James Madison University

Nursing Newsletter for Alumni and Friends

Sept/Oct 2015

Welcome from the Department HeadJulie Sanford, DNS, RN

I am never at a loss for words when someone inquires about our alumni as I have countless success stories to draw from. Since the start of the newsletter more and more have come forward to share their stories and this “sharing” has become such an important piece of data since it reflects back on both the quality of our programs and the dedication of our faculty. Not only that, we just absolutely love hearing about where your nursing journey has taken you. This information sharing is especially significant for our current students because it makes them aware of the many ways our graduates are making a difference in the health care system. From administering exceptional care to influencing needed policy changes, the opportunities in the nursing profession are endless. We highlight two of our alums in this newsletter who are at very different stages of their lives; Sarah Kirby, who has been a nurse for 25 years with a career that has gone in several directions and Mrs. Elizabeth “Betsy” (Tweedy) Houck who graduated in 1958 from then “Madison College” and has chosen to give back with a generous donation that will benefit our current DNP students and doctoral faculty. I am proud and thankful at the same time to have them represent JMU Nursing.

Best Wishes for a happy and healthy Fall,

Julie Sanford, DNS, RN
Professor and Head of Nursing
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA 22840


Sarah Kirby (95), Helps Design, Build and Operate Innovative New Hospital

Sarah KirbyVirginia Beach native Sarah Kirby writes, “I had a wonderful experience at JMU and to this day these are some of my best memories.” She remembers the program as having high standards, being extremely competitive and known for excellence. Dr. Huber was one of her mentors and Dr. Mast and Dr. Kathy LaSala were just a few of the faculty members she had great respect for. “I was taught early on at JMU that nursing requires great team work and that we have to take great care of each other to be the best we can be to serve our patients and to provide the care they deserve.” With this mindset, “opportunities seemed to present themselves,” says Sarah.

After graduation Sarah began her career working in critical care and pediatrics. While searching for the “right fit”, she found her love to be in labor and delivery. During her time as a labor and delivery nurse she was able to precept BSN students for their clinical rotations and discovered she also had a love for teaching. She then made the decision to return school and get her MSN in Maternal Child Health with a minor in nursing administration, ultimately preparing her for future leadership roles. “The recipe for success has been knowing how to put great teams together to get the work done and to have aligned goals”, said Sarah. “I have worked as a CNA, charge nurse, supervisor, nurse manager, physician practice manager, director of women’s services, CNO and now campus chief executive”.

One of the most exciting chapters in Sarah’s career has been the opportunity to help design, build and now operate a new hospital in Columbia, SC built to deliver an extraordinary patient experience. She writes, “We studied businesses such as Lululemon, Bass pro shops, Apple and Build-a bear prior to our opening because they all had one thing in common: creating memorable experiences for guests that resulted in incredible loyalty and trust. We took some of these concepts and themes and applied them to how we deliver care. We have been very successful! Our newest hospital, Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge is on the Top 10 list from Fit Pregnancy magazine as one of the best places in America to have a baby. Each day we learn new ways to help bring our vision to life and I can’t imagine doing anything else. It is a dynamic time for us all and great change is ahead. With incredible nurses at the bedside and in the boardroom we will be set up well to lead and have a voice in the transformation of how we deliver care in the future.” more

When asked what advice she might have for new nursing students, Sarah shared these thoughts; “Wow. You have chosen the most incredible profession! You can do anything. You can be at the bedside in a critical care unit, lead a research team, work to improve safety, be a healthcare engineer, lead a healthcare system, its endless.  Dream Big. While I am now a chief executive, I wear my RN badge with pride and when asked what I do…I always say “I am a nurse”.  Also, never forget what you learn in nursing school. The details matter.  Stay true to your practice. There will be times in the future when the environment you are in maybe stressful but stick to how you were trained and connect that with your passion and you will always be successful.” 

Sarah's Biography

Sarah Kirby is the chief executive officer of Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge, a 76-bed acute care hospital in Columbia, South Carolina that is part of the Palmetto Health system. She joined Palmetto Health in 2011 as system vice president of clinical operations. Prior to that Sarah served as the Director of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer of Hillcrest Memorial Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, an acute care hospital in the Greenville Health System. She has also served as Director of Maternal/Child Services and Pediatrics for St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and she has held numerous staff nursing and leadership positions. Kirby is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives; a graduate of Leadership Greenville and Leadership Greer; pastchair of the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Policy Council; member of the United Way’s Young Philanthropists, Women’s Leadership and Palmetto Society; and board member of the American Hospital Association’s Maternal/Child Council.  Sarah was awarded the American College of Healthcare Executives Regent’s Early Careerist Award for South Carolina as the Young Healthcare Executive of the Year in 2009.  Sarah currently serves as a board member and treasurer of the Irmo, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. She is a distinguished Liberty Fellow and a member of the Aspen Global Leader Network. Kirby earned her Master of Science degree in Nursing from Troy University and her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from James Madison University. In 2014, Sarah was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to serve as a board member for the South Carolina Patient Compensation Fund. 

