In 2016 the Jefferson College of Nursing celebrates its 125th anniversary. It was founded in 1891 as the Jefferson Hospital Training School for Nurses with 13 students in the first class. The nursing program has changed and grown in many ways over the years, and the oral histories here provide some insight into the many forms nursing education has taken at Jefferson.
If you graduated from Jefferson with a nursing degree and are interested in participating, let us know! You can contact Kelsey Duinkerken at firstname.lastname@example.org
DISCLAIMER: These oral histories express the personal views, memories, and opinions of the interviewee. They do not represent the policy, views, or official history of Thomas Jefferson University. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce these oral histories must be obtained in writing from the Thomas Jefferson University Archives and Special Collections. No use (beyond limited quotation) should be made of the transcripts of these interviews without authorization.
Colleen Young Elwood and Kelsey Duinkerken
Colleen Young Elwood discovered her interest in nursing after finishing a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology and starting her career at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Learning about diabetes and working with diabetics sparked an interest in public and community health so she enrolled in Thomas Jefferson University’s two-year BSN program, which she graduated from in 2013. While at Jefferson her clinical experiences confirmed she was not interested in hospital nursing but instead in community nursing. After graduating she started working at Nurse Family Partnership, first as an intern and then as a Nurse-Home Visitor, where she helps new mothers during their pregnancy and through their child’s second year.
Eileen Healy Garrity and Kelsey Duinkerken
Eileen Garrity’s first draw to the medical field came through her interest in Christiaan Barnard’s work as a cardiac surgeon. After deciding to pursue nursing instead of medicine, Ms. Garrity entered the Jefferson School of Nursing’s Diploma program, graduating in 1976. She began her career as an ER and ICU nurse, working at Atlantic City Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Mercy Fitzgerald. She eventually left hospital nursing to work at Blue Cross, ending there as the manager of their risk programs department before moving on to Taylor Hospital as a director of social work case management and later manager of clinical documentation improvement. Ms. Garrity is currently the director of clinical documentation improvement programs for the Jefferson University Hospital system.
Lois Whaley Highsmith and Kelsey Duinkerken
After originally studying chemical engineering at Penn State, Lois Highsmith decided to instead pursue nursing. At Jefferson she found a passion for community health nursing, specifically related to obstetrics, gynecology, and maternal child health. Ms. Highsmith graduated in 1986 and over the years worked mostly in maternal care but also in psychology. Among other positions, she worked for ten years at Pennsylvania Hospital where she founded STEPS, Strategies to Encourage Parental Self-Sufficiency, a teen pregnancy clinic, and worked as a home visitor for Mercy Home Health educating new moms about postpartum care. Since 2002 she has worked for Nurse Family Partnership, a home visiting program for first-time pregnant women that teaches women about child development, pregnancy, women’s health, and community resources.
Pat Owens and Kelsey Duinkerken
From a young age Pat Owens had a strong interest in nursing, and as a high school student she was even the President of her school’s Future Nurses Club. However, she also really liked home economics so when she went to college she decided to pursue home economics rather than nursing. After working as at the Dairy Council as a nutrition consultant and later at Campbell’s Soup in their test kitchen, Ms. Owens decided that she wanted to instead pursue a career in nursing. After looking into different programs in the Philadelphia area, she chose Jefferson, entering in 1990 and graduating in 1992 with her BSN. After graduation she worked in the intermediate neuro intensive care unit at Jefferson before getting her Master’s degree as a gerontological nurse practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania. When she graduated in 1997 she left Jefferson to accept a job at the geriatric primary care clinic at the Veteran’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Though now retired she still works part-time as a legal nurse consultant.
