ECU CONnection Newsletter – January 2023

The Message From The Dean

Dean Akintade at Graduation Fall 2022

Dean Akintade at Graduation Fall 2022

Today the U.S. News and World Report rankings for Best Online Master’s programs for 2023 were made public and I couldn’t be prouder of how we placed. Overall, our online Master’s program was ranked 18th in the nation, up from 29th place last year, and have the best program in the UNC System.

Specifically, our program ranked fifth for veterans, going up a spot from last year; the nursing education program was in seventh place and the Master’s level nursing leadership program was ranked 17th in the nation.

Our faculty, and the staff who support them, are the heart of the teaching that takes place here at the CON. Being national leaders in online nursing education doesn’t just happen. Over many years, we have innovated and carried the torch for online learning. I’d like to highlight the incredible work that Drs. Ann Bell, Brittany Baker, Jennifer Perry and Melinda Matthews, along with so many others, undertake every day to help our advanced practice nursing students become the health astute care providers that North Carolina requires in the times ahead.

North Carolina is known as the most military friendly state in the nation, and that certainly extends to ECU and the College of Nursing. Our fifth-place rankings in online Master’s programs for veterans makes complete sense. ECU has consistently been one of the North Carolina schools on the Military Times’ Best for Vets list because of the value of the education at the CON, in addition, a number of our faculty and staff are veterans themselves. With Fort Bragg to the west, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base just down the road, and of course our Marines and Sailors on the coast, we pride ourselves with knowing our veterans and knowing how best to help them advance their nursing careers.

The US News rankings also highlighted our online Master’s nursing education and nursing leadership programs, for good reason. Our online Master’s faculty have built a wonderful track record of success. They are driven by incredible need within our health delivery systems for strong nursing leadership. They are also equipped with the training the next generation of nurse educators need to serve in large, four year institutions like ECU, and community colleges across the state, many of which we partner with in the RIBN and ARIBN programs.

I’ve been here for about six months now, which I feel is enough time to get a solid sense of what makes the College of Nursing among the best in the nation at what we do. The U.S. News rankings are a welcome recognition of the excellence that defines Pirate Nurse Nation. In addition, I have seen first-hand how our faculty put in the extra effort to help students succeed, how our staff make all the learning possible, and how our alumni and supporters represent Pirate Nurses regionally and nationally.

Here’s to a new year, with the promise of even greater successes in the classroom, in our clinical spaces, and in the lives of each member of the College of Nursing family.

All the best,

Dean Bim, a proud Pirate Nurse


Dr Holly Wei Book Cover

Dr. Holly Wei, a former ECU College of Nursing faculty member, has co-authored, with Dr. Sara Horton-Deutsch, “Visionary Leadership in Healthcare: Excellence in Practice, Policy, and Ethics.” The book received the 2022 American Journal of Nursing (AJN) Book of Year Award, 1st Place for the Management and Leadership category.

The book’s success is due in no small part to the contributions from former CON Deans Drs. Sylvia Brown and Phyllis Horns; and current CON faculty members Drs. Ann King, Donna Lake, Chandra Speight and Michelle Skipper.

The note from Dr. Karen Morin, who selected the text, reads:

This book challenges nurse leaders to look to the future to create an environment reflective of excellence – and also provides strategies for addressing the challenge. Importantly, the authors approach leadership from a global perspective. In fact, the focus of the second chapter concerns global perspectives on how nursing leadership has evolved.

The authors discuss current leadership issues such as fostering a resilient workforce and mitigating organizational trauma. Unique to this book is acknowledgement of leadership beyond a physical entity: the authors address both environmental and planetary health leadership. They highlight the value of leadership in times of disaster, the significance of wisdom as a product of the leader’s developmental journey and the importance of effective leadership. While founded in nursing, this book is relevant to all leaders in health care.
Please join us in congratulating these outstanding Pirate Nurses for the continuing efforts to improve Nursing Leadership.

Deborah Tyndall

In 2021, Dr. Deborah Tyndall, Associate Professor in the Nursing Science Department, received a CON Seed Grant to support the following study: Examining the Role of the School Nurse in Suicide Prevention in Eastern North Carolina. The goal of this project was to learn more about the role of school nurses, and to explore facilitators and barriers in their contribution to suicide prevention interventions of children and adolescents. In collaboration with Dr. Mitzi Pestaner and Dr. Travis Lewis (College of Education), focus group and survey data were collected from 35 school nurses in six school districts. This semester, the team has been conducting member checking to confirm analysis. Preliminary findings suggest there is variation in school nursing practice both between and within the six school districts in regard to suicide prevention of school-aged children. Funding from the seed grant situated the team to successfully submit and receive a 2022-2023 ECU Diversity and Inclusion Research and Scholarship (DIRS) award to support Phase II. The variation in school nursing practice identified from this project has policy implications for equitable care of school-aged children who are at risk for suicide. The team plans to leverage data collected over the past two years, along with established community-academic partnerships, to submit a research proposal for external funding in Fall 2023. Request for external funding will aim to support district solutions to better support the role of the school nurse in suicide prevention.

