MSK Nurses Honored with Robbins Family Awards for Nursing Excellence

Composite photo of 8 nursing staff members

On May 12, MSK recognized distinguished nursing staff members for exemplary service.

This year, the Robbins Family Awards for Nursing Excellence at Memorial Sloan Kettering held a deeper significance. By early April 2020, the number of COVID-19 patients being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering had quickly surpassed 100. Personal protective equipment in New York was in high demand but short supply, and staff throughout the hospital were becoming patients themselves. With no end in sight to the seemingly unstoppable pandemic, MSK nurses did what they always do: Suit up and show up.

MSK’s nurses stayed in step with evolving safety protocols and cared for patients while putting themselves at risk of COVID-19 infection. When outside visitors were no longer allowed inside MSK, nurses stood in for patients’ loved ones to comfort them, and in some cases, to hold their hands as they took their last breaths.

With the whole of the nursing staff continually operating above the call of duty, there were some individuals that fellow nurses, administrators, doctors, and patients sought to recognize for their exemplary service.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the outstanding award recipients and the over 5,000 nurses who continuously provided extraordinary care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” says MSK’s Elizabeth McCormick, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer. “MSK nurses showcase the vital and powerful role nurses play in our patients’ lives every day. They remain committed to our mission of providing safe and exceptional care.”

Ms. McCormick also thanked MSK Board Member Clifton S. Robbins and his family for generously supporting the awards program for the second consecutive year.

The Robbins Awards were given out during Nurses Week, which marked Ms. McCormick’s 22nd year at MSK. This will be her final celebration of MSK nurses before she retires at the end of 2021. This year also marks MSK’s second Magnet® designation, an elite recognition of the best nursing staffs in the world, which is received by only 8% of US hospitals every four years. “I can’t think of a better end to my tenure as Chief Nursing Officer. As I set my sights on new adventures, I am proud, humbled, and privileged to have served the greatest nursing team ever in the relentless pursuit of nursing service excellence, professional advancement, and unparalleled outcomes.”

“Memorial Sloan Kettering nurses play an indispensable role in giving the finest care to their patients. This dedication never wavers, even during the most challenging times,” says Mr. Robbins. “The Robbins Family Foundation is proud to support this recognition program and honor these exceptional nurses.”

Excellence in Patient Experience 

Tamara Strah, DNP, RN, CNOR, Perioperative Nurse Liaison, Josie Robertson Surgical Center

Tamara Strah, DNP, RN, CNOR, Perioperative Nurse Liaison, Josie Robertson Surgical Center

Nomination Excerpt: Tamara is an extraordinary nurse whose daily practices focus on fostering relationships with patients, families, and staff. Tamara has a long and valued tenure at MSK and has made a significant difference in the lives of our patients by positively enhancing their surgical experiences.

Excellence in Advancing the Nursing Profession

Debra O'Shea, MSN, RN, AOCNS®, EBP-C, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Outpatient Leukemia Service

Debra O’Shea, MSN, RN, AOCNS®, EBP-C, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Outpatient Leukemia Service

Nomination Excerpt: Debra has been an integral steward of MSK’s initiative to integrate Evidence-based Practice into the culture of our Department of Nursing. She is a role model and consultant to her nursing and interdisciplinary colleagues at MSK and Ohio State.

Excellence in Innovation 

Jericho Garcia, MSN, RN-BC, Nursing Informatics Specialist, Nursing Informatics

Jericho Garcia, MSN, RN-BC, Nursing Informatics Specialist, Nursing Informatics

Nomination Excerpt: Jericho is an outstanding nurse and colleague who played a critical leadership role in developing and implementing our COVID-19 Cohort Monitoring Team. Our team came together in a moment of crisis to help our patients, and Jericho’s insight, kindness, talent, and compassion ensured its success.

Excellence in Mentorship

Nancy M. Borzain, MA, RN, OCN, NE-BC, Clinical Supervisor

Nancy M. Borzain, MA, RN, OCN, NE-BC, Clinical Supervisor

Nomination Excerpt: Nancy embodies the characteristics of a mentor in everything she does. Nancy is well known for serving as an informal mentor to staff over her 40+ years of tenure here MSK. Additionally, she has contributed greatly to establishing a true mentoring culture within our organization by providing ongoing and on-the-spot mentoring to countless night staff at MSK over the years. Nancy mentors with patience, kindness, and expertise, and as a result, her mentees have thrived.

