2006 - Alumni Award Recipients

2006 Alumni Award for Excellence in Nursing

 Poppy Pickering Buchanan, B.S.N. ‘61

Poppy PickeringIn a recent Vanderbilt Nurse article, Poppy Buchanan wrote about the works of others, and specifically about nurses, stating that, “they can do anything.”  There is no question that Poppy, herself, embodies the meaning of that statement.

In 1999, she first partnered with an extraordinary Kenyan nurse to equip a central Kenyan hospital with essential supplies and an x-ray machine.  Since 2003, she has been the primary catalyst for the success of a nurse-managed primary health clinic, Samaria, located in an even more remote area of central Kenya. Samaria serves an impoverished population of subsistence farm families in the village of Ndathi, and is literally a lifeline to thousands of people who walk for hours to receive services. With her deep and abiding faith coupled with sheer determination, unbounded optimism and simple good judgment, she has made a seemingly impossible task a reality – a true, life-saving reality for people half a world away. Along the way, Poppy has managed to engage untold numbers of family, friends and acquaintances who now are part of her mission.  In 2005, Poppy launched a private faith-based organization, Burning Bush, to ensure that Samaria would have long term support in the years to come.

Since her graduation from Vanderbilt in 1961, Poppy has done works of good, works of faith and works of kindness for people from Nashville to Ndathi, and many spots in between.  While she shies away from personal recognition or taking credit for these works, she is nevertheless becoming known for them by people in some of the least likely places.  While on a recent trip with her to Ndathi, we stopped in the ‘off the beaten path’ (way off!) town of Githumi, the site of the hospital Poppy helped equip seven years ago.  The current administrator, whom she had never met, was introduced to her. Before her last name could be spoken, he broke into a huge smile and said, “Yes, Poppy Buchanan! I KNOW you and I am honored to finally meet the woman who has done so much for this hospital and these people.”  Not only do people know her, they know her as an inspiration and symbol of hope.

Poppy Buchanan richly deserves to receive the Vanderbilt School of Nursing Alumni Award for Excellence in Nursing.  She has been creatively entrepreneurial with her nursing visions and deeds.  There is evidence of her works in many places, but in particular in the faces of mothers and children who literally might not be alive today without the efforts of this nurse “who can do anything” – and she has!

2006 Vanderbilt School of Nursing Honorary Alumna
Elizabeth (Betsy) Weiner, B.S.N. ‘75, M.S.N. ‘78, Ph.D. ‘82

Betsey Weiner

Dr. Betsy Weiner has long been considered a pioneer in nursing informatics, producing clinical simulation software in the early 80’s. Her career began at the University of Cincinnati, where she designed hardware and software solutions for nursing students, while providing administrative leadership as a department head. The final decade of her service was spent “on loan” to the university wide computing center, where she ran academic computing and a center for faculty development. Betsy continued to be an active member of Sigma Theta Tau at the local, regional, and international levels. She was recognized for her leadership in nursing by her induction into the American Academy of Nursing in 1998.

Dr. Weiner was recruited to the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in 2000 to integrate informatics across the academic, practice and research missions. Given the unique title of senior associate dean for educational informatics, she began to provide the vision and leadership in informatics support that truly exemplifies “Where Tradition Meets Innovation.”  Under her leadership, the nursing school has been on the cutting-edge of classroom, network, desktop and mobile device support.  Educational innovations such as the clinical log, integration of simulations into the curricula, the use of Blackboard, online testing and evaluation barely touch the many activities Dr. Weiner has implemented and supported to maintain a state-of-the-art program for the nursing school.  She has recruited and developed a strong informatics support team that one faculty described as, “a group that has the ability to make the Vanderbilt School of Nursing appreciate change, not fear it.” She has also taken on the associate director of the International Nursing Coalition for Mass Casualty Education. In that role, she has received $2 million in funding to develop online educational modules for nurses to access around the world. Regardless of her role or activity, Dr. Weiner’s passion, leadership and dedication all combine to promote Vanderbilt School of Nursing as a major informatics leader around the world.   


2006 President’s Award of Distinction
 Hollie Whitmore Potts, M.S.N. ‘94

Hollie Pots

Hollie Potts has been the Unit Manager at Parthenon Pavilion on the Senior Specialty and Neuro-Psychological Units for the past three years.  These units primarily admit mid-latter stage dementia and other neurological disorder patients.  Whitney Simmons, a recent graduate of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing calls Hollie, “an inspiration for all floor nurses on these units.”

