School of Nursing / Jeanine Young-Mason / Deans' List / Home / Winter Table of Contents
In the first minute of conversation, acting dean of the School of Nursing Brenda Millette is off and running about a new theory that sunlight causes macular degeneration. Then she stops herself, apologizes for her tangent, urges her listener to wear sunglasses, and waits eagerly, feet crossed, hands folded in her lap, for the conversational ball to be thrown her way. This static pose doesn't last long. Soon she is swiveling her chair from side to side, leaning forward to make a point, throwing her head back to laugh.
This is a woman who can't wait to tell all sorts of things things to inform you, inspire you, keep you healthy. Millette's eagerness to talk about the School of Nursing is tinged only by her worry that she might shortchange or overlook someone or something.
These days, there is plenty to talk about. The oldest publicly supported nursing program in Massachusetts, SON maintains an array of often innovative offerings. Its "second bachelor's" program has attracted teachers, musicians, linguists, engineers, and other professionals who want to become RNs. The "RN-to-BS" program allows working nurses to get a degree with a minimum of disruption to work and family schedules. Nurses in the master's program focus on such "advanced practice nursing" areas as pediatrics, mental health, and gerontology. And a Ph.D. program, instituted in 1994 and offered collaboratively with the UMass Medical Center at Worcester, has just produced its first four doctors of nursing.
In nursing, firsthand experience is essential. SON offers practica in Northern Ireland, London, Ghana, and Jamaica. Closer to home, the school runs a health clinic in Springfield's Putnam High School, with nursing students as staff. (See story, page twenty.)
"I was the P.I. [principal investigator] on the Putnam grant," says Millette with almost maternal pride. "I want to get down there again," she adds, noting that her duties as dean have kept her away too long. "I want to see what's going on down there."
For Millette, the Putnam project encapsulates the current story of nursing, and where the profession is heading. The clinic is the only available health care for many of its patients, and the needs it serves are many and diverse a far cry from the days when school nurses mostly swabbed mercurochrome on scraped knees. "We have nurses leading support groups there for murder survivors!" she exclaims.
Millette observes, "the classic example of the nurse is a clinician in an acute-care setting" that is, a hospital. That example, though, doesn't convey the scope of contemporary nursing. More and more, nurses are "out in the community," in nursing homes, the homes of the elderly, rural and inner-city clinics, where needs are equally acute. Millette's sense of urgency is contagious as she asks, "Can you imagine the medical needs of a homeless child? Who is keeping track of that child's immunizations? Who is making sure that that child gets consistent health care?"
At a time when hospitals are laying off nurses by the hundreds, Dean Millette sees a chance for nursing to remain viable as it provides for the neediest. Because it offers so many opportunities and programs, she feels SON does an excellent job of readying students to find their niche upon graduation. "Our students are holding their own," in the job market, she asserts. "They're prepared, they're trained." And, however the health care industry changes, she believes "there will always be a need for fully proficient nurses who are liberally educated individuals." (As a Boston University nursing student, she herself sometimes wondered what Medieval French had to do with modern medicine. Today she says with conviction, "Yes, I am a richer person for having studied these things.")
The dean's confidence in her faculty is obvious. "We have good teachers, they love it, and they're good at it. That's the easy part," she says. "What's harder is ensuring that we have the resources to survive." At least one major resource, however, is in the pipeline: a $7 million building to house the school.
Millette's eyes light up when she gets on the subject of how the new nursing building might embody its mission of fostering human well-being. Beyond teaching facilities tailored to its purposes, Millette envisions a place with lots of art, chamber music, herbal tea stations, fountains.
Her personal fantasy is an allée of lindens trees, she notes, traditionally associated with institutions of erudition in Europe. She's as much pragmatist as idealist, so she knows that she may not get everything on the wish list, but she's determined to get that allée. In the meantime, she seems to sustains her own robust health through laughter and the flute music of James Galway played low on her office boom-box.
Alluding to the theory that today's students can expect to go through seven career changes during their lifetime, Millette claims to have had nearly that many careers already, and all within the framework of nursing. She's been a visiting nurse, a school nurse, a nurse at Children's Hospital in Boston, as well as a professor and administrator. (She is also the mother of five sons, now ages twenty-five to thirty-five.) Nursing's range of opportunities she considers one of its many joys; her only regret seems to be that she hasn't been able to try them all.
"In another lifetime, maybe," she says, "I'll be a midwife." For now, she tells herself, "Brenda, enough is enough!" FSW
NURSING PROFESSOR JEANINE YOUNG-MASON has been on a quest to understand human suffering for many years. As a young girl, she was saddened and confused by her aunts' grief when each lost a child. She began to find some answers in graduate school, from art and literature, as well as her work with patients. As a teacher, she tries to convey to students the crucial importance of bringing compassion, "the essence of what guides the art and science of nursing," to their work.