Sarah is married to Thornton Kirby and has two children, Lily (15) and Ben (12). Sarah and her family live in Columbia, South Carolina.

Mrs. Elizabeth and Dr. Houck1958 “Madison College” Alum Gives Back

Mrs. Elizabeth “Betsy” (Tweedy) Houck graduated in 1958 after completing the two year nursing program at Madison College (now JMU). As a student she was actively involved and served on Honor Council which was a “tremendous learning experience,” she recalls. She was also a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority. Mrs. Houck went on to get her BSN at UVA because at that time they were the ones in this area with a program. She does however, attribute JMU as the place where she “got her start” in launching her nursing career.

After graduating Mrs. Houck married her high school sweetheart, Peter Houck, who went to VMI then on to UVA for medical school. She worked at Martha Jefferson in labor and delivery for several years and in her fourth year she decided to go into research; and did research for NIH on urinary tract infections in young girls that show no symptoms. The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mrs. Houck’s husband became not only accomplished medical doctor but was a writer and a historian. “He had an endless amount of energy,” she said, “Peter was always starting something new.” He founded the first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Lynchburg in 1972 and went on to be the Johnson Health Center’s first medical director. She was pleased to learn that one of his early ventures has a connection to one of our nursing professors. Dr. Deborah Gleason along with several students from JMU donated their time and skills at Camp Holiday Trails, a camp for children with special health needs in Charlottesville, this past summer; a camp that has its roots with the Houcks. It was originally started as a “research project for young boys with diabetes back in the 1960’s,” said Mrs. Houck, “it was called the Virginia Diabetic Camp.” She spent many days alongside her husband ensuring the success of the camp.  Along with busy careers and extra undertakings Mrs. Houck and her husband raised five children.

Before Mrs. Houck’s husband, Peter, passed away this past March, he made the decision to give a generous donation to VMI because of being that special  place where he got ‘his start” in the medical field. It was this thoughtful gesture that prompted Mrs. Houck to match that gift and give back to the place where she got “her start.” Wanting her gift to be “meaningful and impactful” she did some research as to what area in the nursing department the funds could best achieve her goal. After a conversation with Dr. Sanford, Mrs. Houck decided on giving to the current DNP students and doctoral faculty for use in their final capstone projects. With a firm belief in the power of research and these practice application-oriented projects having the potential of both advancing/improving health care and health care systems, it proved to be a good fit for Mrs. Houck.
Mrs. Houck shared this photo of her and husband taken on their 50th wedding anniversary in 2012. Dr. Houck passed away March 10, 2015.

First Cohort of DNP Students and Doctoral Faculty

From left to right, 1st row; Kristina Blyer, Dr. Julie Sanford, Department Head, Jennifer Martin, Tiffany Kidd, Dr. Linda Hulton, DNP Program Coordinator, 2nd row; Phyllis Munn, Kevin Shimp, Dr,Maria deValpine, DNP Faculty, Dr. Sharon Strang, DNP Faculty, Stacy Baldwin, missing from picture; Patra Reed

Erica LewisNursing Faculty Member To Be Recognized

Dr. Lewis will be recognized at the 2015 Virginia Nurses Association Gala this November at the Hilton Short Pump in Glen Allen, VA for being one of the top 40 under the age of 40 nurses in the Commonwealth. The award criteria required nominees to have demonstrable achievements in the areas of professional practice, leadership, and impact that positively promotes and advances the nursing profession beyond the practice setting. More.


Dr. Gleason and Students Nursing Professor, Student Assist at Special Health Needs Camp

 JMU nursing student Alina Murphy and Assistant Nursing Professor Deborah Gleason were medical volunteers at Camp Holiday Trails. More.


Grad Students Learning Through Virtual World

Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), Nursing, Occupational Therapy (OT), and Physician's Assistant (PA) hosted a Virtual Interprofessional Clinic in SecondLife last year. Every day in hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country, medical professionals are tasked with coming together to find better solutions for their patients. Despite the importance for interprofessional communication, many educational programs lack opportunities for students to experience these situations before they graduate. More.


Faculty members Susan Brooks and Tammy Kiser completed there DNP this past spring in Public Health Nursing Administration.




Welcome New Faculty and Staff

lab director and staffThe Lab Crew

From left to right: Brandi Harper, BSN, RN, Simulation Lab Manager;  Lauren Mullen, MSN, RN, recently promoted to Lab Director; Rebecca Beam, BA, RN, AAS, Standardized Patient Coordinator, and Nathan Spencer BS, Lab Technician

Karen Sylveria
Karen Silveria, MSN, RN, CNM, WHNP

Undergraduate instructor for women's health clinical

Sarah Stowell Condra
Sarah Stowell Condra, MSN, RN, ARNP, WHNP-BC

Graduate Program Instructor

Karen Weeks, MSN, RN

Undergraduate program instructor for adult health clinical and adult health clinical applications

Kelly Schuhmann
Kelly Schuhmann, MA

Nursing Academic Advisor

Tori Martineau

Administrative Assistant for the RN-BSN Program

To update and share your information email Michele dombrome@jmu.edu

nursingdept@jmu.edu | (540)568-6314