We have partnered with the MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA COLLEGE OF NURSING to highlight some of the Lowcountry’s top nurses. HealthLinks Charleston wants to recognize nurses as the backbone of our medical community and thank them for all their efforts!
RUTHIE CONNER Ph.D, RN, FNP-BC, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
Dr. Ruthie Conner has enjoyed working in many aspects of the nursing field throughout her career. She was once a hospital nurse, a travel nurse and a transplant coordinator. She is now an assistant professor in the Medical University of South Carolina's College of Nursing program in the doctor of nursing program. She also enjoys working as a family nurse practitioner in the HouseCalls program at United Healthcare.
She said she was inspired by her father to pursue a career in nursing.
"My dad was chairman of the board of trustees at Lexington Medical Center when I was in high school," she said. "He had a huge respect for all health care workers, especially nurses. He encouraged me to pursue a nursing degree."
Dr. Conner holds a bachelor of science in nursing from Clemson University and a family nurse practitioner and Ph.D in nursing from MUSC.
Dr. Conner said she is thankful for her father's encouragement.
"I have enjoyed every moment of my career. It is so rewarding to provide emotional and physical comfort to people who are not feeling well," she said.
As a nurse educator, Dr. Conner enjoys mentoring students.
"I wanted to make sure that nursing students understood that a positive attitude and a genuine display of kindness with each and every patient were just as important as their knowledge and that if at any time they did not enjoy their job that there were countless other job possibilities in this amazing profession."
DEBBIE CHATMAN BRYANT DNP, RN, FAAN
As an associate professor, associate dean for practice and the director of outreach and community relations, Dr. Debbie Chatman Bryant never wants to forget where she came from and as a result now dedicates her career to bridging the gap in understanding and respect between at-risk communities and health care systems.
"I grew up in a small, rural community in South Carolina. I witnessed firsthand the daily struggles families faced – raising children, paying the bills, putting food on the table and caring for elderly or ill family members. Mothers and families often put their own health care needs on the back burner because they didn't have the time, the money or access to health care. As a result, I watched many of them succumb to preventable and manageable diseases," she said.
Much of Dr. Bryant's current work involves health inequities for marginalized populations.
"Many of the issues encountered in at-risk communities are heartbreaking and frustrating, but all of the stories are real and underscore the challenges facing poor, rural, underserved communities in need. The faces in these communities represent an inescapable public health crisis of our time. Our job is to expand nursing influence beyond traditional health care boundaries and find solutions for social justice issues toward greater gender, racial and ethnic equality," she said.
Dr. Bryant's advice to new nurses: "Find grace in leaning into uncomfortable spaces to advance change. Reform policies using our influences as nurses to address social determinates of health and public health practice. Identifying solutions will not be easy, but I believe as said by the late James Baldwin: 'Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.' As nurses – lean into the hard work!"
KIM BRADLEY RN, BSN
Kim Bradley said she felt "called" to do what she is currently practicing in nursing. As a Marine spouse of 25 years, Bradley has a distinct understanding and awareness of the challenges and difficulties facing military families. With over 20 years of experience as a nurse, Kim has worked the last 11 years for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society as a combat casualty assistance visiting nurse, helping post 9/11 Marines, sailors and their caregivers adjust to life after wartime service. In her unique role, she has been able to travel throughout the United States, making face-to-face visits at no charge to the patients and families, regardless of their discharge status. She currently covers the states of South Carolina and Missouri.
Bradley said her education took her almost 20 years and to nine different schools after many military moves and raising two children while taking classes. She completed her ADN at the Jewish Hospital College of Nursing in St. Louis, which is now called Godfarb School of Nursing. She completed her BSN online through Chamberlain College of Nursing almost 10 years later, when her kids were in high school.
She spent her first 10 years of nursing working as a mother/baby nurse, parent/child educator and as a lactation consultant before moving on to help military families.
"I am a person of service and compassion, and I felt nursing was a great fit for me as a mom and military spouse," she said.
DR. CARRIE L. CORMACK DNP, APRN, CPNP
Dr. Carrie Cormack is an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is the lead pediatric faculty in the MSN/DNP program. But beyond her success as a nurse, she always knew she wanted to work with children.
"During high school, my dad and I volunteered together weekly at a children's hospital in Boston. That experience was so meaningful and made me realize that pediatric nursing was my calling. My early experiences as a nurse definitely shaped my career path, and I found myself gravitating early on toward children with medical complexities," she said.
