Two VCU schools ranked in top 50 in updated U.S. News & World Report national rankings

The School of Nursing is tied at No. 48 in the updated U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools” national rankings.

Two graduate schools at Virginia Commonwealth University join the ranks of the nation’s top 50 in the 2018 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools,” released March 14.

Among the graduate schools with updated rankings for the 2018 edition, the School of Education is tied at No. 41 and the School of Nursing is tied at No. 48.

Two other graduate programs ranked among the nation’s top 100: the part-time MBA program within the School of Business is No. 80, and the psychology program in the College of Humanities and Sciences is No. 65.

To learn more about the 2018 rankings, including a complete list, visit Not all program areas receive updated rankings each year.

For more about VCU’s rankings, including graduate programs ranked in the top 50 during previous updates by U.S. News & World Report, visit

VCU School of Nursing sickle cell disease expert answers questions in Twitter chat

Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D.

Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D.

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic, life-limiting disease in which chronic anemia, sickled red blood cells and inflammation cause debilitating pain and fatigue, as well as long-term complications to bodily organs.

In the United States, the disease affects up to 100,000 people, the majority of whom are African-American. Globally, it affects millions, and the number of infants born with sickle cell anemia is expected to increase by approximately 30 percent by 2050, according to a study published in the weekly medical journal PLOS Medicine.

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month and, in recognition of the awareness month, VCU Health hosted a VCU Health Chat from 11 a.m. to noon on Sept. 21 with Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing at VCU School of Nursing.

Ameringer is currently working on a two-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health that aims to examine improved approaches to self-managing exercises in adolescents and young adults with sickle cell anemia.

During the chat, she answered questions about how to diagnose, treat and live with the symptoms caused by sickle cell disease.

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In memoriam: Longtime nursing leader Lauren Goodloe

Lauren Goodloe, Ph.D.

Lauren Goodloe, Ph.D.

Lauren Goodloe, Ph.D., assistant dean for clinical operations in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing and nursing director at VCU Medical Center, died July 31 after a courageous, two-year battle with breast cancer. She was 56.

Goodloe joined VCU Medical Center 27 years ago as an oncology nurse, where she dedicated her career to the nursing profession and education. As a respected faculty member and assistant dean, Goodloe strengthened links between the School of Nursing and the medical center. She was a transformational leader. As nursing director for the departments of medicine and geriatric services and nursing research she served as the architect for the professional advancement program recognizing nursing excellence at the point of care.

Deb Zimmermann, DNP, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services, VCU Health System, and Jean Giddens, Ph.D., dean and professor, VCU School of Nursing, remembered Goodloe in a letter to the VCU Health and VCU communities.

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VCU School of Nursing receives grant to increase nurses in community-based clinics

Tamara Zurakowski, Ph.D.

Tamara Zurakowski, Ph.D.

A roughly $800,000 grant will allow the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing to implement a program to increase the number of nurses in community-based clinical sites that provide care to underserved populations.

The two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration will increase nursing students’ clinical experience in primary care and community-based settings with the goal of encouraging them to seek community-based positions when they graduate.

Tamara Zurakowski, Ph.D., clinical associate professor in the VCU Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems, received the grant for her project “Primary care Options to Maximize Opportunities to Transform Education in Nursing (PrOMOTE-Nursing).” The project aims to address the lack of community-based nurses who are prepared to meet the health care needs of the underserved.

“Nearly one-third of nurses working in a community-based setting do not have a bachelor’s degree,” Zurakowski said. “There is a tremendous need for more highly qualified nurses in these locations.”

PROMOTE-Nursing expands on the VCU School of Nursing’s current service-learning model that requires students to complete four hours per week of clinical service during their senior community health clinical course. Through partnerships with innovative community-based primary care settings and population-focused programs, the project will provide an additional eight hours per week of clinical experience for students interested in community-based care.

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Presidential fund champions innovative faculty research projects

Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D.

Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D.

Cancer treatment is a lot to manage at any age, but young people who are still developing an understanding of their illness may not know how to talk about what is happening in their body. Often they are dealing with intense treatments with multiple side effects — hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, pain and distress.

Parents are involved in helping young children with symptom management and also communicating with the doctor. However, as the patient reaches adolescence and then young adulthood, management of care begins to shift into the patient’s hands, and they must learn to prioritize their symptoms and concerns and to communicate with the doctor.

Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D., is a registered nurse and an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing. Ameringer wants to empower adolescent and young adult patients to take control of their treatment through a symptom assessment tool.

