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:

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.

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.

 

College of Nursing

College of Nursing Interim Dean Mary Lou Sole (left) presents the college's 2014 Professional Achievement Award to Patricia Celano, '10. (PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
College of Nursing Interim Dean Mary Lou Sole (left) presents the college’s 2014 Professional Achievement Award to Patricia Celano, ’10.
(PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
Patricia Celano, ’10 | CNO/Vice President, Florida Hospital Orlando

Professional Achievement Award 2014

A common denominator apparent in many of her best new hires and colleagues inspired Patricia Celano to further her education. Upon observing the level of preparation bestowed upon nurse leaders who had gone through the UCF College of Nursing master’s program, Celano was convinced that UCF was the place for her. As chief nursing officer and vice president of clinical services for Florida Hospital South, she now implements her new skills to effectively manage one of the largest nursing workforces in the state.

Learn more about Patricia:

Little Legacy

First scholarship in memory of alumna’s daughter awarded to nursing student

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Marlie Dodson dreamed of someday being a UCF cheerleader and a nurse. But, sadly, those dreams would never be realized, as Marlie succumbed to a lifelong battle with brain cancer on Dec. 31, 2011. Because her generous spirit made such an impact on those who cared for her while she was in the hospital, Marlie’s mom, Sarah Dodson, ’01, knew that the UCF College of Nursing would be a perfect home for Marlie’s memory. The Marlie Kai Dodson Memorial Endowed Scholarship supports future caregivers, and was awarded for the first time this year to UCF nursing student Bryce Catarelli.

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