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ETSU nursing program celebrating 60 years


JOHNSON CITY (September 30, 2014) – Dr. Wendy Nehring isn’t sure what the next 60 years will hold for East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing, but if they are anything like the program’s first 60 years, the dean says things are looking bright for the school.

“The program began with a vision and, from the beginning, it was a quality program,” Nehring said. “I think the first faculty and leaders would be very pleased with where we are today and I think 60 years from now, we will think the growth equally phenomenal.”

East Tennessee State College, as it was then called, began its official program for nursing in 1954. The college already had been working with the area hospital for approximately a decade to help train nurses. During the 1940s, nurses went to ETSC for academic education in areas such as psychology, sociology, English and chemistry while getting their clinical training at the hospital.

Then, 60 years ago, efforts to move nursing toward professional status led to the integration of the entire educational experience being offered at ETSC.

“Johnson City Medical Center was Memorial Hospital at the time and then became Appalachian Hospital before becoming Memorial Hospital again,” Nehring said. “They were having us teach some courses for them and partnered with us when the Tennessee Council for Nursing Committee for the Expansion and Improvement of Nursing Education recommended that ETSC establish a baccalaureate program in nursing.”

Starting out as a four-year baccalaureate program was pretty unusual at that time in Tennessee, according to Sharon Loury, a nursing professor at ETSU and health care historian.

“Diploma nursing was probably the most common path to becoming a RN back then so this was rare,” Loury said. “The role that ETSU had in educating nurses in the region during the early years was very significant.”

Loury spent several years leading up to the ETSU program’s 60th anniversary researching the history of nursing in East Tennessee and talking with some of the earliest graduates.

“The ones that graduated in the 1950s and 1960s loved what they did and they will always define themselves as a nurse,” Loury said, reflecting on her conversations with several of them. “It wasn’t just a job to them. They loved their patients and they loved being a nurse.”

Many ETSU nursing graduates went on to assume top leadership roles in hospital administration.

Dr. Kathryn Wilhoit graduated from ETSU with her B.S. degree in nursing in 1969 and went to work for Laughlin Hospital in Greeneville, then to Leigh Memorial Hospital in Norfolk, Va. She arrived at Memorial Hospital in 1973 as director of surgical services. In 1988, she was named chief nursing officer and vice president for Johnson City Medical Center at the time when the facility was a stand-alone hospital.

“We were just one hospital but we were building our infrastructure into a regional medical center,” she said.

When Mountain States Health Alliance was formed in 1998, Wilhoit assumed a nursing leadership role for the entire system. During her tenure with MSHA, she had oversight of several areas, including WINGS Air Rescue, cardiovascular services, respiratory therapy and transitional care.

Wilhoit retired from MSHA in July 2012 as corporate vice president. In addition to meeting and working with many great people and “some of the most creative and hard-working staff,” Wilhoit says another aspect of her job she enjoyed was having the opportunity to work so closely with ETSU.

“I stayed very active with the university in many capacities,” said Wilhoit, who served a term as president of the ETSU Alumni Association and even earned her Ph.D. from the university in May 2012.  “I always kept a close relationship with the College of Nursing and enjoyed working with the deans. They are producing the future of nursing.”

Today, ETSU’s College of Nursing is the largest in the state. It boasts five different routes to obtaining a baccalaureate in nursing – the traditional four years of study, an accelerated second degree program, a dual degree RN-to-BSN option, a LPN-to-BSN option and a RN-to-BSN option. The school also offers a master’s degree in nursing, including a clinical nurse leader track, as well as a Ph.D. program and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.

More than 6,500 degrees have been conferred through the nursing school at ETSU.

Nehring believes much of the school’s success over the years stems from the environment within and surrounding the College of Nursing.

“It’s the faculty and staff that give students their attention and their time, that want to see the students succeed, that are passionate about nursing,” she said. “And it is the opportunities that are present here. It is being a part of an academic health sciences center that is growing and making available interprofessional opportunities for our students and faculty. It is having upper administration who believes in you. It is the encouraging atmosphere here at ETSU.”

ETSU will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its nursing program at a semi-formal event on Friday, Oct. 3. The dinner will take place at the Millennium Centre beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Tours of the College of Nursing on the campus of ETSU will take place Saturday, Oct. 4. The tours will include visits to both Nicks and Lamb halls on the main campus and the Johnson City Community Health Center on Century Lane. The simulation laboratory will be open as well. Tours begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. The tours will also include a visit to the Mountain Home Museum on the VA campus where an exhibit showcasing the history of the ETSU College of Nursing will be unveiled at 10 a.m.

For more information, call the College of Nursing at 423-439-4543. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.


Sixty alumni from the ETSU College of Nursing will be honored during the anniversary celebration held Friday, Oct. 3, at the Millennium Centre in Johnson City. These ETSU alums are being recognized as outstanding College of Nursing graduates who have demonstrated significant leadership in the nursing field in areas of education, research, service and/or practice. They are:

Tammy Albright (BSN’94) is chief nursing officer at Tacoma Regional Hospital in Greeneville where she oversees all clinical nursing areas.

