From The Heart

 


By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2017) — Children spending Valentine’s Day week at Nemours Children’s Hospital got a special treat on Monday: Seven UCF College of Nursing students, dressed in their scrubs, visited their hospital rooms and brought along a new soft, cuddly bear.

In all, 88 ‘Knight Nurse’ teddy bears — also wearing UCF scrubs — arrived at Nemours as part of a larger fundraising campaign spearheaded by the college, and meant to brighten the day of hospitalized children.

Soon-to-be 13-year-old Karina, who has a closet of strategically placed stuffed animals at her Melbourne home, eagerly awaited her bear delivery before her chemotherapy treatment. When she was greeted by the nursing students, they immediately started discussing how to accessorize the bear with her favorite color, purple.

“It’s super, super soft. It’s the softest bear I think I have. It feels kind of like my unicorn,” Karina said. “Everyone is so nice here. Everyone’s just trying to make all the kids here feel better.”

In January, the college debuted its “Give a Bear, Warm a Heart” fundraiser that enabled the public to sponsor one – or an entire unit – of teddy bears wearing UCF nursing scrubs. The college partnered with MorUniversity, the college’s exclusive scrub provider, to create limited-edition bears outfitted in an exact replica of the scrubs worn by UCF nursing students.

Donations were still coming in as of late last week, but the college estimated that roughly $14,000 was raised in the inaugural campaign. All money raised will help support priority areas in the UCF College of Nursing, including student scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips.

Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event.

On Thursday and Friday, students will deliver more bears to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Florida Hospital for Children. In totally, roughly 225 bears will be delivered this year.

“I just love working with the kids. They have this incredible spirit, so any opportunity that I get to interact with them and to make them smile is just what makes it so special for me,” said Orlando native Hayley Boyle, who is in her last semester of UCF’s undergraduate nursing program and hopes to become a pediatric nurse. “These bears have such an impact. They’re just a beautiful thing to do.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Jan. 23

1. We like big data and we cannot lie. The UCF Colleges of Sciences, Business and Engineering and Computer Science are hosting a Big Data Symposium this Thursday from 6-8 p.m. in the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. The evening’s keynote speaker is Lee Odess ’99, vice president of UniKey Technologies. Although the event is complementary, space is limited. For more details and to RSVP, click here.

2. On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons clinched their spot in Super Bowl LI. Why do we care? Because former C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and UCF alumnus Kemal Ishmael ’13 has suited up for the Falcons ever since they selected him in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He is now the 13th Knight to be listed on the roster of a Super Bowl team.

Ishmael graduated from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and minor in coaching in 2013. The Super Bowl will air on FOX on Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

3. Apparently, the UCF women’s flag football team is creating quite a dynasty. The Knights recently captured its fourth consecutive football national championship. This year’s squad, ‘Team Check on It,’ thumped the North Carolina A&T Aggies in the championship game, 13-2. The team was led by head coach Brandon Baroody ’13, a finance alumnus who is a member of the National Collegiate Flag Football Championships Hall of Fame.

4. Emergency physicians in training from UCF’s College of Medicine used their skills on a national stage when they staffed the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20. During the inauguration, three ER residents and two attending physicians from Osceola Regional ran a treatment and triage area adjacent to the viewing area on the National Mall, in partnership with other first responders.

5. You can help the College of Nursing brighten up the lives of children in local hospitals. The college’s “Give a Bear, Warm a Heart” fundraiser enables the public to sponsor one — or an entire unit — of teddy bears wearing UCF nursing scrubs to be delivered by nursing students the week of Valentine’s Day to sick kids at local hospitals. Learn more about how you can get involved.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Aug. 15, 2016

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1. Less college debt? Where do we sign? Turns out, 48 percent of undergraduates at UCF carry no debt upon graduation – well below the national average.

2. UCF is partnering in a new national project called Re-Imagining the First Year of College that is designed to increase student success, particularly for students who are low-income, first-generation or racial minorities.

3. There’s a new, clear bag policy for UCF football games and you’re going to want to read it. Some key items you will not be able to bring into Bright House Networks Stadium include purses, diaper bags and non-approved seat cushions.

4. Four PhD students at the UCF College of Nursing are receiving full scholarships thanks to the help of three new grants totaling $85,000.

