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iLead program recognized for innovative use of iPads by BSN students

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston School of Nursing (UTMB SON) has been granted the distinction of Apple Distinguished School for 2021-2024. The nursing school's program called iLead (Innovative Learning Environment Accelerating Discovery) was recognized for innovation in learning, teaching, and leading with technology in the classroom.

Apple Distinguished Schools qualify as centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence. These schools use Apple technology to connect students to the world, fuel creativity, deepen collaboration, and make learning personal.

Recognition of UTMB School of Nursing as an Apple Distinguished School highlights our success in creating an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic achievement, said Dean Deborah J. Jones, PhD, MSN, RN. Delivering high-quality education is essential to our success, and iPad technology keeps everyone connected.

At orientation, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students are issued an iPad and Apple Pencil. Faculty members – most of whom are Apple Certified Teachers – employ Apple technology to engage the students in project collaborations, presentations, course assignments, simulation labs, and research activities in the BSN Traditional curriculum. Additionally the Apple technology is used to facilitate simulated clinical practice settings.

Our experience demonstrates that one-to-one iPad implementation facilitates students' active learning and empowers innovative pedagogy for educating future nurses, said Chair for Undergraduate Studies Patricia Richard, PhD, RN.

The power and immediacy of the iPad technology enhances students' engagement and encourages critical thinking in a manner equally accessible to all students.

More than 1,100 iPads have been distributed since iLead began in summer 2019, and students have reported that the iPad has been a positive addition to their learning experience. Having access to the iPad helped me better organize my notes and textbooks onto one device, saved me money by purchasing e-versions of the textbooks instead of paper copies, and really transformed how I utilize technology for learning, said Daniel Frost, 2021 BSN graduate. Before coming to school here, I had never used an iPad or tablet. I appreciate the efforts that everyone at UTMB has put into implementing this technology initiative.

UTMB School of Nursing has a tradition of embracing new educational technology, Dean Jones said. In fact, the graduate program began using iPads to facilitate clinical site visits. Sheba Luke, DNP, MSN, RN, assistant professor in our Department of Graduate Studies, confirms that the use of FaceTime to evaluate the progress of our nurse practitioner students in their clinical sites is an innovative method utilizing this technology.

Faculty observe the students via FaceTime on their iPads as the student performs a history and physical on a patient in their clinical setting along with their preceptor. This method proved to be an effective and efficient way to evaluate student clinical progress virtually versus in-person, said Luke.

The use of a videoconferencing platform for virtual clinical site visits provides the student an introduction to the concepts of telehealth as technology and information literacy is one of the nurse practitioner core competencies. The ability to be innovate and proficient with the use of technology is a necessary skill to develop for future health care providers.

We look forward to expanding iLead throughout the curriculum and further implementing innovative ideas for teaching and learning, said Dean Jones. The Apple Distinguished Schools program is by invitation only for accredited public and private schools that meet the program qualifications and eligibility requirements. Recognition is for three years, with an opportunity to be invited to continue in the program.

Read more about UTMB SON's iLead program HERE.




In Population Health Nursing, a third-semester course in the UTMB School of Nursing BSN curriculum, the students are afforded real-world experiences that also benefit the communities we serve.

Each semester, Population Health faculty members team up with community partners to assess the needs of whole populations and allow students to gain meaningful nursing experiences in a diverse range of settings.

Dr. Annalyn DeMello, assistant professor in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, worked in community health for years, prior to becoming a nurse. While hospital and clinic nursing addresses treatment of a disease or injury, community health and population health aims to prevent disease and injury from occurring or becoming worse, she says.

Furthermore, to improve health and to prevent disease and injury, we need to engage whole communities. A person's health is affected and can be modified by their behaviors, people around them, communities, and overarching systems. To treat a person and those in their 'population,' we need to understand the communities they live in. This includes understanding their barriers, facilitators, attitudes, and preferences for change, DeMello said.

This summer, DeMello coordinated initiatives with YMCA Camp Cullen and Galveston Central Church for her Population Health students.

At Camp Cullen – a summer camp at Lake Livingston where youth enjoy sports, water activities, arts and crafts, and education – nursing students performed critical functions to support a safe camp environment.

We spent the week performing our nursing skills in assessment and treatment of camp injuries, such as stings, sprains, splinters, stomachaches, and administering medications. Other objectives included helping kids through homesickness and camp counselors through compassion fatigue, commonly known as burnout, DeMello said.

Joy Gooden, one of the students who participated at Camp Cullen, appreciated the opportunity to apply not only the technical nursing skills she has learned, but also her communication skills in a therapeutic way.

I was able to build positive and effective relationships with the staff, counselors, and campers. They felt comfortable confiding in me, and I was able to provide purposeful solutions to help the day flow more efficiently, Gooden said.

At Galveston Central Church, which provides significant support to Galveston’s homeless population, DeMello’s students engaged in an eight-week interprofessional initiative to provide health services to community members, including assessments, foot care, lab draws, dentistry, social work, and physician consultations.