 Cindy A. Bass (MSN ’12) is a clinical nurse specialist in the Family Birth Center at Johnson City Medical Center where she develops and teaches up-to-date information on current practices and skills related to childbirth and care of the infant.

 Casey Bayliss (BSN ’10) is a registered nurse on the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit at Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C.

 Dorothy G. Biggar (BSN ’73) recently retired from her position is an adult nurse practitioner and supervisor of pulmonary rehabilitation at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo.

  Terri Blevins (BSN ’82) recently retired from her position as the director of the Practical Nursing Program at TTC-Elizabethton in Elizabethton.

  Rhonda Brodrick (BSN ’86) is an assistant professor of nursing at the ETSU College of Nursing where she specializes in adult nursing.

 Karen M. Brown (BSN ’09) is an assistant professor at Miami University in Middletown, Ohio where she specializes in gerontological nursing.

  Gail Broyles (BSN ‘92, MSN ‘04) is the clinical informatics corporate director at Mountain States Health Alliance where she oversees the daily operations, manages the fiscal responsibilities, collaborates with technical and informatics partners and educates staff on informatics practices

  Joyce Campbell (BSN ’64) is retired from her position as an associate professor at Chattanooga State Technical Community College. Prior to this position, she was a faculty member and chair of the Medical-Surgical Nursing Department at the Baroness Erlanger Hospital School of Nursing in Chattanooga.

  Charles Cobb (BSN ’80) is a registered nurse in the Veterans Association Outpatient Clinic in Morristown. He was instrumental in starting this outpatient clinic in a rural area as well as an earlier rural clinic for the VA in Rogersville.

  Louise Barton Compton (BSN ’59) is retired from her position as a registered nurse at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Salem, Va. Prior to this role, she served as the chair of the Associate’s Degree Nursing Program at Wytheville Community College in southwest Virginia.

  Linda Crawford (BSN ’80) is currently the chief clinical officer at Cookeville Regional Medical Center where she began her career in nursing administration.

  Sandy Diffenderfer (BSN ’02, MSN ’03, PhD ‘10) is an assistant professor of nursing at the ETSU College of Nursing where she specializes in health administration.

 Judy Carol East (BSN ’78) is retired from the Veterans Association Medical Center at Mountain Home where she was director of the Women’s Health Programs. She is currently an instructor with the Associates Degree Nursing Program at Northeast State Community College in Kingsport.

Teresa England (BSN ’97, MSN ’02, PhD ’08) is the associate director for patient care/nursing services at the Salem Veterans Association Medical Center in Salem, Va. She also continues to serve as an adjunct faculty member for ETSU and King University.

  Cynthia D. Epps (ADN ’78) is associate dean and professor at the School of Nursing at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga.

  Delores Fox (BSN ’60), now retired, developed best practices for the care of a child in the hospital, health screening and educational programs, an educational program for nurse’s aides, career ladders for nurses, first national grandparent program, a teaching nursing home program, and a program for at-risk adolescent girls.

  Karen Frank (BSN ’82) is the director of accreditation and patient safety officer for Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga

  Sherry Freeman (BSN ’76, MSN ’06) is recently retired as an assistant professor in the ETSU College of Nursing where she specialized in women’s health, leadership and management and community nursing.

  Teresa Gardner (BSN ’89) is executive director and nurse practitioner with the Health Wagon, a free mobile health clinic in Coeburn, Va. She is also instrumental in leading area Remote Area Medical Health Expeditions.

  Karen George (MSN ’08) is a Nurse III Clinician at the Veterans Association Medical Center at Mountain Home where she is active in patient safety initiatives and professional nursing development.

  Audry Greenwell (PhD ’09) is an assistant professor at the ETSU College of Nursing  specializing in obstetrical and community nursing. Her area of research is the lives of American Indian women who deal with diabetes and depression.

  Sharron Grindstaff (BSN ’83, MSN ’02) is corporate director of Central Staffing Services, HealthPro Staffing, and Clinical Contract Labor at Mountain States Health Alliance.

 Philip Haun (BSN ’07) is director of Inpatient Cardiovascular Services at the Physician’s Regional Medical Center in Knoxville.

 Beverlee Baird Herd (BSN ’58) was president of the Tarrant County Medical Society Alliance in 1983 in Fort Worth, Texas, and president of the Texas Medical Association Alliance in 1994. In 2009, she received the Tarrant County Medical Society’s May Owen Award for her impact on health care

  Charlene Jessee (BSN ’74) is retired from her position as regional director of nursing at the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office/Department of Health in Johnson City

  Carol Jones (BSN ’86) is the trauma program manager and clinical nurse specialist at the Johnson City Medical Center where she develops staff education programs and coordinates performance improvement and facility research initiatives that relate to trauma services.