She wholeheartedly believes that new nurses should follow their passion, and, if there is a population of people they think they could help, they should go for it.
"Being a nurse is not a job; it's a part of who you are. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you love what you do and you are able to make a difference in the lives of others," she said.
She advises new nurses to remember to take the time to listen.
"Days will be busy, and there will always be more to do. But take time to listen to your patients and families. If they offer to share their stories, take them up on it. I have learned so much from my patients and their families," she said.
DR. MICHELLE NICHOLS Ph.D, RN
Dr. Michelle Nichols never thought she would have chosen the field of research when she was in college. Currently, as a nurse scientist, she said she wouldn't have it any other way. "Research ended up becoming a passion of mine," she said. She worked as a research nurse after she completed her master's degree but wanted to pursue her doctorate so she could conduct her own research.
She said one of the best parts of being a nurse scientist is that she doesn't lose the one-on-one patient interaction. "I still get to maintain that close connection with patients and families, but I get to use my knowledge and skills to address clinical needs important to their health," she said.
At MUSC, Dr. Nichols' interests include reducing health disparities through health promotion and disease prevention in under-resourced populations, the use of community-based participatory research methods, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases and clinical research ethics.
Dr. Nichols specializes in working with underserved children, adolescents and their parents to improve health literacy and health behavior change.
DR. JAMES PELLETIER Ph.D, RN
Dr. James Pelletier, a nursing professor at The Citadel's Swain Department of Nursing, said that he was working in the Navy as a diver when he decided to pursue a career in nursing.
"I found the science behind hyperbaric therapy fascinating, and it really piqued my interest in health care as a career field," he said.
He said he was drawn to working in nursing education because of the impact nursing professors can have on the lives of their students. "The cornerstone of a nurses' ability to provide competent professional care lies in their entry level education. A high-quality entry level education provides them with skills to grow in their profession and expand their contributions to their patients and the field of nursing. I plan on staying in nursing education largely due to the enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity and dedication of our students. They create an environment that is just great to be a part of," said. Dr. Pelletier.
The nursing program at The Citadel began in January 2017. Students who complete the program will earn their bachelor of science in nursing.
SOPHIE FOWLER FNP-BC
Working in the health care field was definitely in Sophie Fowler's blood since her father, grandfather and great grandfather were all doctors. "They sparked my interest in medicine," Fowler said. Her specialty is palliative care, which she started working in at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. She said she never thought she would have loved palliative care as much as she does now. "It is the art of helping people with some of the most difficult decisions of their lives," she said. "I enjoy being there to help guide people as to what is best for them."
Fowler works for LTC Health Solutions, which offers patients a team of high-quality medical professionals to provide consistent care to people in full-care or assisted living facilities.
When it comes to working in geriatrics with palliative care, Fowler said that she believes in treating the patient as if he or she were her mother or father. "Put yourself in your patient's shoes and always treat them as if they were one of your own," she advised.
TERRI FOWLER DNP, APRN, FNP-C
As an assistant professor in the nursing program at MUSC and a family nurse practitioner, Terri Fowler sees the value of teamwork in the nursing field and stresses the importance of working as a team to her students. "In my role as a faculty member, I work hard to identify the best models for teamwork in the clinical setting," she said. "I teach my students what it takes to be a member of a high-functioning health care team."
She realized how much she loved the profession when she was considering nursing as a career during her undergrad years at the College of Charleston. "I was instantly attracted to the profession because I wanted to do something that was meaningful, gratifying and that made a difference in the lives of others," Fowler said.
She stays active in the clinical setting by working at a local clinic offering primary care. "I enjoy seeing patients and experiencing firsthand the role of interprofessional teamwork in a clinical setting as well as experiencing the role of nurse educator," she said.
GAYENELL S. MAGWOOD Ph.D, RN, FAAN, ALUMNUS CCRN
Nursing was actually Dr. Gayenell S. Magwood’s second choice in college.
“After I graduated college the first time, I wanted a ‘do over,’” she said. “An opportunity arose for me to pursue my BSN and the rest is history.”
Dr. Magwood began her career as a trauma ICU nurse.
“At that time, I was concerned with the continuum of care at home that the patient received from family and close friends once discharged,” she said.
While working on her master’s degree, she completed a practicum with a transplant nurse and fell in love.
“My time as a transplant coordinator let me combine my interest and passion for working with patients and families dealing with complex conditions,” she said.
To say she is heavily involved in her community is an understatement. She was project director for REACH in 2010 and is currently heavily involved with the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society in Nursing, National Black Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association and many more.