To show what compassion is made of, Young-Mason asked sixteen people to write about their experiences of serious illness, and the result was published last year as The Patient's Voice: Experiences of Illness. Among the stories are those of a child who has been in and out of hospitals since birth, of an elderly man whose body started to fall apart on him all at once, of a man who nearly bled to death.
Of the book, Young-Mason likes to say, "It belongs to seventeen people and I'm the seventeenth person." Her modesty as the editor of this collection seems to spring from her deep respect for the contributors, whom she describes as "very courageous." Their accounts, however, really belong to all of us, because they describe grappling with the most elemental experiences, those that most test and mystify us.
Even when these experiences are nearly unbearable to read about, they have a compelling quality. Their impact and beauty may be due to the fact that some of the authors are writers and artists. But the resonance of these voices also springs from the compassion borne of being on the edge, the desire to speak about the most important things as clearly and as strongly as possible, because to do anything less is a waste of precious time.
· Multicultural Educator of the Year Award, National Association for Multicultural Education, Sonia Nieto, teacher education and curriculum studies.
· $5 million NSF research contract, Allan Feldman, teacher education and curriculum studies (with Morton Sternheim, physics and astronomy and Richard Yuretich, geosciences).
· Draper Prize, National Academy of Engineering, Vladimir Haensel, chemical engineering.
· $200,000 NSF CAREER award; $165,000 NFS research award; Dionisios Vlachos, chemical engineering.
· Editorial Advisory Board, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, Phillip Westmoreland, chemical engineering.
FOOD AND NATURAL RESOURCES
· Merit Award for Communication, American Society of Landscape Architects, Nicholas Dines, landscape architecture and regional planning.
· ASLA Medal, American Society of Landscape Architects, Julius Fabos, landscape architecture and regional planning.
· Merit Award for Communication, American Society of Landscape Architects, Mark Lindhult, landscape architecture and regional planning.
· Group Achievement Honor Award for Excellence, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Terry Tattar, microbiology.
HUMANITIES AND FINE ARTS
· Recipient, ASCAP Award for Composition, Charles Bestor, music and dance emeritus.
· Brown Prize for Best Anthology, Association of Black Women Historians, for African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1967, edited by Anne D. Gordon with Bettye Collier-Thomas and John Bracey, Afro-American studies, Arlene Avakian, women's studies, and Joyce Berkman, history.
· 1997-98 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, Samuel Delany, comparative literature.
· Fellows in Residence, Camargo Foundation, Cassis, France, Donald Maddox and Sara Sturm-Maddox, French and Italian.
· Fulbright Fellowship (Germany), Stephen Nissenbaum, history.
· Best Article Prize, Society for the History of Technology, Larry Owens, history.
· Recipient, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers award for composition, Robert Stern, music and dance.
· $100,000 Rockefeller Grant, Roberta Uno, theater.
NATURAL SCIENCES AND MATHEMATICS
· $1.4 million NSF grant, George Avrunin, mathematics and statistics.
· $627,000 NSF grant, Raymond Bradley, geosciences.
· $264,600 NIH grant, Louis Carpino, chemistry.
· $344,885 NSF grant, Roderic Grupen and Paul Cohen, computer science.
· 1997-98 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, Barry Holstein, physics.
· $1,480,700 NSF grant, James Kurose, William R. Adrion, William Croft, Kathryn McKinley, Eliot Moss, Krithi Ramamritham, John Stankovic, and Donald Towsley, computer science.
· Ford Prize, American Physical Society, Murugappan Muthukumar, polymer science and engineering.
· Flory Polymer Education Award, American Chemical Society, Roger S. Porter, polymer science emeritus.
· $225,000 NSF grant, Arnold Rosenberg, computer science.
· $5 million NSF research contract, Morton Sternheim, physics and astronomy and Richard Yuretich, geosciences (with Allan Feldman, School of Education).
· $345,800 U.S. Department of Education grant, William Vining, Roberta Day, and Beatrice Botch, chemistry, Beverly Park Woolf, computer science.
· $396,700 NIH grant; $450,000 NIH grant (with Sandra Petersen), R. Thomas Zoeller, biology.
PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SCIENCES
· 1997-98 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; editorial board, Nutrition Today; Priscilla Clarkson, exercise science.
SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES
· $624,000 NSF grant, Neil E. Berthier and psychology; co · investigators Rachel Clifton, psychology, and Andrew Barto and Richard Sutton, computer science.
· 1997-98 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, Carmen Diana Deere, economics.