Vera Paoletti and Kelsey Duinkerken
Vera Paoletti became interested in nursing as a teenager after watching a close family member succumb to leukemia. This experience led her to work as a candy striper at Jefferson Hospital through her high school years and then enroll in the Jefferson Hospital School of Nursing in 1966. Once she graduated in 1969 Ms. Paoletti began her career as a nurse at Jefferson, first in surgery on Ninth Pavilion and then in oncology on Eleventh Pavilion before becoming head nurse first of a nineteen-bed unit reserved for VIPs and then two years later of Sixth Main. In 1975 she left Jefferson to pursue public health nursing in South Philadelphia, during which time she also worked as a nurse for the Air National Guard in Pomona, New Jersey. Ms. Paoletti then spent a handful of years in Anchorage, Alaska working as a hospital nurse before returning to the Philadelphia area. At this point she began working in endoscopy, which eventually led her to start a clinical research site in gastroenterology at Graduate Hospital before moving into the pharmaceutical field.
Joan Walker Randolph and Kelsey Duinkerken
Joan Randolph is a 1956 graduate of the Jefferson School of Nursing’s Diploma Program. Though she enjoyed all of her nursing rotations as a student, upon graduation she decided to go into medical-surgical nursing, starting her career at Jefferson Hospital working with, among others, Dr. John Gibbon. After leaving Jefferson, Ms. Randolph spent the bulk of her career at Jeanes Hospital, where she worked her way up from staff nurse to head nurse and eventually on to Vice President of Patient Care Services. Though now retired Ms. Randolph continues to be involved with the field of nursing by serving on various Boards and Committees as well as counseling individuals about their careers in nursing.
Mary Greenwood Schaal and Kelsey Duinkerken
Dr. Schaal graduated from Jefferson’s Nursing Diploma Program in 1963 and received her BSN from Jefferson in 1981. Though she started her career as an operating room nurse she soon discovered an interest in public health. After coming back to Jefferson for her Bachelor’s degree and then going on to the University of Pennsylvania for her Master’s degree and Rutgers for her Doctorate, she began teaching Community Health to nursing students at Rutgers in Camden. Dr. Schaal then went on to teach in MCP Hahnemann’s graduate program, which is now Drexel, before coming back to Thomas Jefferson University and ending her career there as the Dean of the Nursing School. In addition to many other accomplishments as Dean she oversaw the expansion of enrollment, the inception of the first online courses offered at TJU, and the transition of Nursing as a department within the University to its own independent School of Nursing.
Grace Spena and Kelsey Duinkerken
Grace Spena grew up with an interest in health sciences, first wanting to be a medical laboratory technologist and later a registered nurse after attending an open house on nursing at Saint Agnes Hospital, where she volunteered as a teenager. Upon completing her education in 1971 from the Jefferson Diploma School of Nursing, Ms. Spena began her career as a Staff Nurse in the Surgical ICU at Jefferson Hospital. She then went to Medical College of Pennsylvania, working as a Staff Nurse in the combined Medical/Surgical ICU and later as the Head Nurse of the 3 West Medical/Surgical unit. After completing her Bachelor’s in Nursing at Villanova University in 1980, Ms. Spena became the Assistant Director for Nursing at Northeastern Hospital. Before long she decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Nursing, also at Villanova. She subsequently worked as a Clinical Director at Saint Mary’s Hospital and as Vice President of Patient Care Services at Saint Agnes Hospital before shifting her career path to be a consultant for nursing at Sacred Heart Hospital’s Surgical Services area and at Patuxent River Naval Base Hospital’s OB/GYN unit, after which she became the Director of Surgical Services at Sacred Heart Hospital until the closure of the hospital in May 1994. After a period of unemployment, due primarily to changes in the healthcare industry which caused a significant impact on healthcare workforce and acute care hospitals, Ms. Spena transitioned to academia working as the College Nurse at Montgomery County Community College. After returning to Jefferson Hospital as the Nurse Manager for the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) for almost two years, Ms. Spena finished her career back at Montgomery County Community College managing health and wellness initiatives. Though now retired, she continues to work part-time at Montgomery County Community College developing employee wellness initiatives and supporting other health related projects.