Dr. Magwood advised, “Commit to never stop learning. RNs are an integral part of the health care system, and we have a responsibility to contribute to our community.”
MARY GUILLAUME RN, STAFF DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
Mary Guillaume realized her love of caring for older adults when she was in nursing school at Trident Technical College.
“They have lived a life that we don’t see anymore,” she said. “I had the most profound conversations with them, and I knew that geriatrics was what I was called to do.”
Guillaume works for Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina, specifically The Village at Summerville, a faith-based retirement community that provides multiple levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, skilled rehab and long-term care. There are five communities under the Presbyterian Communities umbrella in the state.
“I started working there after I graduated nursing school in 2012,” she said. “I was an RN on the floor and had the privilege of taking care of patients as they moved through each level of care until the end of life. Knowing that you made those transitions easier is an amazing feeling.”
Now as staff development coordinator, Guillaume educates nurses on providing the best possible care to their seniors. She said she feels fortunate to work with skilled staff, cutting-edge technology and brilliant physicians.
“We also have the most fantastic seniors as patients,” she said. “It is an honor to be their nurse.”
CATHERINE O. DURHAM DNP FNP, DIRECTOR, MSN DNP PROGRAM
While on active duty in the Navy, Dr. Catherine Durham was working in intensive care and noticed the importance of prevention.
“I started to realize how vital the quality of primary care was and how crucial it was to have access to it,” she said.
While in the Navy, Dr. Durham was selected for a program to complete her MSN. She then pursued a career in family medicine and has been working as a family nurse practitioner ever since. Although Dr. Durham is also an active drilling reservist in the Navy, holding the present rank of commander, she admitted that the best decision she ever made was to be a nurse.
“Having the opportunity to engage with patients at their most vulnerable times can have a positive lasting impact,” she said. “Pursuing nursing has been the most valuable thing I have accomplished in my professional career.”
She added, “I knew I wanted to be a nurse from an early age. I had an interest in helping others and loved the science associated with being in health care — those two things together were the perfect mix for me.”
WILLIAM STRICKLAND RN CASE MANAGER
They say working in hospice takes a special person, and William Strickland, RN, and case manager with Intrepid Hospice, fits the bill.
“I want people to be able to enjoy time with their family and friends in their last days rather than worrying about going back and forth to appointments and hospitals,” he said.
He said he loves the challenge of nursing.
“I became a nurse because I knew I enjoyed caring for people,” he said. “Nursing offers so much to me when I am caring for people at their bedside.”
Intrepid Hospice offers many facets of care once a person is diagnosed as terminal and given a prognosis of six months or less to live.
“There is nothing quite so special as being with a person when they are transitioning to a new existence. It is simultaneously the most difficult yet rewarding job that a person can do. Knowing that you not only helped the person die with dignity and comfort but that you helped a loved one to achieve that goal for their loved one is an incredible experience,” Stickland said.
His advice to new nurses is to study, observe, listen and ask questions.
“Even when you are out of nursing school, the learning doesn’t end,” he said.
MORGAN MCCALL BSN, RN, CHPN
Morgan McCall, the clinical coordinator for the palliative care program of LTC Health Solutions, had no idea she wanted to be a nurse when she was in college at Charleston Southern University, let alone to eventually work in hospice and palliative care.
“I was an undeclared major,” she said. “After two years of college, I went to my career advisor, and all I knew was that I wanted to help people, so I gave nursing a try.”
She felt it was a calling when she was one of 40 accepted into the program out of 120 who applied. Working in hospice also came to her as a “sign.” A family member of hers was battling a disease, and, on the morning that the family member passed, she got a call from Agape Hospice asking if she would like to interview with them. After working there for three years, she transitioned to palliative care.
“I now work with patients earlier in their disease process,” she said. “There are no words to describe the countless interactions I have had over the past five years. I am grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to work with each and every one.”
SUSAN D. NEWMAN Ph.D, RN, CRRN
It was serendipitous for Dr. Susan D. Newman to end up in the specialty of rehabilitation as a nurse.
“When I graduated, hospital positions were scarce,” she said. “There was an opening at the Roper Rehabilitation Hospital, so I applied and here I am.”
Newman grew to love working in rehabilitation, especially working with people who had spinal cord injuries.
“The whole focus of our practice is to help people regain their maximum independence after a disabling health event or injury so they can continue to live full and productive lives,” she said.
Currently, Newman is an associate professor in the Ph.D program at MUSC’s College of Nursing. She focuses her research on developing interventions to optimize the health and independence of people with spinal cord injuries.
