ECU CONnection Newsletter – July 2023

The Message From The Dean


July is usually a fairly slow month on university campuses. Most students are home with their families, traveling abroad or working as part of internships in interesting places – these are all very good and necessary things. Rest is part of the rhythm of life, including the life of a college.

Dean Akintade is photographed with students.

What distinguishes the ECU College of Nursing, though, is that we really don’t take summer breaks. While the hallways aren’t quite as loud and the sea of purple scrubs have subsided, there is still a hum of activity just below the surface. Every day we are teaching, learning and preparing for the next school year and many school years into the future.

Our Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesia students are still here in person, and it’s good to see them as we pass in the halls. Our faculty members are active with distance education which keeps them busy alongside their world-class research and scholarship. Our staff members are also busy preparing the College for the impending semester, which will be here very soon.

We at the College of Nursing use the University’s mission of Service as our north star. I have asked the faculty and staff to recommit themselves to ensuring that we have every seat filled for every upcoming class so we can graduate as many entry-to-practice nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and doctorally trained nurse leaders and scientists as possible. Our graduates will continue to tackle health disparities in North Carolina that are endemic to our communities and beyond.

The most recent graduating class of BSN students who took the NCLEX examination had a 100% first-time pass rate, a rare accomplishment that shows that we know how to admit, retain and educate the highest quality practice-ready nurses in the state. My promise is to build upon these successes so we can make North Carolina a national example of how to improve health outcomes, especially in rural settings.

I hope you are as excited as I am for the fall semester. We have good work to do.

Dean Bim

Faculty Spotlight

Kelli Jones

Our Kelli Jones, who teaches advanced medical/surgical care, was profiled by the University this month. We are very lucky to have her as a faculty member.

From the story:

“I always tell them that it’s cool to be smart. Be smart. Don’t be satisfied.”

Kelli Jones is improving North Carolina by helping to graduate some of the best educated and trained entry-to-practice nurses in the state. She pushes them to be better because the revolution in health care that our communities need requires the best and brightest among us, who are driven to serve.

Read more


Dr. Amy Jnah, Clinical Associate Professor and director of the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner concentration, has published the textbook “Fetal and Neonatal Pharmacology for the Advanced Practice Nurse” with Dr. Christopher McPherson, pharmacist and associate professor with the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine.

Dr. Jnah said the text is important for nursing education because “never in the history of neonatal nursing (or midwifery, or other NP specialties), has a 3P [pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, and physical assessment] pharmacology textbook geared to the needs of nursing students been available. This textbook truly is the very first pharmacology resource created for graduate nursing students.”

The text is capable of supporting 3P education needs within multiple NP domains including neonatal, clinical nurse specialist, midwifery, pediatric and nurse anesthesia. This book is written by nurses, pharmacists, and physicians, for the benefit of nurses who are aspiring to advance their careers.

Dr. Nancy Dias

Recently, the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina was honored by the American Society for Association Executives for their health care outreach program “Addressing the Serious Shortage of RNs in Home Health, and Hospice in NC”.

Dr. Nancy Dias, an assistant professor of nursing, was the primary investigator for the evaluation portion of the study. Dias’ research is focused on bereavement, particularly in parents of very young children.

The award will be presented Sept. 28 in Washington, DC.

Student Spotlight

Jesse Baccus, a student in East Carolina University’s doctor of nursing practice program, hopes to pair her current job as a nurse in a federally designated rural clinic with her ongoing ECU education to make basic health care available for everyone, particularly those living in rural stretches along the coastal plain.

Baccus, a New Castle, Pennsylvania native, moved to North Carolina to attend UNC-Chapel Hill where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish. She studied Spanish in college, but she learned it when she lived in Guatemala.

After working as a Spanish interpreter for a few years in a program called Family Connects that offered home visits to mothers and newborns, she returned to the classroom for her Associate Degree in Nursing from College of the Albemarle and a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) from Western Carolina University. Now in the BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at ECU, she has experienced the UNC System’s dedication to higher education from one end of the state to the other and has nothing but praise for the education she has received.

Read more


Nursing student Bonnie Chen with her grandfather in Taiwan.

Bonnie Chen is using her nursing education to help ease the impacts of Parkinson’s disease on patients and families here in North Carolina. Most importantly, she’s helping her grandfather to push back against the disease’s creeping impact on his body. Here he is using a hand strengthening tool that Bonnie brought to Taiwan during a trip this summer to stay with family.

Service is the backbone of Pirate Nursing and Bonnie embodies that spirit of service both here in eastern North Carolina and across the globe.

Read more

The June 2023 NCLEX results are in and we couldn’t be more proud of our May 2023 graduates.

The BSN students, 111 of the 114 graduates, who have taken the NCLEX since graduating in May have a 100% first-time pass rate. There are a few from that graduating class who still have to take the test, but we are very confident that they will do great.

Good job, Pirate Nurses!

Dr. Thompson Forbes

We have some big news regarding a degree program that is geared toward nurses who have interest in taking on roles in health care administration.

A new dual program offered by the East Carolina University College of Nursing, in partnership with the ECU College of Business, aims to empower nurses with the tools to advance up the ranks in executive leadership and health system administration. Graduates of the program will receive a Master of Science in Nursing and a Masters of Business Administration (MSN-MBA).