Her professionalism is as impressive as her knowledge of psychiatric nursing.  When patients and their families were under a great deal of physical, mental and emotional stress, Hollie consistently provided the professional knowledge and compassionate care that sustained both patients and their families.

Hollie retired this year and will be missed by the entire staff at Parthenon Pavilion. As a graduate of the School of Nursing, Hollie was a marvelous ambassador for Vanderbilt and a model for all nurses throughout her professional career.  She has been an inspiration for fellow employees, families and the psychiatric care giving community here in Nashville. 

2006 Friend of Nursing
 Andrea Higham

Andrea Higham has been the director of corporate equity, the Campaign for Nursing’s Future and New Ventures at Johnson & Johnson since 2002. The Campaign for Nursing’s Future is a pioneering strategy that provides nursing scholarships, faculty fellowships and nursing school grants. In helping to raise more than $5 million for nursing scholarships, faculty fellowships and nursing school grants, the Campaign has had a positive impact on the recruitment and retention of nursing professionals nationwide. Andrea received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Jefferson College of Health Professions in Philadelphia, PA in 2004.  
Andrea isn’t a nurse, but her advertising and marketing skills have had a profound impact on the nursing profession. “I’ve learned many things in four years, and one is that Americans are mostly ignorant—as I was—of how much nurses contribute to the inner workings of hospitals, health care and their communities,” Higham said. “Johnson & Johnson took a three-pronged approach to enhance image, increase recruitment and improve retention.” The $30-plus million campaign launched a Web site (www.discovernursing.com) where people can explore the career and its many specialties. They can search the database for nursing programs, continuing education opportunities, scholarships, professional opportunities and links to job sites.
The site has attracted more than 2.5 million unique visitors and Johnson & Johnson has sent out eight million pieces of recruitment material.  “The campaign has raised more than $7 million by staging Celebration of Nurses Events around the country” Higham said.  Partnering with local nursing and hospital associations and community leaders, Johnson & Johnson pays for the event so that the money raised can go to regional nursing scholarships, nurse educator fellowships and capacity expansion grants for nursing schools.  “Top on my wish list is that government would begin to make an investment in funding for nursing programs,” she said. “We’re trying to raise public awareness, so that people know something needs to be done.”


2006 Alumni Award for Clinical Achievement in Nursing
 Susan Philbin Walsh, B.S.N. ‘61

Sue Walsh

Sue Walsh has been at Vanderbilt for 31 years in the Department of Anesthesiology.  Currently, she is the coordinator of anesthesiology quality improvement.

During her tenure, she has done research projects for Dr. Bradley Smith-- three of them have been published.   The projects involved finding better and more effective pain relief drugs for patients and finding  quick-acting drugs for putting patients to sleep and waking them up.  This has been particularly important because of the increasing demand for day surgery. Sue also developed a Quality Assurance Program for the Department of Anesthesiology, and to date this is the only department that has such a program.  Her office also follows up on all the day surgery patients and provides administrative feedback to nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons. In addition, nausea and vomiting have been reduced due to the development of newer and more effective drugs. The statistics provided by Sue’s team have aided drug studies. The Continuous Quality Improvement Program works with OR services and the nursing managers in each OR and PACU area to report outcomes and satisfaction which allows them to congratulate those doing an excellent job and improve in areas that are needed.  They provide comments on communication or lack of it to patients, doctors, nurses and others in order to provide a higher level of care.

Quality assurance is a new field in the medical arena, and when Sue started it, no one knew much about it.  The computer program can generate a volume of information that people need.  Many times results are posted on the VPIMS Web site for viewing.  The program has flourished. In the beginning, physicians were hesitant but they are now very involved.

Dr. Bradley E. Smith said, “In addition to her many personality assets, Sue was one of the very first ‘clinical research nurses’ at Vanderbilt, and clearly demonstrated that her R.N. approach was indispensable. After working with my research for many years, she broke new trails for nurses by getting into clinical ‘Quality Improvement’. My recollection says she was also the first R.N. at Vanderbilt in that endeavor. I am proud to nominate Sue Walsh for the Alumni Award for Clinical Achievement in Nursing.”