5. A partnership between UCF Health, the UCF College of Medicine’s physician practice and My Health Onsite opened a new health center for Osceola County Sheriff’s Office members and their families.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 25, 2016

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The UCF College of Nursing is one of just 60 nursing schools in 33 states to receive funding to participate in this year’s white coat ceremony, which promotes humanistic, patient-centered, compassionate care among future generations of registered nurses. (See No. 2 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Oviedo High School teachers Will Furiosi, ’13, MAT14, and Jessica Ortega, ’13, fell head-over-heels for each other — and education — at UCF. READ MORE
  2. On Jan. 10, nearly 200 students from the UCF College of Nursing ceremoniously began their clinical practice with an inaugural white coat ceremony and joined a nationwide initiative to promote compassionate care.
  3. UCF freshman Nick Drivas has been invited to perform with Grammy Award-nominated entertainer Michael Feinstein as part of the “Michael Feinstein: A Sinatra Centennial” concert Jan. 29 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
  4. On a career break and thinking of returning to work? Unsure about what you want to do and where to start? Interested in changing career paths? Join UCF alumni and other returning professionals for an information-packed, half-day program that includes return-to-work strategies, and tactics on resumes, interviews and job searches.
  5. Running through Jan. 31, Theatre UCF, in collaboration with the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, presents “Spunk and the Harlem Literati,” an adaption of the play “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston. The production is part of the 27th annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Nursing

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College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Thomas Weichart, ’04, ’14.
Thomas Weichart, ’04, ’14 | Clinical Nursing Director, ONI Medical Associates

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Nursing presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Tom Weichart at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Prior to his current career ventures, Tom held various nursing positions, including the role of presidential executive nurse with the White House Medical Unit. He also served in the U.S. Army, with stints at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, N.C.; 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq; and 240th Forward Surgical Team in Macedonia and Kosovo.

His education in the health-care field began in 1993 and continues to this day. He earned a BS in nursing from the University of Florida in 1995; an MS in health services administration from Central Michigan University in 1999; an MS in critical care nursing from UCF in 2004; a post-graduate health profession education certificate in 2004; an MA in theology/theological studies from Liberty University in 2010; post-graduate certificate as a family nurse practitioner from UCF in 2014; and is currently attending UCF for a nurse practitioner doctorate, scheduled to graduate next year.

Learn more about Tom:

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Oct. 26, 2015

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Ericka Dunlap, ’04, performed the National Anthem during the 2015 Black & Gold Gala awards ceremony on Thursday night.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Alumni Association celebrated the achievements of 16 Knights who have “Reached for the Stars” during its 2015 Homecoming Black & Gold Gala on Thursday evening. In addition to 11 Professional Achievement Awards, the association presented awards for Distinguished Student, Distinguished Alumnus, and Service to UCF, as well as the Michelle Akers Award and Champions Award. (Individual articles will continue to be posted throughout the coming weeks.)
  2. After the Knights fell 59-10 to No. 21 Houston during Saturday’s Homecoming game — the eighth straight loss this season — Head Football Coach George O’Leary announced his immediate retirement late yesterday.
  3. This week’s alumni events include a College of Business Administration Alumni and Student Networking Knight tonight, and the UCF San Diego Alumni Club’s Knight at the Museum tomorrow night.
  4. Concluding LGBTQ+ History Month, UCF will host Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” actress Lea DeLaria (“Carrie”), who will serve as keynote speaker during the closing ceremony tomorrow afternoon.
  5. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) congratulated UCF’s two-time national champion Cyber Defense Competition Team in a Senate floor statement on Oct. 20.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — July 20, 2015

OrlandoCity-arm

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Congratulations to Mary Lou Sole, a longtime UCF professor and administrator, who was named as the new dean of the College of Nursing! (Also, see the Orlando Sentinel article.)
  2. The superheroes at Limbitless Solutions have done it again! This time, they partnered with the Orlando City Soccer Club to donate a 3-D printed arm to a 6-year-old Brazilian boy.
  3. Things may be a little quiet around UCF this time of year, but our regional alumni chapters and clubs — including Austin, Jacksonville and Boston — are keeping busy!
  4. Speaking of travel, did you know that the alumni association has partnered with many different companies to offer great benefits, including discounts on rental cars, hotels and even LEGOLAND? Visit our benefits page to check out all of the awesome discounts you can take advantage of as a UCF Knight!
  5. ICYMI: The Blackstone Launchpad at UCF is helping to propel students toward their entrepreneurial dreams. Read about three such Knights who have started their own unique companies.