Ameringer recently received a $25,000 award from the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund that will allow her to complete a pilot study for the Computerized Symptom Capture Tool she helped design. C-SCAT is an iPad app for patients that allows them to draw a picture of their symptom experience before they meet with their doctor. The intent is to allow both patient and provider to communicate better about what is happening in the treatment.

Ameringer’s grant was one of more than 20 projects to receive funding this year through the PeRQ Fund. Funding totals more than $930,000, including matching funds from faculty departments and schools.

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Nursing student provides hope to seriously ill pediatric patients

Lindsay Kunik.

Lindsay Kunik.

Lindsay Kunik was inspired to start the nonprofit Butterfly Kisses Care Baskets after meeting an 8-year-old pediatric patient named Ellie. The nonprofit, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, aims to support children with cancer and other serious illnesses by providing care baskets, packages and other supportive measures to families. The organization also aims to raise awareness of childhood cancer and other underfunded pediatric diseases.

“After Ellie passed away in 2010, my close friend Holly Walsh and I decided that we wanted to do something in her honor to help children like her,” said Kunik, a senior at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing. “Butterflies were an important symbol to Ellie and her family during her illness. To me, they were also a sign of change and hope.”

Since 2010, Butterfly Kisses has served more than 300 children with serious life-threatening illnesses. Both Kunik and Walsh visit local children in hospitals and their homes and mail packages to families throughout the U.S.

“For families that are not local, we create a collage with photos that the family provides to us,” she said. In addition, the child and siblings receive a personalized goody box filled with small toys that are age appropriate, such as crayons, small art projects, jewelry, games, Play-Doh and stickers. If the child is local, they receive a larger care basket filled with art sets, fleece blankets, decorated pillow cases, handheld games, chalk and bubbles.

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Alumna leads at the bedside and beyond

Henrisa Tosoc-Haskell stands in front of the UNOS National Donor Memorial, which honors all organ, eye and tissue donors. Photo by Andrew Swartz/UNOS

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

When the United Network for Organ Sharing merged two units into a newly created department of member quality, the organization set its sights on finding someone with the right set of skills to help the organization, and its employees, navigate the new course.

“Embarking on a journey from a compliance-focused organization to an organization focused on performance improvement, we were looking for someone who had experience with quality practices and performance improvement,” says Maureen McBride, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’95/M), UNOS’ chief contract operations officer.

They found their match in Henrisa Tosoc-Haskell (M.S.’88/N; M.S.H.A.’02/AHP), who joined the Richmond-based organization last July as director of member quality.

“I wasn’t really looking for a change,” says Tosoc-Haskell, who at the time was working as corporate director of quality and clinical improvement at Bon Secours Health System. “But when I sat down with the team here, I saw how mission-driven they were, and I decided to come aboard.”

Quality and performance improvement has always been one of Tosoc-Haskell’s passions. She serves on the National Board of Examiners for the Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence, the only presidential award given to organizations for performance excellence. She has also been an examiner for the board, at both state and national levels, for the past four years.

This article appears in the spring 2016 issues of the award-winning alumni magazines Shafer Court Connections and Scarab. VCU Alumni members receive a complimentary subscription to the magazines. Not a member? Join today to get your copy in the mail.

“Her clinical background, having worked in different hospital settings, and her work with the Baldrige Award were a huge advantage,” McBride says of Tosoc-Haskell’s credentials.

Tosoc-Haskell earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Old Dominion University and then joined the nursing extern program at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, where she continued work as a nurse for several years before changing her focus to gerontology. She enrolled in the master’s program at the VCU School of Nursing and, as part of her studies, worked on a home-care team under Peter Boling, M.D. (H.S.’84/M), professor and chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine in the VCU School of Medicine.

“I was really fortunate to work under Dr. Boling, but I had a desire to broaden my focus to the other end of the health care continuum,” she says.

Tosoc-Haskell took several sports medicine classes toward the end of her studies and, after graduation, moved to Louisiana where she worked as an athletic trainer for the Louisiana State University football team. She returned to Richmond, and VCU, to earn her master’s in health administration and, because of her experience at LSU, landed a position as practice director with VCU Sports Medicine. There, she played a role in the construction of the Sports Medicine Center on West Broad Street near the Siegel Center.

“It broadened my skills in leadership and management,” Tosoc-Haskell says of her tenure at Sports Medicine. “It was a great opportunity to showcase everything I had learned up to that point.”

In 2003, she moved to Bon Secours Health System in Marriottsville, Maryland, where she spent the next 11 years.

Today, as UNOS’ director of member quality, Tosoc-Haskell monitors the performance of transplant hospitals, organ procurement organizations and laboratories that work with UNOS and their compliance with organ procurement and transport policies.

“She’s been amazing,” McBride says. “She’s really unified the team. Taking two departments and making them one can be challenging from a management and operational perspective, and she really brought them together. She also spearheaded a number of projects to improve our internal operations and change our vision for how we want to see member quality operate in the future.”

For Tosoc-Haskell, the most rewarding part of the job is knowing how her work gives others a chance to live.

“We have people who’ve been on organ waitlists for a long time,” she says. “But because of the work we do, our monitoring and expertise, we can provide an organ to recipients in an efficient and safe way. It’s that sense of purpose that drives the work we do at UNOS.”

VCU School of Nursing receives grant to explore effect of yoga on depression during pregnancy

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a grant to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing for a pilot study that will examine how motivational interviewing and prenatal yoga might reduce or prevent depression during and after pregnancy.

Patricia Kinser, Ph.D.(B.S’03/N;M.S.’04/N), assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing, received the two-year, $456,579 grant for her project “Self-Management of Chronic Depressive Symptoms in Pregnancy.”

“Nearly 20 percent of pregnant women experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy and 13 percent experience chronic, recurrent symptoms,” said Kinser, whose research focuses on stress and depression in women and their families.

Depressive symptoms may significantly threaten a pregnant woman’s well-being. In February, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed health panel, recommended that pregnant and post-pregnant women receive depression screenings.

“Appropriate treatment of depressive symptoms in pregnancy is essential, yet many women find the typical treatments such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy insufficient to address their symptoms,” Kinser said, adding that women are often concerned about the stigma and cost of drugs and the possible side effects on themselves or their babies.

“Pregnant women are in great need of safe, inexpensive self-management therapies to enhance their well-being, reduce the burden of symptoms during and after pregnancy and prevent chronic reoccurrence of depression,” Kinser said.

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VCU School of Nursing names new chair of Department of Adult Health and Nursing

Beth Rodgers, Ph.D.

Beth Rodgers, Ph.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University today appointed Beth Rodgers, Ph.D., as professor and chair of the Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems in the School of Nursing. Rodgers previously served as professor and research chair at the University of New Mexico School of Nursing. She has been a prominent scholar, consultant and nursing educator for more than three decades, having served most of her career in various leadership positions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing.

“We are thrilled that a highly talented nurse leader of Beth’s caliber is joining our leadership team,” said Jean Giddens, Ph.D., professor and dean of the School of Nursing. “Her innovative scholarly work and research, as well as her leadership experience will complement the great work underway at our school.”

Rodgers is widely known for her work in qualitative and mixed methods research with adults experiencing chronic illness, major life change and obstructive sleep apnea. She has consulted extensively on Ph.D. nursing education and for faculty development related to philosophy, theory and scholarly thinking throughout the curriculum. She serves on numerous editorial and grant review boards and was a member of the Sleep Apnea Patient Advisory committee of the federally funded Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

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VCU School of Nursing student and alumna selected as a Jonas Scholar


Christina Wilson

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing announced that Christina Wilson, RN, WHNP-BC (M.S.’13/N), a Ph.D. student, was selected for the highly competitive Jonas Nurse Leader Scholars Program of the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare. She is one of 425 doctoral students nationwide chosen for the 2016-2018 cohort.

The mission of the Jonas Scholar program is to increase the number of doctorally prepared faculty available to teach in nursing schools nationwide and the number of nurse leaders providing direct patient care and filling roles as clinical faculty. Sponsored by the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, the program provides financial assistance, leadership development and networking support to expand the pipeline of future nurse faculty and advanced practice nurses.

As a Jonas Scholar, Wilson will receive a $10,000 scholarship, matched by the VCU School of Nursing, to support her doctoral studies. She joins more than 1,000 future nurse educators and leaders at 140 universities across all 50 states supported by Jonas Center programs, the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholars Program and Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program (JVHP). These scholarships support nurses pursuing Ph.D.s and DNPs, the terminal degrees in the field, as part of a national effort to stem the faculty shortage and prepare the next generation of nurses, which is critical as a clinical nurse shortage is anticipated just as an aging population requires care.

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