As a supplement to the Central Church initiative, nursing students took part in a week-long competition with other UTMB students to generate donations for community members in need. Thanks to the support of the UTMB Alumni Association, the School of Medicine’s Vesalius Osler Society, students, faculty, and staff, Galveston community members were given a total of 15 new pairs of shoes, 13 backpacks, 11 pants, 29 reusable water bottles, and 12 boxes of toiletries.

Christen Sadler, assistant professor in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, has also organized opportunities for Population Health students to give back, including a donation drive that yielded more than 4,500 diapers and training pants for the Galveston Diaper Bank. Her students also volunteered for Project CURE, an organization that helps distribute donated medical supplies.

For students like Gooden, these experiences represent more than the fulfillment of a requirement in a class. They present a different, valuable view of how nurses can be effective team members in a multitude of settings and situations.

I have enjoyed Population Health because it has given me the opportunity to reinforce my nursing skills and knowledge outside of the hospital setting, she said. It has opened my eyes to a different sector of nursing that is equally as important as traditional clinical care.

DeMello emphasizes the importance of students in the course learning how to address the health needs of whole groups of people, not just single individuals.

They learn how to do a needs assessment and develop sustainable interventions with the input of key informants from the targeted population. Really, what we target are social determinants of health, which cuts to the heart of many of today's health problems, DeMello said. Addressing people in their communities, in their homes, and through the larger systems that affect them is how we improve a population's health.

Our 127 summer population health students contributed approximately 1200 hours towards vaccinating the community against COVID-19, over 1524 hours working onsite with and on behalf of specific populations, and 4519 diapers to families in need. We feel proud of this group and excited to launch our fall initiatives next month.

The combination of Dr. Kathleen Murphy's professional experiences, education, and passion for equity and inclusion have uniquely prepared her for her new role at the UTMB School of Nursing.

Dr. Murphy joined the UTMB School of Nursing faculty in 2012 as administrator of the Executive Nurse Leader Track in the Department of Graduate Studies. However, leaders and peers quickly recognized that her training, leadership, and passion for equity and inclusion is threaded through all she does, both personally and professionally. She now serves as Associate Dean for Inclusivity, Global Health & Community Engagement and holds the Alice O. Stubblefield Professorship in Nursing.

Trained as a nurse practitioner and currently a board-certified, advanced nurse executive, Dr. Murphy has an extensive background in family, school, and public/community health issues, particularly among historically excluded populations. She has served the community in a variety of clinical and leadership roles locally, regionally and internationally. She is an alumna of the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellowship (2004-07) and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN).

I feel enthusiastic and grateful to be in this role, says Murphy. I grew up in a family that instilled and lived the values of compassion, community and to whom much is given, much is required --values I have carried throughout my life and into this role. They are a constant reminder of her purpose.

She recognizes the positionality of privilege and it's significant opportunities, and is committed to ensuring that historically excluded or underserved persons have opportunity equity. She understands that her position as a nurse and a leader can shine a bright light on inclusion and equity issues in healthcare, policy, and education.

The role of true equity and inclusion work is not a checklist. Trying one's best to live by these principles daily demonstrates a personal commitment that extends to the professional domain. It is not a title in a signature, it is about the actions you take, says Murphy. We live in the most diverse metropolitan area in the country, and we must commit to employing and educating a work force whose diversity mirrors the populations we serve.

In addition to this role, Dr. Murphy is currently searching for an Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to increase the school's capacity to support this priority and DEI initiatives.

We must allocate necessary and sufficient resources to equity. We need to truly instill a culture of inclusion… it has to be something we look at every single day: through committees you serve on, the language you use, reframing terms and concepts to students, ensuring holistic admission practices, using implicit bias checklists on curriculum, etc. The Assistant Dean will serve as a change agent, thought-leader, influencer and subject matter expert on diversity, equity and inclusion related issues.

When asked about how this work seems to ebb and flow depending on the political and social climates, Murphy responded with a strong desire to keep going. The challenges in moving this work forward are nothing compared to the challenges of those who have been most adversely affected by exclusion and inequity.

Murphy also leans on research to demonstrate why diversity is important for team success.

The most diverse teams are the nimblest teams, Murphy said. These teams are more likely to respond quickly, hear divergent opinions, participate in constructive conflicts, have robust discussions, that ultimately lead to better outcomes in the workplace. Without diversity, we won't be on the leading edge of where we need to be.

If anything has taught us that we need to be flexible, adaptable and nimble, it's the last year, she said. But on top of the pandemic, creating a diverse team is just the right thing to do.

I have no doubt that Dr. Murphy is the right person for this role, says Dean Deborah J. Jones. Her vision will continue to guide our school and community in the right direction. She advances strategic partnerships locally, nationally, and internationally, constantly applies an equity framework and pursues opportunities to implement innovative solutions to health disparities. We appreciate her leadership and strong guidance for our school.


University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston School of Nursing Dean Deborah J. Jones, PhD, MSN, RN, has appointed faculty member Elizabeth (Liz) Petitt, DNP, APRN, to a new role as Director of the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program.