Swinging for Scholarships

UCF alumna puts on her dancing shoes to help raise money for nursing students

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Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, practices with dance partner Tony Sterling for Femmes de Coeur’s “Let Us Entertain You” competition
to help raise money for UCF nursing scholarships. (Photo: Zack Thomas, UCF Foundation)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

When Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, decided to apply for the College of Nursing’s accelerated B.S.N. program, she needed some assistance to help ease the financial burden of pursuing another degree. After all, she was a little older, and had a 6-month-old baby and mortgage at the time. That’s when she discovered the Femmes de Coeur scholarship, for which she applied and was awarded, helping her to pay for tuition and books, and graduate without student-loan debt in 2009.

Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) is an Orlando-based, not-for-profit volunteer organization that regularly hosts fundraising events to support numerous local community projects, including nursing scholarships at UCF, Valencia College, Seminole State College and the Florida Hospital’s Adventist University of Health Sciences.

Becoming a nurse wasn’t DeGennaro’s original plan, however. She grew up thinking she wanted to become a counselor or forensic psychologist, which is why she earned her first UCF bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice, in 2003. But, it was her work in Florida Hospital’s inpatient placement program that inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse.

Forever thankful for her opportunity to follow her passion, DeGennaro recently had the opportunity to participate in Femmes de Coeur’s annual dance competition, “Let Us Entertain You,” which raises money for exact scholarship that helped put her through nursing school.

She had no previous dance experience before the competition, but was in good hands with her 19-year dancing veteran and partner, Tony Sterling. The pair practiced twice a week since March, and took the stage June 14 in the ballroom at Church Street Station, dancing the West Coast Swing to Florida-Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” While they didn’t take the top prize, they did place third, which means about $10,000 in nursing scholarships for UCF.

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“It was my way of being able to give back to something that helped me.” DeGennaro says.

She also gives back daily, in a different way — helping to educate future nurses in the College of Nursing, where she was hired as a permanent nursing instructor in January.

Her journey from practical to practicum began while she was working as a nurse in the multisystem-transplant ICU at Florida Hospital South, where she became a certified preceptor and discovered a love for teaching. So, once again, DeGennaro re-enrolled at UCF — this time in the nurse educator master’s program, from which she graduated in 2013.

“I love being a nurse,” she says. “I love caring for people. [But,] as a nurse educator, I’m able to impart my knowledge and experience into my students. Every time they help or care for someone, I feel as though I’m a part of it. So, in essence, I’m able to touch more people’s lives than ever before!”

While she’s not planning to make a career out of dancing, DeGennaro is planning to continue her UCF education, beginning her Ph.D. in summer 2016, with plans to do research in critical care.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — May 26, 2015

UCF Police Chief Richard Beary and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings announced a partnership to address safety near UCF during a media announcement on May 21.
UCF Police Chief Richard Beary and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings announced a partnership to address safety near UCF during a media announcement on May 21.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The Board of Trustees convened at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on May 21 to discuss funding, projects and other plans for the university’s future. The board approved an annual budget of about $1.5 billion for the upcoming 2015-16 school year, and agreed not to raise tuition costs, housing and other fees, freezing tuition rates for the second year in a row.
  2. The UCF Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced a partnership initiative to enhance the safety of the area near campus through additional enforcement, as a response to the concern heard from students and the local community due to recent high-profile incidents.
  3. The UCF College of Nursing was ranked as one of the top programs in the state and nation in a recent report on the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses. With 98 percent of BSN graduates passing the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt, UCF now ranks among the top 4 percent of 778 BSN programs nationwide.
  4. UCF is now the first and only university in Florida to offer a research-focused master’s degree in nanoscience. The Master of Science in Nanotechnology program further elevates the prominence of UCF’s nanotechnology research.
  5. If you ever travel between UCF’s main campus and Research Park, beware of road construction for the next 10 months, as the mile-long stretch of Libra Drive is widened from two lanes to four lanes.

A Day with a Knight — ARNP

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Kate Hughes, ’10 | ARNP, Winter Park OB-GYN

By Angie Lewis, ’03

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It’s a quote that Kate Hughes, ’10, lives by as an advanced registered nurse practitioner for Winter Park OB-GYN. I spent a day with her to gain more perspective on what it’s like to be a women’s care nurse.