Breanne Ward and Kelsey Duinkerken
Though she originally decided to become an accountant during college, Breanne Ward soon realized she would rather be in a field where she could work more closely with people. She chose nursing because she wanted the opportunity to physically care for others. Ms. Ward was accepted as a nursing student in Jefferson’s Full-time Accelerated Coursework Track (FACT) program, during which time she discovered an interest in community health through both her non-hospital clinical experiences and volunteering with Jeff HEALTH (Helping East Africa Link To Health). After working in the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and completing her Master’s in Community Systems Administration in 2012, she joined Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a maternal health home visit program. She is currently a supervisor at NFP where she helps support eight Nurse-Home Visitors.
Patricia Maro DeHart and Kelsey Duinkerken
Patricia Maro DeHart first became interested in nursing in high school when she first volunteered, and later worked, as a nurses’ aide in a local nursing home. She decided to attend Jefferson’s Diploma Nursing program and graduated in 1977. After starting her career in medical surgery at West Jersey Hospital she then worked as an OB-GYN nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for eleven years. As her career progressed she moved to Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she held a number of varied positions that allowed her to combine both her degrees in nursing and business, including as account executive and government operations director. After more than two decades at Bristol-Myers-Squibb Ms. DeHart now works as a Certified Diabetes Educator for Virtua. She also serves on the Diploma Nurses Alumni Association Board.
Karen Jordan and Kelsey Duinkerken
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Karen Jordan was a member of the civil rights movement in Philadelphia during the 1960s, first becoming involved with the fight to desegregate Girard College. After a semester at Cheyney University Ms. Jordan took time away from school before deciding to study nursing. She enrolled in the Jefferson Diploma Nursing program in 1973 and graduated in 1976. She would later go on to also receive her Bachelor’s in Nursing Science, also from Thomas Jefferson University. Ms. Jordan has spent her long career at Jefferson working as a medical-surgical, oncology, and neonatal nurse. In her free time she remains involved with the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters.
Katherine Kingsley Kinsey and Kelsey Duinkerken
Dr. Kinsey received her nursing diploma from the Jefferson Hospital School of Nursing in 1963 and later a BS in Education and School Health from Millersville University. She also has a BS in Nursing, Magna Cum Laude, a MS in Nursing in Community Health, and a PhD in Education, all from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently serves as the Nurse Administrator and Principal Investigator for the Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), the Mabel Morris Family Home Visit Program (MM), and other early childhood initiatives. Previously, Dr. Kinsey was a tenured professor at La Salle University School of Nursing where she held the Independence Foundation Endowed Chair in Nursing and Public Health and directed two nurse-led health centers. She was one of the founders of the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) and continues to serve as a board member. Prior to that, Dr. Kinsey was on the faculty of the Jefferson University School of Nursing. Responsibilities included design and implementation of the public health nursing curriculum, and she served as the Coordinator of the RN to BSN program.
Aileen Ishuin MacMillan and Kelsey Duinkerken
Aileen Ishuin MacMillan did not grow up wanting to be a nurse, but after two years of college in Montclair not knowing what she wanted to do, Ms. MacMillan decided by chance to pursue nursing at Jefferson. After graduating in 1976 from the Diploma program she took a job as a nurse in the maternity ward of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. During her forty year career at Jefferson Ms. MacMillan also completed her BSN at Gwynedd Mercy University. She remains very involved in Jefferson Nursing, serving on both the Jefferson Nursing College Alumni Board and, as president, on the Diploma Nurses Alumni Association Board. In her free time she enjoys volunteering at her church and bowling.
Mary Woltemate Stec and Kelsey Duinkerken
Dr. Stec began her nursing career in 1973 as a graduate of Jefferson’s Nursing Diploma School. She would go on to receive her BS in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania, her MSN from Gwynedd Mercy College, and her PhD in Nursing from Widener University. Dr. Stec has spent the majority of her career as a nursing educator, including as an instructor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital School of Nursing, