VCU School of Nursing celebrates 125th anniversary

The Old Dominion Hospital Training School class of 1899.

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing will mark its 125th anniversary this year with a variety of activities to celebrate its tradition of being a leader in nursing education and research.

Founded in 1893 as the Virginia Hospital Training School, it has evolved from offering a diploma in nursing to currently offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. VCU School of Nursing has graduated more than 11,000 nurses and now enrolls approximately 800 students annually.

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Nursing alumna Lisa Feierstein takes her career beyond the hospital

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Like many teenagers, Lisa Feierstein (B.S.’78/N) dreamed of becoming independent after high school and making an impact on the world through meaningful work. After weighing her options, she decided that becoming a nurse would be the best way to make her way in the world.

“I saw nursing as a way to fuel my desire,” she says. “I could make a living and effect change, why wouldn’t I go for it?”

She enrolled at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing and, once on campus, was immersed into both academic and clinical work that gave her the tools and knowledge she needed to forge her own path.

“Looking back on it now, we were doing incredible things at a very young age,” Feierstein says. “It was intense, but I wouldn’t go back and change a single thing.”

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree and initially worked at the then-Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. Feierstein went on to work in home health, public health and medical sales before deciding to return to school. With the goal of growing into a leadership role, she enrolled at Western New England University where she earned an M.B.A. with a minor in health care administration.

“I understood that health care was a business, but after getting my M.B.A., I was starting to understand its inner workings,” she says. “It was a natural fit for me.”

A few years later, she married her husband, Steve, and the couple decided to take destiny into their own hands and start a business. After talking to industry experts and conducting formal research, they leveraged their respective strengths and started Active Healthcare Inc. Partnering with nurses, physicians and other health care professionals throughout North Carolina, the company has provided medical equipment to those with asthma and diabetes statewide for the past 27 years.

“Everything I learned as a nurse and at VCU was a prerequisite for owning my own business,” she says. “I learned collaboration, leadership and, most importantly, how to empower people to take back their health.”

Wanting to give back to the program that gave her the skills she still relies on today, in 2016 Feierstein and her husband established the Feierstein Leadership and Innovation Fund in the VCU School of Nursing. The fund supports a lectureship series or other activities that propel nurses to influence health care through innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship.

The inaugural Feierstein Lecture, held in July, drew 150 students, faculty, alumni and health care professionals to the school to hear Michael R. Bleich, Ph.D., RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, CEO of NursDynamics LLC, talk about how nurse caregivers, educators and scientists possess a unique perspective that makes them ideal innovators.

“When alumni invest in your school that makes it even more special because they’re demonstrating they want others to obtain a great education like they received,” says Jean Giddens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing. “Lisa went on to become a game changer in her industry and has established this fund with her husband to help us develop nurse leaders who will shape the future of our profession.”

Going forward, Feierstein hopes that the fund will empower nurses to think about their skills in a creative way.

“Nurses have the capability to chart the course of health care as we move forward,” she says. “I wanted to provide them the same opportunities that I had and give them the tools to push the envelope even further.”

VCU School of Nursing dean to receive one of nursing’s highest honors

VCU School of Nursing Dean Jean Giddens will receive the NLN Mary Adelaide Nutting Award for Outstanding Teaching or Leadership in Nursing Education.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing Dean Jean Giddens, Ph.D., will receive one of the National League for Nursing’s highest honors on Sept. 16.

Giddens, who was selected from a competitive field of nominees, will receive the NLN Mary Adelaide Nutting Award for Outstanding Teaching or Leadership in Nursing Education during the NLN Education Summit in San Diego. Named after a noted educator, administrator and author considered the world’s first professor of nursing, the award is presented to an NLN member who leads through scholarly activities, contributes as a leader in nursing education, encourages creative interactions with students from diverse backgrounds, mentors and serves as a role model for junior faculty, and publishes scholarly works that advance nursing education knowledge.

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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.”