Yale School of Nursing (YSN) celebrated Commencement for the Class of 2022 on Old Campus and a diploma ceremony on school grounds on May 23. And for the first time in three years, in-person festivities included a huge tent packed with hundreds of guests.
As Dean Ann Kurth ’90 MSN, PhD, CNM MPH, FAAN said in her remarks: “Yale nurses and midwives have done what few other Yale students can. For those in the audience who may not know, more than 100 YSN students staffed the mass vaccination clinic at the Payne Whitney gym, which many of you may have seen earlier today on Old Campus.”
“More than 30 YSN students staffed the Campus Covid Resource Line, which at times fielded more than 4,000 nervous phone calls in a single week. Covid will always define your early clinical career, but the nurses and midwives here today will also come to define care beyond Covid.”
Family Nurse Practitioner graduate Rachel Romero ’22 MSN gave the student remarks, in which she recalled an early lesson in donning sterile gloves.
“In hindsight, this task taught me two things. The first is that any new knowledge base or skill set we set out to master takes time. It takes time and repetition and resignation to the fact that it will not always be easy. In fact, sometimes even the simplest things may be exceedingly difficult at first. Like when you freak out that the midline is clogged because you can’t flush it, and spend 20 minutes panicking, all to realized it was clamped – and that’s why you didn’t get blood return. Moments like these are our best teachers; while we may fumble at first, anything we set our minds to and dedicate ourselves to is possible.”
Guest speaker Admiral Rachel L. Levine, the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, was unable to attend in person due to unforeseen responsibilities with the World Health Organization and provided pre-recorded remarks.
Admiral Levine reflected on her experience as an openly transgender woman whose career has included decades of clinical practice, academic teaching, and public service. She encouraged graduates to be open to new possibilities throughout their work and think about the words of American writer, teacher, and philosopher Joseph Campbell:
“Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses towards growth. We must let go of the life that we had planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”
Admiral Levine also applauded the class for all the ways in which they can, do, and will make a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families.
“On the days that you get frustrated with our medical and public health system — and there will be a few — please remember the ways in which your work improves people’s lives. And even saves people’s lives.”
Incoming YSN Alumni Association President Elyssa Noce ’17 MSN, APRN, AGPCNP-C, CDN asked graduates to reflect on the moment they decided to pursue nursing or midwifery as a career.
“I can still clearly remember the day I was working as a nurse in the dialysis unit in downtown New Haven when I realized I needed to advance my own education and career if I wanted to make a difference in overcoming the inequity my patients faced daily and to improve the care they could receive. Now, nearly ten years later, I look back on my time as a YSN student and alumna and am so incredibly happy with my path and can’t imagine doing anything else.”
The pageantry of Yale is on full display during Commencement weekend, and this year was no exception. Several YSN graduates and faculty acted in ceremonial capacities.
Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner student Valerie Williams ’22 MSN served as the banner bearer, carrying the flag with the school’s shield through the streets of New Haven during the Old Campus ceremony.
Lecturer in Nursing in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program Nicole Maciejak ’06 MSN, APRN, CPNP served as the faculty marshal.
Annie Goodrich Professor of Nursing and former dean Dr. Margaret Grey, DrPH, RN, FAAN, was chosen as the university’s senior marshal, an honor reserved for a distinguished retiring faculty member.
Family Nurse Practitioner student Marcus Sheppard ’22 MSN and MaryEllen Hope Kosturko ’22 DNP, MA were especially enthusiastic student marshals.
Annie Goodrich Award for Excellence in Teaching
Romero presented the Annie Goodrich Award for Excellence in Teaching to Dr. Sharen McKay, PhD. Named for YSN’s inaugural dean and nominated by students, the award recognizes a faculty member who carries on the tradition of exceptional nursing education, empathy, and concern for all.
Dr. McKay was described as humble, kind, and fair, and she was especially honored for “her ability to present complex material in a way that follows current evidence-based teaching techniques, and her strive and drive to further promote the transfer of knowledge in her students is by far unmatched. She embodies the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of her teaching, is receptive to feedback, and frequently checking the pulse of the class to address concerns.”