It was just after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 6, when I joined Kate in her office, after meeting with the office manager to sign a confidentiality agreement. She had already seen her first patient by the time I greeted her.

While waiting for her next patient to get settled in the exam room, she checked messages and lab results on her laptop. Then, it was off to see her second patient of the day, an 18-year-old who wanted to renew her prescription for birth control after moving to Florida.

Kate entered the room, introduced herself and me, then asked the teen to tell her about herself. It’s part of how she was trained as a nurse practitioner — to treat mind, body and soul. She says getting to know more about her patients’ lives not only helps her develop a trusted bond with them, but also gives her insight into issues that could potentially cause health issues.

After learning more about her newest patient, Kate reminded her about the risks of birth control pills, and made sure she understood that they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Her next patient was a returning 42-year-old, who came in for an infertility consultation. Kate explained the initial tests she wanted to run, as well as the next steps, which seemed to give the patient some hope.

She was followed by a 33-year-old who was there for her 38-week pregnancy checkup on her third child. While performing the exam, Kate felt something abnormal. However, not knowing what it was, and not wanting to unnecessarily concern her patient, she stayed calm and told her she was having a difficult time finding her cervix.

After my arrival earlier that morning, Kate had explained that Winter Park OB-GYN was a collaborative practice. And, this particular patient was a perfect example of that collaboration at work, as she consulted a fellow nurse practitioner about her unusual discovery.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a varicose vein on the uterus and not an umbilical cord, which would have required emergent care.

As the morning proceeded, Kate saw four more patients — a 34-year-old for a 34-week pregnancy check, a 24-year-old in for her first pap smear, a 25-year-old with a yeast infection and a 24-year-old who came in for a Nexplanon birth control implant — before getting to take a break for lunch, through which she worked on charts, and again checked messages and lab results.

After getting a few bites in, it was time for her first patient of the afternoon, a 60-year-old in for her annual exam. She was followed by a 52-year-old who had been experiencing light spotting every couple of months and thought she may be in menopause. However, Kate assured her that was not the case yet due to her lab and ultrasound results. Instead, it was a cyst that was most likely causing the irregular bleeding.

Seven patients later, she met her last one of the day — and one of the most difficult for her emotionally, as she hates causing any of her patients pain. This one, a 40-year-old mother of one was in to get a Paraguard IUD insertion under ultrasound. It’s a particularly tricky procedure that requires directly entering the uterus through the cervix, and I cringed with empathy as the patient screamed out in pain. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds, but it took its toll, causing her to feel light headed for a few minutes afterward. Kate apologized for causing the unavoidable discomfort and brought her patient some juice and a snack bar to help combat the physical reaction.

Regardless of the times she has to perform painful procedures — or, worse yet, deliver painful news, like a miscarriage — Kate still does so with the utmost compassion and professionalism, even praying with her patients upon request.

Kate has been with Winter Park OB-GYN for the last five years. She previously worked as an emergency room nurse at Florida Hospital East Orlando.

“Choosing one thing I love about my work is very difficult,” she says. “I love connecting with women, meeting them where they are each day and helping them work through illness, promote healthy decisions and prevent disease.”

Throughout the day, I noticed the special connection she shares with her patients. She’s extremely personable and compassionate, and it translates through the women for whom she cares, who, one after another, told me how great she is.

“My experience [at UCF] aided me in providing compassionate care that meets the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of my patients on many levels,” she says.

Her patients love her for that. And, she loves her job because of her patients.

Beyond the Stethoscope Q&A

Q. What advice would you give to current UCF nursing students?
A.  Take time to learn the anatomy and pathophysiology very well. This foundation helps everything else fall into place.

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A.  My husband and I love to travel! The National Park System in the United States has some of the most beautiful places in the entire world — oceans, deserts, rainforests, mountains, valleys, rock formations. I would love to work for the National Park system!

Q. What’s something you learned in the past week?
A.  I learned about a new drug regimen for multiple sclerosis patients.

Q. What do you fear?
A.  Clowns and spiders

Q. Last thing you Googled?
A.  Guidelines for patients of advanced maternal age

Kate Hughes is a recipient of the UCF Alumni Association’s 2012 Rising Star Award. She’s been married to fellow Knight Jimmy Hughes, ’06, for nine years, and the couple has three sons, Daniel, 6, Elijah, 4, and Jonah, 2.