There was extra jubilation at this year’s Robbins Family Awards for Nursing Excellence, because they were held in person in the Rockefeller Research Laboratory auditorium for the first time since 2019. The May 11, 2022, event, named for longtime board member Clifton S. Robbins, was a much-anticipated opportunity for the Department of Nursing to be together and honor their colleagues during National Nurses Week.
“We are so happy to be able to applaud this year’s winners and to share in the joy of this event,” says Cortney Miller, Nurse Leader of the Magnet® Program and Nurse Engagement, who oversaw the Nurses Week activities. “Nurses Week and the awards are one way we can show our nurses how much they are appreciated and valued.”
This year’s celebration is the first for Tracy Gosselin, who joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in November as Chief Nurse Executive and Chair of Nursing. “I am so inspired by our winners,” says Dr. Gosselin. “I am delighted to join in honoring them and paying tribute to all our nurses for the superb work they do every day.”
Here are this year’s winners.
Excellence in Clinical Nursing Leadership
Thomas Bracken, MA, RN, OCN
Clinical Nurse IV, Memorial 4
Tom is a “second-career” nurse who previously ran his own landscaping business for 15 years. At MSK, he reimagined the orientation program for new nurses and led efforts to familiarize them with practicing in the Neuro Advanced Care Unit (NACU).
“Everything we do is for our patients — they are the source of every new idea and initiative,” Tom says. “Nursing school teaches you to give meds and set up an IV — but it doesn’t teach you to care. At MSK, that enormous commitment to caring is an organization-wide phenomenon.”
Excellence in Patient Experience
Megan Graham, DNP, AGPCNP-BC, RN, OCN
Nurse Practitioner, Head and Neck Surgery
Megan has worked in the Head and Neck Surgery Service for the past 13 years. She was drawn to this patient population, she says.
“Many are faced with physical changes that can’t be hidden. Sometimes the way they look, speak, and breathe changes forever — but they are so strong. It’s a privilege to help them get through such a difficult time.”
Megan says she loves “being a connector” between the surgical and nursing teams. She created a practice policy that MSK nurses, respiratory therapists, and other clinical staff now utilize.
Excellence in Advancing the Nursing Profession
Caroline Clark, MSN, APRN, OCN, AG-CNS
Clinical Nurse Specialist, MSK Basking Ridge
“Anything I can do to make things easier for patients or nurses — that’s what motivates me,” says Caroline, who has been at MSK since 2003.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she led the transition to dose-specific inhalers to reduce patients’ possible exposure to aerosols.
“I want to elevate nurses’ voices and help them achieve change,” she says.
Excellence in Humanitarian Efforts
Jennifer Ogilvie, MSN, RN, NE-BC
One of Jen’s better-known projects is the Stethoscope Initiative, which benefits the Caribbean School of Nursing at the University of Technology, Jamaica. A stethoscope that costs $100 in the U.S. can cost $15,000 in Jamaica. Last summer, Jen’s friends and colleagues ordered equipment from an Amazon registry she created for the nursing school. She received more than 180 stethoscopes as well as blood pressure and glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, and textbooks.
Jen makes sure to support other women of color in their career development. “I’m available to help them apply for tuition reimbursement, write a letter of recommendation, whatever they need.”
She knows the importance of a helping hand. “I lost my parents at a young age, and if it hadn’t been for other people stepping up to take care of my siblings and me, my life could have been very different,” Jen says. “I always ask, ‘What am I doing to make a difference?’ ”
Excellence in Innovation
Melissa Zimmermann, MS, BSN, RN-BC
Nursing Informatics Specialist, Nursing Informatics
Melissa’s role at MSK involves finding technology solutions that help clinics run smoother. She recently led a project that decreased how long it took for providers to see alerts.
“It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to support clinicians instead of seeing technology get in their way,” she says.
She joined MSK in 2017 and says she is proud to help nurses and other MSK providers find more time to focus on patients by streamlining their work. “I’m honored to support them,” she says.
Excellence in Nursing Support
Unit Assistant, Urgent Care Center
Dashawn describes his role as a Unit Assistant (UA) in the Urgent Care Center (UCC) as “a mix of air traffic controller and receptionist.” He checks patients in, directs all their calls, and ensures that patients are ready to go to their scans, procedures, or an inpatient floor when it’s time.
During an incident in January 2021 when a distressed patient entered the UCC with a gun, Dashawn moved patients and staff to safety, kept people calm, and communicated police directives.
“Helping is always my number one goal,” he says.
Inspired by his mother-in-law, who is a nurse leader, and his wife, Kameca, also a nurse, Dashawn is preparing to go to nursing school in the fall.
Excellence in Collaboration
Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) Team
- Nora Love, MS, RN, CNS, CURN, OCN, Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Amy Caramore, BSN, RN, CEN, Quality Management Nurse
- Kathleen McAllan, BSN, RN, PCCN, Interim Nurse Leader, M18
- Jessica Leone, BSN, RN, PCCN, Clinical Nurse III, M18
- Likhita Kanneganti, Data Analyst, Nursing Quality
The Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) Team has reduced CAUTI infections by 30% from 2018 — a significant accomplishment, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond addressing CAUTIs, the team has empowered nursing staff to advocate for their patients and lead in transformative change.
“You might say we were telling nurses to stand up and speak their minds, but we were mostly saying to nurses: ‘You don’t have to stand up because you were never sitting down,’ ” says Amy. “It might feel, because my title is X and yours is Y, that one of us should talk and the other should listen. But we’re all mission-oriented. We’re asking nurses to look at the science and do the right thing for the patient in front of them. Everyone is on board with that.”
Excellence in Nursing Partnership
Chaplain, David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care
After Brian’s wife died in 2003, he left his 35-year career as a lawyer to get his Master of Divinity degree. He joined MSK in 2017 and works closely with nurses.
“I’m struck by the choice they’ve made,” he says. “I always tell them that they have been called to this work.”
He has accompanied many staff members on emotional and spiritual journeys, sharing in their highs and lows.
“With staff, I see my primary role as trying to be a mirror to them,” Brian says. “I want them to see what I see and what their patients see.”
Excellence in Mentorship
Kameelah Brown, MSN, RN, OCN
Nursing Professional Development Specialist
Kameelah guides graduates as they transition to practicing nurses. She believes her previous career in retail management has made her a better nurse and educator. “I already had a lot of life experience,” she says. “I can sense if residents are drowning and are too afraid to say something, and I jump in.”
Although Kameelah’s entry into nursing came later in her professional life, it was a sudden decision. “When I had my daughter, I was so amazed by my nurse in the hospital. She sparked my interest,” she says.
When her mother became an MSK patient, “I could sense the positive energy,” she recalls. “I told my mom, ‘I’m going to work here.’ ”
Kameelah says seeing her nurses promoted thrills her. She says: “Watching people spread their wings gives me great joy.”