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The first weekend of April brought a lot of excitement to the School of Nursing as we celebrated alumni from class years ending in ‘9 and ‘4, along with our St. Philip alumnae and grand alumni. Reunion attendees were invited back on campus for a weekend of activities including a lunch and tour at the MCV Library, a health care entrepreneurship panel, the School of Nursing all classes reception and dinner, the State of the School address and Alumni Awards presentation, tours of the school’s Clinical Learning Center and Biobehavioral Research Labs, and a breakfast with the dean. It was such a pleasure to see so many nursing alumni come back to reconnect with each other and the school. View pictures from the weekend!

With Reunion Weekend came the annual alumni awards ceremony. This past winter we invited the School of Nursing community to nominate alumni who they felt were deserving of one of the four Nursing Alumni Awards. The winners of these awards were recognized during the State of the School Address at Reunion Weekend.

Outstanding Nurse Service Award

Dean Giddens with Kathy Baker M.S. ‘94/N, Ph.D. ‘11/N

This award honors an alumnus who has shown outstanding leadership and service to the community, the school or the university, or professional or community organizations. Kathy Baker (M.S.‘94/N, Ph.D.‘11/N) is this year’s recipient.

Baker is the associate vice president and associate chief nursing officer for VCU Health. Prior to this position she was the nursing director of Resource Management and Emergency Services at VCU Health.  She holds both her Master’s and Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University with a focus on Nursing Systems. Baker is also a nurse scientist at VCUHS with a research focus in work environments and top of license practice. Her clinical background includes critical care, cardiovascular and emergency nursing with experience in both adult and pediatric populations.

Outstanding Nurse Practice Award

This award honors a school of nursing graduate who exemplifies an innovative, professional and scholarly approach to his or her practice and contributes to the development of others. This year’s recipient is MaryAnne Harmon (B.S.’13/N, M.S.’15/N).

After graduating from VCU’s Accelerated M.S. program in nursing , Harmon  completed a nurse practitioner residency program at Community Health Center in Connecticut. She has since gone on to work in the Emergency Department at VCU Health and most recently at the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies at VCU. While her resume reflects her dedication to collaborative and evidence based practice, the intentionality she brings to each interaction with her patients and colleagues is the best testament to why she deserves the Outstanding Nurse Practice Award.

Outstanding Nurse Alumnus Award

This award honors outstanding contributions of graduates of the School of Nursing and is presented in recognition of a successful nursing career. The recipient is recognized as a leader and expert who has contributed to health-related groups and has impacted the nursing profession with creativity and innovation on a local or national level. This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Nurse Alumnus Award is Barbara S. Brown (B.S.‘70/N, Ph.D ‘87/HP).

Brown completed both her undergraduate and doctoral degrees from VCU.  Brown has played a highly visible role in leading the Virginia Hospital and Health Association as vice president and senior research advisor. She has used her scientific knowledge to study workforce supply and demand, maternal mortality and other subjects important to Virginians. Hers is a remarkable career, bringing a nursing voice to critical tables and networks, influencing policy, and advancing well-being.

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award.

This award honors a recent School of Nursing graduate who has demonstrated excellence in his or her nursing career, has been identified as an emerging leader, or has made a significant contribution to the profession. This year’s award goes to Jeff Petraco (B.S.’14/N, M.S.’18/N). The School of Nursing community was heartbroken when Petraco passed away unexpectedly late last fall but he has left an everlasting print on our school and everyone within our community.

Dean Giddens with Jeff Petraco’s nephew, Brian Petraco, and sister-in-law, Lori Petraco, and SON Senior Director of Development Pamela Lowe


He was an integral part of our family at the VCU School of Nursing for five years during which time he held roles as a student in the accelerated bachelor’s degree program and the master’s degree program, a research assistant, an adjunct instructor, an affiliate faculty member, and a project coordinator for the Office of Practice and Community Engagement.

Petraco earned his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA and subsequently went on to earn his M.B.A. from Temple University. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college. After a 31-year career working in public health and social services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he retired in 2010.

Petraco had a bold and adventurous spirit. Not one to sit idle, he decided to pursue his lifelong interest in nursing in 2013 by enrolling in the accelerated bachelor’s program at the VCU School of Nursing. As his nominator wonderfully said, “Jeff Petraco came to the nursing profession late in his life, but I think in his heart, Jeff was always a nurse. He seemed to make a special connection with everyone he encountered, seeing them as unique individuals, not as man or woman, black or white, young or old. It was that connection that made his nursing practice special. He seemed to sense what people needed and was patient enough to let those needs unfold.” We were honored to have his sister-in-law, Lori Petraco, and nephew, Brian Petraco, at the Alumni Awards ceremony to accept the award on his behalf.

Categories Alumni and Friends, Awards, Events
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