10 years. Meanwhile, when Dylan was 17, he decided to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the local emergency medical services (EMS) corps, in New Canaan, Connecticut, where the family lived.

He became an EMT with really great accolades,” said Vanessa. “I would get messages from people in the community about him and just how appreciated he was, how helpful he was to people in their worst moments.”

One day, Dylan told Vanessa he thought she would really enjoy being an EMT.

I was like, well, I wish I had 15 minutes to consider doing such a thing,” said Vanessa. “But when your child comes to you and says, ‘Hey, this is a cool thing. You would like it. I’ve thought about you in this context,’ that’s such a lovely thing. And we’ve always had a very close relationship, so I took the training class.”

Vanessa became an active EMT, while still teaching part time, in May of 2019, not long after Dylan.

By that time, Dylan had already started thinking about nursing.

I worked with a nurse when I was an EMT in high school, and I heard a lot about it from her,” said Dylan. He started at Georgetown University in the undergraduate nursing program, but “I found it difficult because they weren’t talking about the ‘why’ enough,” he said.

What I love about medicine is the why, every detail, and how it builds from the smallest parts to the actual presentation. That’s what gets me going.”

So he switched to a pre-med track.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Dylan returned to New Canaan. Together, he and Vanessa helped keep the town’s EMS corps staffed and running.

There were some really, really intense moments,” said Vanessa. “And my feeling was that if I was loving that work in that milieu, then I needed to listen to that.”

She decided to apply to nursing school. To prepare, she took prerequisite courses online through Georgetown, some with Dylan. They once showed up to the same professor’s Zoom office hours, surprising each other and the professor, who hadn’t known they were related.

Then in 2021, Vanessa started her master’s coursework at YSN.

Dylan had ended up as a psychology major — “Doing pre-med classes online was not the right fit for me,” he said — but his mom’s experience at YSN brought nursing back to the forefront of his mind. During his senior year, it was Vanessa’s turn to help Dylan find what suited him best.

Vanessa was taking a class with Mary-Ann Cyr, a senior lecturer at YSN and an acute care nurse practitioner — the specialty Dylan felt himself leaning toward.

I approached her and told her that my kid was thinking about nursing school, that he knew what he wanted to do in his career. But I didn’t think there was a way for him to know what being a nurse practitioner in acute care looked like,” said Vanessa. “And she said, ‘He can shadow me.’”

For a weekend in the fall of 2022, Dylan shadowed Cyr and loved it. “I was like, ‘Do I have to leave?” he said.

Dylan ultimately applied to YSN. Vanessa was so confident he’d get in that she sent a family friend in Washington, D.C. a Yale hat and asked her to deliver it to Dylan, who was finishing up at Georgetown, once he was accepted.

When he received his letter of admission, Vanessa said, “I was sent an absolutely delightful photograph of him wearing the hat.”

Since they were at two different stages of their nursing education, there wasn’t much overlap this past year. But, between classes, they’d find time for a quick hug.

Now, as Vanessa prepares to leave YSN and take her next step, she and Dylan continue to cheer each other on. She’s thrilled for him to start his specialty year, in adult/gerontology acute care. Dylan’s excited for Vanessa to officially start her new career as a midwife. She recently accepted a position at one of the hospitals she and Dylan used to serve as EMTs.

I’m also a little jealous of Dylan,” said Vanessa. “Because he’s finishing this program in his 20s and I’m finishing it in my early 50s — very early 50s.”

Naturally, she also has some parting advice.

As you go through the specialty year, let yourself just drift into the experience of it. Because the intensity is actually where some of the learning comes in,” Vanessa said to Dylan. “And trust that there will be time to figure out the rest of your life.”

Nobody knows that better than she does.

This story was originally published on Yale News.