Petitt is currently an assistant professor in the nursing school's Department of Graduate Studies. She succeeds Maureen Wilder, DNP, RN, who is retiring after 40 years of service at UTMB.

Petitt will lead a program ranked by U.S. News and World Report at #17 out of 173 graduate nursing schools in its 2021 survey of Best Online Master's in Nursing Programs. UTMB School of Nursing also is listed at #14 in Best Online Family Nurse Practitioner Master's Programs and #6 in Best Online Master's in Nursing Programs for Veterans (up from #10 the previous year).

Drs. Wilder and Petitt will work closely to facilitate a smooth transition, said Dean Deborah J. Jones. Dr. Petitt's background, experience, passion, and enthusiasm will be great assets as a leader for our MSN Program.

Petitt has worked at UTMB for 30 years, 29 of those in health care and nursing. She is an alumna of UTMB, having earned both her MSN (2008) and BSN (1999) degrees from the School of Nursing. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she was named the outstanding DNP student in her class in 2018.

Petitt's clinical expertise is as a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner. Her research interests include skin cancer prevention and sun protective behaviors, as well as health promotion and disease prevention. As a faculty member, Petitt is engaged in creating dermatology content, lectures, skills, case studies, and test items within the MSN curriculum. She will continue to teach and lead our seven different MSN tracks.

Jill Bryant-Bova
Jill Bryant-Bova

Jill Bryant–Bova wants to be a leader in health care. That desire has motivated her not only to pursue advanced nursing degrees, but to seek opportunities where she can apply both her leadership skills and her passion for service.

A graduate of the MSN Executive Nurse Leader program and current DNP student at UTMB School of Nursing, she recently served as a lead supervisory nurse for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Buffalo, NY, as a member of the Texas–3 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT).

The Texas–3 DMAT is a branch of the National Disaster Medical System, which is part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. The team deploys to locations across the United States to fulfill a wide variety of medical needs as they arise, from natural disasters to major special events.

During her deployment to Buffalo, Bryant–Bova worked 12- to 13-hour shifts every day, overseeing vaccinators who administered first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to community members. She also helped distribute and administer vaccinations herself. In the end, the team was responsible for more than 10,000 vaccinations over two weeks, with Bryant-Bova working about 180 hours in that period.

It's fulfilling to go out there and work, Bryant–Bova said. You are out there to help people – that's what it's all about.

Jill Bryant-Bova

Bryant–Bova credits both the UTMB Executive Nurse Leader and the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs for providing the foundational knowledge she needed to lead in these deployments – from leadership skills to the importance of good communication with the individuals being vaccinated, some of whom were nervous and needed reassurance.

I love talking to people, so it was nice being able to talk to so many people and relate to them. They were so thankful and appreciative of what we were doing., she said. We had great conversations.

The deployment to Buffalo is only the latest for Bryant–Bova, who works at UTMB as a Senior Quality Management Specialist and is president of the SON Alumni Association. She has been a part of the Texas–3 DMAT since 2003, and her deployments have included the Hurricane Katrina response in New Orleans, the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, and the second inauguration of former President Barack Obama, to name a few.

Bryant–Bova says she is proud of her membership in the Texas–3 DMAT and the work she has done in her deployments. The School of Nursing is honored to count her among our alumni and current students. 

SON Shout Outs

Dr. Verklan

​Congratulations on being selected as a committee member for the American Association of Critical Care Nurses 2021 Acute and Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist Practice Analysis Task Force to review the roles/responsibilities of the critical care CNS.​

Congratulations to our Nursing PhD students for receiving the following awards: Emily Blumenthal, Doctoral Program of the School of Nursing Scholarship; Angela Mcgaskey, J. Michael Leger, PhD, RN Family Nursing PhD Scholarship; Keili Peterman, Lois E. Nickerson, R.N. Endowed Scholarship; Emily Blumenthal, Mariann Blum, Ph.D. Endowed Presidential Scholarship; Lisa Letz, Marie and Talbert Aulds Scholarship; Megan Steele, Michael Tacheeni Scott Endowed Scholarship; Colleen Villamin, Regina R. and Alfonso J. Mercatante Memorial Scholarship; and Lisa Wagner, SON Alumni Assoc. Fund

Lisa Wagner

Congratuations to Ms. Lisa Wagner on the successful defense of her dissertation titled Planting Seeds: A Naturalistic Inquiry into the Perceptions and Experiences of WIC Peer Counselors as they Interact with Mothers Making their Infant Feeding Decisions.

Dr. Cheyenne Martin

Presented the Sr. Charles Marie Endowed Lecture (virtually) at Incarnate Word University, San Antonio titled Profiles in Courage: An Exploration of Nurses and Physicians Engaged in Resistance Efforts in Europe During Nazi Occupation. This special lecture was given after evacuation from Tropical Storm Beta and severe rainstorms in Wharton.

Dr. Virginia Chandlee

Congratuations on the successfull defense of her dissertation titled, An Exploratory Study of Pediatric Oncology Nurses' Perceptions of and Advocacy Responses to Ethical Issues in Securing Informed Consent in Adolescent and Young Adult Patients..