Newman advised new nurses to “be curious.” She said, “Understand why we do the things we do as nurses. Seek out the evidence that informs our practice. This is what led me into a career in research – I wanted to understand what interventions would best help people with spinal cord injury.”
ANNEMARIE SIPKES DONATO DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
As a family nurse practitioner with LTC Health Solutions and Agape Hospice, Annemarie Sipkes Donato really gets to know her patients personally, and that is her favorite part of being a nurse.
“Compassionate care of patients and their families in their home is very rewarding to me,” she said.
Donato just returned to working fulltime as a nurse after teaching at MUSC for 20 years.
“I always taught my students to treat their patients as they would want to be treated,” she said. “I also always encouraged them to really study where they wanted to work as a nurse. There are many different areas and so many new opportunities to seek.”
She also said that being open-minded about all the different areas of nursing will lead to success in the specialty they choose.
For Donato, hospice was definitely the specialty that became her passion.
“Having the opportunity to see patients in their homes inspires me to give the best care possible so that patients and their families have the resources available to them to live the best quality of life,” she said.
BERRY S. ANDERSON Ph.D, RN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
Berry S. Anderson realized his passion for psychiatric nursing during his last semester of nursing school. A mentor led him down the path of psychiatry, and he began his career as a staff nurse over 20 years ago at the Institute of Psychiatry at MUSC. He now teaches nursing at MUSC and works as a research nurse manager in the Brain Stimulation Laboratory.
“Now, I get to combine my passion for teaching psychiatric nursing with my passion for research,” he said.
Anderson’s research focuses on the use of brain stimulation technologies to understand brain function and treat psychiatric disorders. He has conducted many professional brain stimulation presentations, most notably at the International Society of Neurostimulation and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
Anderson’s advice to anyone thinking of becoming a nurse is, “Take a chance and work outside of your comfort zone. Don’t follow the herd – be yourself.”
KITTY WEAVER RN, BSN
Kitty Weaver finds great satisfaction from educating patients when they are experiencing either chronic illness or needing end-of-life services.
“I had the opportunity to work with my father-in-law, an elderly aunt and a friend’s mother at the end of their lives,” she said. “It became a passion of mine to assist people at this very vulnerable time.”
Weaver is currently the director of palliative care for LTC Health Solutions, a sister company of Agape Hospice. She has worked in many different aspects of nursing over her 30-year career but has been working in the hospice realm since 2012.
“In palliative care, it is rewarding to offer help to people who are suffering with chronic illness but not yet needing hospice services,” she said. “I enjoy helping people with symptom management and advance care planning so that they can focus on the quality of their life.”
AMY WILLIAMS DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC
Amy Williams is an assistant professor in the Masters of Science and Doctorate of Nursing Practice program at MUSC. She also provides primary care to patients at the MUSC University Pediatrics – Northwoods in North Charleston. Her specialty is pediatrics, and she takes particular interest in childhood obesity, childhood asthma and in promoting culturally effective health care, which is why she is fluent in Spanish and speaks it at her clinic in North Charleston regularly.
“I’ve always loved working with children and the same was true when I became a nurse,” Williams said.
Williams also said that she loves the level of teamwork that goes into pediatric care.
“There was and continues to be an initiative to care for them as holistically as possible. That may mean helping them overcome illness, manage chronic conditions or maintain optimum levels of health,” she said.
As a nurse educator, Williams encourages nurses to commit to being their best by always continuing to learn.
“Stay educated on the latest trends and always take care of yourself first. Our patients and communities depend on you,” she said.
KELLY HOLMES RN, BSN, CPT, USAR
Kelly Holmes works as a nurse on the labor and delivery unit at East Cooper Medical Center and, for the past nine years, has worked as a nurse in the Army Reserves.
Holmes was working in women’s health diagnostic sales in 2006 when she decided to pursue a career in labor and delivery nursing.
“I was selling a test to assess risk of preterm delivery, and most of my job was educating nurses on the test. I had a passion to be on the other side,” she said. “I wanted to be the one taking care of these patients.”
For Holmes, what she loves most about labor and delivery is certainly witnessing the miracle of birth, but she also enjoys observing families — how they interact in the delivery room and how the baby is introduced to the siblings. She advises other nurses to always take the most difficult patients.
“You will learn the most from them,” she said.
She also feels incredibly honored to be serving her country in the Army Reserves.