Charles King, Jr. Memorial Scholars Aid Prize
The Charles King, Jr. Memorial Scholars Aid Prize was awarded to Family Nurse Practitioner Emily Brown ’22 MSN in recognition of her outstanding performance in scholarship, research, and clinical practice and inspiration to others through accomplishments in and leadership of all aspects of study.
During her years at YSN, Brown worked tirelessly in service to the missions of advancing equitable care for marginalized LGBTQ+ populations and reproductive rights. She participated in the Gender, Sexuality, and Health Justice concentration, and assumed the leadership role of director of the Reproductive Health Department of the Haven Free Clinic and created processes, protocols, and templates that ultimately optimized patient care for everyone.
Brown transformed the clinical care being provided in the Reproductive Health Department into guideline-based, inclusive care for the under-resourced populations of New Haven. She expanded the types of care provided within the department and increased the number of volunteering clinicians with expertise in Reproductive Health.
The Milton and Anne Sidney Prize
The Milton and Anne Sidney Prize was awarded to Dr. Christine Torres, ’22 DNP, MSN, RN, APRN, FNP-BC in recognition of her commitment to clinical research and contributions to YSN’s mission of better health for all people. Dr. Torres’s project “Climate Change and Renal Health: The Development and Evaluation of a Toolkit of Healthcare Professionals,” developed and implemented an evidence-based climate change and renal health toolkit as a knowledge translation strategy for facilitating practice change among healthcare professionals and optimizing renal health.
The focus is especially on vulnerable patient populations with socioeconomic disparities including migrants, outdoor and manual workers, and unsheltered homeless populations. The toolkit was piloted at two primary care clinics at the VA in Central Texas and is slated to be scaled across the VA system.
The online toolkit is now available free of cost as a public health process improvement strategy to change healthcare professionals’ behavior and to leverage current knowledge and best practices to the betterment of patient care and outcomes.
Heather Dawn Reynolds Equity Award
In its second year, the Heather Dawn Reynolds Equity Award was presented to Nathan Levitt, FNP-BC, MSN, RN, BSN, MA, Director of LGBTQ and Gender Justice Learning. Levitt was praised for serving as an inspiring role model and champion for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at YSN and the broader university community.
In the last year, he has revamped the Gender and Sexuality Health Justice concentration, consulted extensively with YSN faculty, contributed nationally representing APRN expertise—including for clinical guidelines and key texts. He generously and expertly shares his wealth of knowledge of harm reduction practices, racial equity and LGBTQ care. And his LGBTQ care toolkit assignment is one that will be accessible to students for years after they leave YSN, fully embracing YSN’s goal of creating and supporting lifelong learners.
Enjoy More Commencement Coverage
Watch the full YSN diploma ceremony, including all the speeches and prize winner presentations, on the YSN YouTube Channel.
Relive the pomp and circumstance of the complete Old Campus ceremony on the Yale University YouTube Channel. Tune in at the 7-minute mark to watch banner bearer Williams and faculty marshal Maciejak start the YSN procession, and then see student marshals Sheppard and Kosturko come through at 7:30 at the head of the YSN Class of 2022.
Hear the roar of the crowd at 48:10, when Dean Kurth confers degrees and the apricot-clad class erupts in a shower of confetti and silly string.
Yale News compiled a special 312st Commencement video that kicks off with Pediatric Nurse Practitioner graduate Janice Lu ’22 MSN.
And savor the especially hard-won Commencement festivities of the Classes of 2020 and 2021, who returned to campus on May 14.
Viewers will hear the beautiful strings of Yale School of Music musicians Florrie Marshall ’18 MM, ’26 Doctor of Musical Arts and Kate Arndt ’19 MM, ’26 Doctor of Musical Arts at both the May 14 Alumni Ceremony and the May 23 Class of 2022 Ceremony.