Dr. Bimbola Akintade, dean of the College of Nursing and an MBA graduate, understands the benefit of having nurses empowered to lead in health care administration.

“As we navigate unprecedented nursing shortages, nurse leaders with health care economics and health care finance acumen are important to advocate for the profession and to partner with health care administrators to properly assess the nursing needs of health systems, and to make fiscally responsible decisions regarding staffing and other financial investments,” Akintade said.

Read more
Healthcare Emergency and Disaster Management graphic

North Carolina is uniquely situated for disaster and healthcare emergency management response. Snow and ice, heat, wildfires and tropical storms all threaten a growing population that often lives in rural and hard to reach places.

Our state needs trained and educated nurses who may be the only medical professional available to keep our neighbors healthy in an emergency. There is still time to register for the Certificate in Healthcare Emergency and Disaster Management.

Learn more

Alumni Spotlight

Kathleen Johnson

While the CON’s Hall of Fame board is a fairly new, it’s members are stalwart members of Pirate Nurse Nation who are icons of the nursing profession. One of the inaugural board members is Kathleen Pierce Johnson.

Capt. Kathleen Pierce Johnson (Ret.), born in Honolulu, HI and was raised in Jacksonville, NC, is the daughter of a Marine Corps Master Sergeant. She graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and completed a Master of Science degree in Community Health and Nursing Education from the University of Maryland.

Pierce Johnson served in a variety of clinical nursing and leadership roles including Deputy Director Navy Nurse Corps, where she was responsible for the day-to-day operations for more than 4,100 nurses worldwide. Previous roles included: Medical Surgical Nursing, Critical Care Nursing, Patient Safety, Clinical Quality, Health Promotion, Ambulatory Care and Post Anesthesia Care.

She was assigned as a Congressional Detailee in the office of United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and provided healthcare policy input to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committees on Defense, and Labor, Health, Human Services and Education.

As the first Nurse Corps officer assigned to the Naval Medical Quality Institute in Bethesda, Md., she taught and provided organizational consultation throughout Navy Medicine regarding group process, team facilitation, and strategic planning. She facilitated the Nurse Corps Strategic Plan from 1991-1994.

Her leadership roles included: Commanding Officer, H&S Company, 3RD Medical Battalion, 3rd FSSG and Director, Combat Medical Training Unit , 3rd Battalion 3rd FSSG, Okinawa, Japan. Head, Risk Communication Action Team, Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan. She and her team were awarded The Chief of Naval Operations and Secretary of the Navy Environment and Natural Resources Awards in the Overseas Environmental Quality category for work that culminated in the closure of the Shinkampo Incinerator, NAF Atsugi, Japan.

She also deployed aboard the USNS MERCY (TAH-19) on its maiden voyage to the Republic of the Philippines.

She is married to Lt. Col. Brian T. Johnson, USMC (Ret.) and they have one daughter, Maria Topliff.


Katy Locke

Dear College of Nursing Alumni,

I hope this message finds you all well! My name is Katy Locke, and it is with great enthusiasm that I introduce myself as the inaugural Director of Alumni Affairs for the College of Nursing. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to serve our distinguished alumni community.

Our alumni hold a special place in the heart of our college. You are the embodiment of our institution's values, and your achievements and contributions to the nursing profession inspire and motivate our current students. Your shared experiences, challenges and successes create an unbreakable bond that I am eager to support and celebrate in the coming year.

As we look forward to the upcoming year, I am thrilled to experience and support the traditional events planned that rally around our alumni community's spirit. My hope is to facilitate an events calendar that provides meaningful opportunities for professional growth and camaraderie. The success of our alumni engagement efforts relies heavily on your involvement and active participation. Whether you are a recent graduate or have been part of our esteemed alumni community for years- your insights, feedback, and contributions matter greatly. We encourage you to join us in co-creating meaningful experiences that resonate with all of you. If you have not done so recently, please consider updating your alumni information so we can continue connecting and celebrating you!

Stay tuned for more details on events and other opportunities to engage and make a difference. I encourage you to reach out to me at for any suggestions, ideas, or simply to say hello.

Thank you for your support!

Warm regards,

Katy Locke

Director of Alumni Affairs

College of Nursing

Update Alumni contact info


Elizabeth Maxwell

As the Director of Development for the College of Nursing, I am one of the relationship builders for nursing. It is my great joy to meet and learn about our college’s incredible Pirate Nurses. As I engage with alumni, one by one, I often connect them to other alumni or to a faculty member because of their teaching or research interest. Making connections is my favorite part of my job because it is so rewarding.

Four years ago, I started a page called Nurse Leaders. It is comprised of Faculty and Alumni Nation Fellows, Academic Pirate Nurse Leaders (we have several who have founded nursing programs) and Military Nurse Leaders. If you haven’t checked it out, please do.

If you know anyone who fits into these categories – only the surface has been touched - please let us know by email at We want to recognize each of these accomplishments.

This month we welcomed our long-awaited Director of Alumni, Katy Locke. No one is more thrilled to have her on board than I am. She will make such a great difference in the work we are able to do. Thank you for joining our team, Katy. As she will be able to reach even more of you, she will be adding to the list as I will continue to do so as well.

Thank you, Pirate Nurses for being your awesome selves. Lead on, Pirate Nurses, Lead on! - Elizabeth Maxwell, Director of Development