“The Army Reserves has afforded me some extraordinary learning experiences and has taken me to some very interesting places,” she said. “I’m honored to serve this country and the soldiers of the Armed Forces alongside some phenomenal medical professionals.”
We have partnered with the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing to highlight some of the Lowcountry’s top nurses. HealthLinks Charleston wants to recognize nurses as the backbone of our medical community and thank them for all their efforts!
DR. JOY LAURER PMHCNS BC, PSYCHIATRIC APRN
Not only is Dr. Joy Lauerer an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at MUSC, but, for the past 15 years, she has maintained her own practice of treating preschoolers to young adults with mental health issues. She lectures nationally on children’s behavioral health issues, and even has experience practicing at One80 Place, the homeless shelter in Charleston, where she was responsible for the mental health care of the children and families who lived there.
Dr. Lauerer said that her favorite part of being a nurse is helping children and families find hope.
“I love interacting with patients and their families,” she said. “It is so important to me that they find hope, find ways to solve their problems and develop strengths.”
She also practices at Coastal Pediatrics, providing behavioral health care in a pediatric primary care setting.
Dr. Lauerer gives great advice to anyone wanting to pursue nursing as a career.
“Always work hard and develop great mentors,” she said. “And don’t forget to practice good self-care as you are the role models in the community.”
TERESA J. KELECHI PH.D, RN, FAAN
The transfer of medical nursing knowledge from research to patient is paramount for Teresa Kelechi, professor and David and Margaret Clare Endowed Chair at MUSC. With a bachelor of science in nursing from Kent State University, a master of science in nursing from Case Western Reserve University and a Ph.D in nursing from the University of South Carolina, Kelechi has established herself as an expert in the field.
“Having the ability to conduct research that helps patients manage symptoms associated with having skin ulcers is the inspiration to my profession,” she commented.
Currently, Kelechi is affiliated with clinical practices where patients with lower leg problems such as venous insufficiency or diabetes are seen. She talks to them about symptoms and self-management, even inviting them to become part of ongoing studies.
“My plans are to continue to conduct research for preventing and managing a variety of ulcers,” she said. “I also plan to continue teaching Ph.D nursing students about conducting research and mentoring junior nursing faculty.”
MICHAELA LEWIS DNP, CPNP, CPN, CPEN
Michaela Lewis understands how the well-being of children is important to our collective future and the crucial role of nursing in that goal. After earning an associates and a bachelor of science in nursing from Gardner-Webb University, Lewis completed her education with a doctor of nursing practice at MUSC, where she continues to teach full-time.
“As an instructor, I use knowledge gathered from research, current evidence-based guidelines and personal experience,” she said. “I serve as a mentor and resource for students as they enter the acute care setting and initiate interactions with pediatric patients and families.”
Lewis feels strongly about her role in teaching young nurses to care for children.
“I am a sieve through which caregivers of children may filter information and, with that information, make informed decisions,” she said. “Children, upon whom the future of our nation and world rest, deserve every advantage and opportunity.”
AMELIA (AMY) JOSEPH PH.D, RN
A suggestion by her guidance counselor kindled Amelia Joseph’s career in nursing. After receiving her bachelor of science in nursing from Southern Connecticut State University, she finished her education in the Lowcountry, getting her masters in business administration from The Citadel and earning her Ph.D at the University of South Carolina. Since then, she has built an extensive career in nursing.
“I’ve worked in a variety of different clinical settings, mostly as a nurse manager, and finished my career here in Charleston as an associate nurse executive,” she said.
Throughout Joseph’s years as a nurse, she has made great efforts to care for patients individually and without judgment. “I believe that family, whatever that means to the patient, is an extension of the patient,” she explained. “I believe that you never treat a patient in a vacuum, but, rather, you treat the patient as well as his or her family.”
Joseph is currently the department head for the Swain Department of Nursing at The Citadel.
JILL DEATON RN
While working for a company that manufactured hospital beds, Jill Deaton was inspired by studying how these beds prevented injury. She then decided to go back to school, attending Trident Technical College to earn an associates degree in nursing.
“I wanted to be a part of that healing process,” she said. “I worked in a couple of hospitals and soon found my passion – home health nursing.”
Deaton continues her mission today as an RN case manager for Amedisys Home Health, where she takes pride in changing the lives of her patients for the better.
“Seeing my patients’ smiles when I walk in their door and knowing they feel comforted and reassured when I leave is the ultimate reward,” she pointed out. As for future goals, Deaton plans to concentrate her efforts on being an educator and assisting other nurses who choose to work in home treatment.