Excellence in Nursing Partnership

Julio Eugenio, Environmental Service Porter, Memorial 15

Julio Eugenio, Environmental Service Porter, Memorial 15

Nomination Excerpt: Julio has worked tirelessly supporting the nursing staff. He consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of him. Every day, Julio brings a positive attitude and enthusiasm to the unit. He makes the day a little brighter when he is here.

Excellence in Clinical Nursing Leadership

Melody Rosamilia, MSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Nurse IV, Memorial 17

Melody Rosamilia, MSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Nurse IV, Memorial 17

Nomination Excerpt: Melody’s leadership is not only defined in her title but also defined in the work and effort she places into all aspects of her career. She works effortlessly to prepare not only herself but the entire staff for various projects and unit-based initiatives. Melody’s participation in many organizational and unit-based projects have established her as a leader, resource, and ally to nurses, support services, and patients.

Excellence in Nursing Support

Venessa Rubano, Patient Care Technician, Memorial 19

Venessa Rubano, Patient Care Technician, Memorial 19

Nomination Excerpt: Venessa embodies MSK’s professional practice model of care by always putting her patients first. Her dedication to MSK’s patients has remained constant throughout the changes in our institution and unit. She always helps our patients feel safe, secure, and cared for physically, but more impressively, she excels in the psychosocial aspects of care. Patients and family members will request her specifically to care for them.

Excellence in Humanitarian Efforts

Tracey O'Keeffe Ramponi, BSN, RN, CCRN, Clinical Nurse III, 1275 Post-Anesthesia Care Unit

Tracey O’Keeffe Ramponi, BSN, RN, CCRN, Clinical Nurse III, 1275 Post-Anesthesia Care Unit

Nomination Excerpt: Tracey O’Keeffe Ramponi made clear, significant contributions in the promotion of population health far beyond the walls of MSK, both in life and in spirit. She leaves a legacy of restored lives all over the world and an encouraging number of nurses so inspired by her example, seeking to join the ranks of those who tirelessly work for global health and to follow her humanitarian lead and be their best personal and professional selves.

*This award is being presented posthumously. Ms. O’Keeffe Ramponi, a 14-year veteran of MSK, died suddenly in September of 2018, just a few months after giving birth to her first child. In addition to her remarkable service at MSK, she made 13 trips with an organization called Medical Missions for Children to help repair lip and palate abnormalities for children in underdeveloped countries. A fund named in Ms. O’Keeffe Ramponi’s honor is being created to help assist MSK nurses with expenses when they travel for mission work. Ms. O’Keeffe Ramponi’s sister, Shannon, an MSK nurse practitioner, will accept this award on her behalf. 

Excellence in Collaboration

Rapid Technology Innovation in Response to COVID-19

Nomination Excerpt: The interdisciplinary team provided technology solutions which supported our ability to respond to the critical care needs of our COVID-19 patients and safely, imaginatively, and efficiently support the clinical teams.

Composite image of 19 headshots

Top row, from left: You ‘Jay’ Chung, MSN, RN-BC, CCRN-K, Sr. Program Manager, Nursing Informatics; Hector DeJesus, Technical Project Manager, Nursing Informatics; Melissa Zimmermann, MS, BSN, RN-BC, Nursing Informatics Specialist; Tham Nguyen, MSN, RN-BC, Nursing Informatics Specialist; and Andrew Graham, DNP, RN, PCCN-K, Nurse Leader, Memorial 18.

Second row, from left: Dave Vang, MSN, RN, Nursing Clinical Analyst, Nursing Informatics; Eric Froehlich, MS, BSN, RN-BC, Nursing Clinical Analyst, Nursing Informatics; Tania Bubb, PhD, RN, Director, Infection Control; Ashley Jackson, Biomed Manager; and Kate Tayban, MSN, RN, ACNP-BC, GNP-BC, Critical Care

Third row, from left: Jennifer Larbi, Engineering Specialist II, Biomed; Vyacheslav Belovsky, Engineering Specialist III, Biomed; Sergey Kovalev, Engineering Specialist III, Biomed; Jeff Francisquini, Senior Manager, Information Systems; and Jay Isbell, MD, Assistant Attending, Thoracic Surgery

Bottom row, from left: Joyce Burkett, IT Team Lead, Information Systems; Thomas Cheng, Senior Application Analyst, Information Systems; Michelle Rausen, Respiratory Technical Director; and Michelle Cavuoto, MA, RN, OCN, CNIV, Memorial 18