Earlier this month Dr. Mary Jo Nimmo and her sister completed the Walt Disney World marathon in Orlando. She and her siblings have been traveling to Disney World for running races since 2009, but this is the first time she tackled the full 26.2 miles.

“Both my sister and brother had done the marathon, and sibling rivalry kicked in,” Nimmo said. “I had to do it. I have always been athletic but running is not my greatest attribute. The short legs make it hard to get good times.”

The race checked a big item off her bucket list, and she said the weather and the support of her husband cheering her on couldn’t have been better.

On November 14, during Nurse Practitioner Week, a collaborative group of nursing professionals from the ECU College of Nursing and ECU Health system met at the College of Nursing to begin a discussion about the initial steps necessary to develop a lasting partnership between ECU and ECU Health, to revolutionize nursing's role in the health care systems of eastern North Carolina and beyond.

Hosting the event, Dean Bim Akintade welcomed ECU Health CEO Brian Floyd and ECU Heath Nursing Executive Dr. Daphne Brewington, and staff members, to join with faculty and staff from the CON for an initial discussion of the partnership’s path forwards.

Dr. Akintade expressed his view, and all parties agreed, that shared resources, in terms of personnel, educational, practice and research opportunities should enhance organizational outcomes. Further, Dr. Akintade stressed joint participation in quality improvement and program evaluation projects and a programmatic emphasis on creating employment opportunities for students after graduation. These efforts should increase student and staff satisfaction, smooth transitions from a student nurse role to the practice setting and enable faculty to maintain currency of clinical skills and improve overall patient outcomes.

Working groups were identified and both Dean Akintade and ECU Health representatives agreed to return in the coming months to share the recommendations that will further develop the ECU Nursing Collaborative Partnership.

Drs. Alison Swift, Pam Reis, and Mel Swanson had an article published in Human Fertility titled “Comparing infertility-related stress, coping, and quality of life among assisted reproductive technology and non-assisted reproductive technology treatments.” The purpose of this study was to examine infertility-related stress, coping, and QOL among women who undergo ART and non-ART infertility treatments. In short, the study found that women dealing with infertility all dealt with stress and reduced quality of life, but in different ways. Accordingly, women in need of assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments may need to consider care for their psychological health.

Full text of the paper is available here

Dr. Leigh Atherton, from the College of Allied Health Sciences, and Drs. Chandra Speight and Jennifer Perry, from the CON, received funding from the UNC-Chapel Hill Opioid Abatement and Recovery Research Program to address screening, intervention and referral for early recovery opioid users.

The anticipated outcomes of the proposed study are:

  1. an increase in the availability of local individuals trained to deliver a Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) intervention for individuals with opioid use disorder
  2. peer delivered SBIRT intervention is equally, if not more effective than an intervention delivered by a professional
  3. an increase in treatment use for individuals with opioid use disorder
  4. barriers to successful implementation and lessons learned will be identified and shared with other communities and local government.
The team will also produce policy and implementation guidelines and English and Spanish language peer SBIRT and harm reduction guidelines to be shared with local governments and community organizations that wish to implement similar peer SBIRT programs.

More about the study here

Staff Spotlight

Jonathan Ganzert, Recruiter for the CON, earned his Master’s in Adult Education and Administration from ECU’s College of Education in December 2022. Jonathan is responsible for the day-to-day recruitment of potential nursing students and the development of strategic programs that ensure the best possible nursing candidates are invited to consider ECU as the starting point of their nursing future. Jonathan is a committed Pirate, having graduated in 2011 with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning.


Please help us welcome Page Mintz to the College of Nursing! Page is our newest Nurse Consultant/Lab Coordinator in the Concepts Integration Laboratories and began her new position on December 19, 2022.

“We’re excited to have someone with Page’s experience and enthusiasm on our team,” said Melinda Walker, assistant director of the Concepts Integration Laboratories. “As a Pirate Nurse, she’ll hold our students to the high standards that we require.”

Page comes to us from ECU Health Medical Center where she worked in the Special Care Nursery for eight years and Labor & Delivery for two years. She graduated from ECU College of Nursing with her BSN in 2012.

Aqiyla Simmons has joined the College of Nursing, working in support of our students in Student Services. She joined the CON in December and has hit the ground running working with compliance team. Aqiyla holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from ECU and a Master of Public Administration from Grand Canyon University.

In September of last year the Dean of Student’s office inaugurated a recognition program called Creed Kudos, where any member of the ECU community can nominate another for recognition of embodying the tenants of the ECU Creed - integrity, diversity, responsibility, and citizenship.

Tiffany Newson, a nurse consultant for the Concepts Integration Laboratories was recognized late last year by a student for her demonstration of responsibility in the classroom. Newson works with students in practice lab to focus on clinical skills and remediation, when necessary. The nurse of nearly 10 years also works with faculty to run simulation scenarios for the nursing students

She came to work for ECU in 2019, first with ECU Physicians in the Internal Medicine and Family Medicine clinics until June 2022 when she transferred to the College of Nursing.


