News ReleaseCarol Etherington Named 2007 Vanderbilt University Distinguished Alumna (06/06/07)
Nashville, TN -- Carol Etherington, MSN, R.N., assistant professor at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, has been named the 2007 Distinguished Alumna for making a profound impact on behalf of the underserved in local, national and international settings.
The Vanderbilt Alumni Association established the award in 1996 to recognize alumni who have furthered Vanderbilt's mission globally through outstanding achievement and service.
"This is a very lovely and meaningful honor, but this moment is not about just me," said Etherington, upon learning about the news. "It is about the thousands of nurses and health care providers around the globe. You may never learn their names, but their tireless commitment to others and their humanity changes the world, one by one by one."
In addition to serving as a faculty member, Etherington is a 1975 graduate of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing's master's program. A mental health expert, she has focused largely on traumatized populations, creating effective community-based programs for the health and human rights of individuals, families, and communities who have survived natural disasters, war, crime or other abuses. Etherington has globally impacted individuals, families and communities with her work addressing health and mental health.
"Carol Etherington is a global citizen whose tireless efforts, often at great peril to herself, have made the world a better, safer place," said Chancellor Gordon Gee. "Whether it is leading a medical team in a refugee camp, advocating for changes in policy, or teaching in the classroom, her life is an example for every member of the Vanderbilt community. We are proud to recognize her with this award."
"Carol is a wonderful example of how one life can touch thousands of others and ultimately help change things for the better," said Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry Jacobson, M.D. "We are lucky to have her as a professor in our nursing school where she inspires and challenges our students.
"Her selfless work on behalf of those who so desperately need health care and the impact of her work is without question," said Karen Thomas Fesmire, president of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association.
After graduating from college, Etherington joined Frontier Nursing Service in rural Appalachia, providing health care for a largely indigent population. In 1975, she initiated the Victim Intervention Program in Nashville, one of the first police-based counseling programs in the U.S.
In 1980, she began her international work in the aftermath of the Pol Pot genocide and in the 1990s she became actively involved with Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), working in Bosnia, Poland, Honduras, Tajikistan, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Angola. She was instrumental in strengthening the role of mental health in the comprehensive health care program for Doctors without Borders. Etherington went on to become the first nurse elected to the U.S. Board of Directors for Doctors without Borders, serving two terms as board president.
Etherington has also continued her work on several missions in the U.S., including the aftermath of Sept. 11, the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and Hurricane Katrina. She remains a Red Cross disaster volunteer and, as a community health nurse, participates in local and regional projects related to refugee and immigrant populations.
"She is a great example of the profound difference that a nurse can make," said Colleen Conway-Welch, dean of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing. "Whether she is working with the formerly homeless population here in Nashville at Mercury Courts or whether she is half way around the world in Africa and Asia helping a rural clinic get off the ground, Carol's focus is about restoring the whole person and figuring out ways to bring hope in seemingly hopeless situations."
A special award dinner will be held in Etherington's honor this fall. The Vanderbilt Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award is bestowed on a periodic basis upon someone whose accomplishments and contributions have had a positive effect on humankind. Previous recipients of the award are Muhammad Yunus, Dr. Norman E. Shumway, Cal Turner Jr., Delbert Mann, Dr. Antonio Grotto, Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr., Dr. Mildred T. Stahlman, and Rev. James Lawson.