  Jane M. Jones (BSN ’69) is chief of staff, Office of the President and Associate Vice President for Health Affairs at ETSU. She started her career after graduation as a nursing faculty member and has served in a variety of leadership roles within the university since then.

  Barbara Kincheloe (BSN ’55) is retired and has the distinction of being the first nursing graduate at ETSU. Prior to getting married, she was a private duty and public health nurse. After raising her children, she returned to nursing and had many accomplishments in school nursing in the Johnson City and Washington County school systems.

  Renee Lowe (ADN ’83, BSN ’07, MSN ’12) is a staff nurse with the Family Birth Center at the Johnson City Medical Center and an adjunct faculty member at the ETSU College of Nursing. She was formerly the Nurse Manager for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the JCMC.

  Amanda Lyon (BSN ’05) is director of operations for Organizational Development for Mountain States Health Alliance.

  Dru M. Malcolm (BSN ’78, MSN ’03) is currently chief nursing officer and assistant administrator for Woodridge and Franklin Woods hospitals.

  Teresa A. Martin (BSN ’80, MSN ’96) is a family nurse practitioner with United Healthcare Housecalls Program.

  Tammy Matherly (BSN ’87) is quality manager at Johnson City Medical Center where she works to improve system processes in order to deliver quality patient care.

 Cheryl McCall (BSN ’89, MSN ’91, PhD ’13) is director of nursing and associate professor at Walters State Community College in Morristown.

  Peggy McConnell (BSN ’70) is retired from her position as associate professor in the ETSU College of Nursing with a specialization in gerontology. She continues to be the project director of a subcontract with the University of Kentucky to carry out an OVAR/Geriatrics Education Center grant.

  Paula Meade (BSN ’89) is clinical director and family nurse practitioner with St. Mary’s Health Wagon, a mobile clinic for the underserved in rural southwest Virginia.

 Rebecca S. Moss (BSN ’75) is a nurse practitioner at Mountain Home Veterans Association Hospital.

  Jane M. Mustain (MSN ’02) is a value optimization core team member at Franklin Woods.

  Kenneth D. Phillips (BSN ’79) is associate dean for research and evaluation and professor at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

  Lee Plemmons (BSN ’06, MSN ’09) is a family nurse practitioner at the Johnson City Community Health Center where he has worked for a number of years. 

  Catherine H. Powers (BSN ’94, MSN ’99) is an Instructor at the ETSU College of Nursing and a practicing family nurse practitioner at the Bluff City Medical Center.

  Tim Pruitt (MSN ’98) works in the Emergency Department at Baptist-DeSoto in Southaven, Miss.

  Carol Pullen (BSN ’65) is a professor of nursing at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

  Sue Reed (ADN ’79, BSN ’86, MSN ’94) is director of special populations at the Johnson City Community Health Center. She is also a recently retired colonel in the U.S. Army.

 Anne Teresa Rhome (BSN ’67) is a retired deputy executive director of programs for the American Association of College of Nursing.

  Rosalee Sites (BSN ’78) is director of senior services for the Wellmont Parish Nurse Program. Sites started this program with a grant to serve eight churches. Today, approximately 40 churches are served.

  Chris Skinner (BSN ’00) is director of clinical informatics at Covenant Health in East Tennessee and serves as one of the two Insite Chairmen for Mckesson Clinical Informatics.

  Christine Benz Smith (PhD ’06) is director of the School of Nursing at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.

 M elanie Stagall Stanton (BSN ’95) is the chief nursing officer and assistant administrator for Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton.

  Patricia M. Vanhook (BSN ’91, MSN ’94, PhD ’07) is associate dean for practice and community partnerships and associate professor in the ETSU College of Nursing.

  Cindy Verzi (BSN ’86, MSN ’10) is director of nursing practice at Johnson City Medical Center.

  Kathryn W. Visneski (BSN ’86) is a clinical nurse specialist in oncology at the Wellmont Health System.

  Wendy Vogel (MSN ’95) is an oncology nurse practitioner at the Wellmont Cancer Institute in Kingsport.

  Jane Walker (BSN ’99, MSN ’04, PhD ’12) is an associate professor of nursing at Walters State Community College in Morristown

  Jennie Walls (BSN ’72) retired as associate professor in the ETSU College of Nursing where she developed and ran the school-based nurse-managed clinics in Washington County.

  Melessia Webb (BSN ’96, MSN ’00) is the inaugural dean of nursing and associate professor at Northeast State Community College

  Ellen Wilhoit (BSN ’79) recently retired as president and chief administrative officer at Le Conte Medical Center in Sevierville where she served from 1999-2014.

  Kathryn Wilhoit (BSN ’69, PhD ’12) is retired from her position as corporate vice president at Mountain States Health Alliance where she worked in various positions from 1974 to 2012.

  Margery Wilson (MSN ‘98) is retired from Wellmont Health Systems where she was a nurse practitioner and coordinator of their Palliative Care Program.


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