CON Fall 2022 graduation results, 95% of BSN graduates already have jobs, 97% NCLEX first-time pass rate

CON Fall 2022 graduation results

Millions of Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland while others have joined family in the U.S. and a prepared and competent nursing workforce is critical to meet the needs of these refugees. A study titled “Intercultural Nursing Care for the Health and Well-being of Ukrainian Refugees “ involving CON researchers collaborating with colleagues from Poland and Ukraine, aims to design, deliver and evaluate intercultural nursing care guidance to sustain refugee health. The study builds on an established partnership between nursing faculty at ECU and the Jagiellonian University in Poland. The goal is to improve nurses’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes in caring for refugees from Ukraine through

  1. a global health international virtual exchange course
  2. in-depth interviews with nurses and refugees in Poland
  3. consensus-building using the Delphi technique with an expert panel of nurses in Poland and Ukraine.
The intercultural nursing care guidance will be available on-line to schools of nursing in countries that are caring for refugees from Ukraine.

The study team includes Dr. Kim Larson, (principal Investigator); Dr. Lucyna Płaszewska-Żywko, co-investigaor at Jagiellonian University in Poland; Natalia Sira, MD, PhD (from Ukraine); Anya Rozumna, RN (from Ukraine); and ECU honors students: Lauren Briggs, Toby Bryson, and Neha Makanangot, and doctoral student Marianne Congema.

In the photo - Roman Pawlak, Nutrition Science (originally from Poland); ECU honors nursing students Lauren Briggs and Toby Bryson; Kim Larson, project principal investigator; and Anya Rozumna, RN (originally from Ukraine). Missing from photo is Dr. Lucyna Płaszewska-Żywko, nursing faculty at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland and project co-investigator.

Student Spotlight

Savannah Blalock, an Early Assurance in Nursing student, was recently selected at the North Carolina Nurses’ Association Student of the Year by the Triangle Region through a nomination process. She was also selected to present an abstract at the Southern Nursing Research Society Annual Conference in Orlando in March.

Savannah is on track to graduate in May and will be enrolled in the PhD program with a concentration in health systems leadership, after graduation.

Her passion for administration and leadership has been sparked over the past three years by working as an administrative intern for CaptiveAire System, Thales Academy and Thales College. She is wrapping up her BSN as a Peer Mentor with the College of Nursing, a member of Beta Nu, & Dr. Dias and received a travel grant through the CON to attend the Southern Nursing Research Society conference in Orlando this March.

Alumni Spotlight

Beth Mahar (BSN ‘79) BSN, RN, COHN-S, NHDP-BC enrolled in the ECU School of Nursing and the Air Force ROTC program in 1975. She was the first ECU nursing student to also complete ROTC.

During her active duty and reserve military career she served in North Carolina, Texas, New York, Nevada, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. She retired from the military in 2009 as a colonel in the Nurse Corps. While living overseas, she was employed by the Department of State and worked in U.S. embassies in the UK and Australia. She opened and operated the embassy medical clinic in Canberra, Australia under the direction of the Regional Medical Officer, who was stationed in Singapore. As an embassy nurse, and then a Chief of Nursing Services, she was responsible for organizing, training, and equipping response teams for a variety of emergency incidents in the U.S. and at U.S. embassies abroad.

Upon returning to the U.S. she continued to work for the federal government as a Certified Occupational Health Nurse with expertise in travel medicine. She retired from federal service in March 2020.

Beth enrolled in ECU’s Healthcare Emergency and Disaster Management Certificate program to increase her knowledge and competency in disaster management. She currently volunteers as an Alexandria, Virginia Community Emergency Response Team member and an active member of the local health department Medical Reserve Corps.

Beth was inducted into the ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame in March of 2020. Her husband is a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and senior Defense Department official. They have two married children, a granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.


Pamela Moss (MPH ’08 and MSN ’13) is a Cardiothoracic Surgery Clinical Nurse Specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She was elected to the board of directors of National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists for 2023-24. She previously worked at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

From the NACNS news release: “NACNS Board Members play a critical leadership role within the organization. They act as the primary advocates for the 89,000 CNSs in the United States,” said Phyllis Whitehead, PhD, APRN/CNS, ACHPN, PMGT-BC, FNAP, FAAN and president, NACNS. “Their advocacy extends beyond NACNS to their patients and the organizations they serve. CNSs are uniquely qualified to work at the bedside as well as in clinical or educational roles.”

Our Pirate Nurse alumni, like Pamela Moss, are making vital impacts on the future of the nursing profession.


Elizabeth Maxwell, the College of Nursing’s Director of Development, continues on the steering committee of American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Nursing Advancement Professionals, NAP. The NAP national conference will be held March 24-25 in DC just ahead of the conference of constituent Deans.

NAP is comprised of alumni directors, communication personnel, and development professionals in nursing from across the USA. This year Jenna Boardman, CON’s Alumni & Events Coordinator, will also be attending.

Dean Akintade will address the group on the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as Academic Practice Partnerships for advancement. Dean Akintade also co-chairs AACN’s Essentials Committee. His co-chair, Dr. Dawn Mueller-Burke, will also address the group on the Essentials’ Impact on Fundraising.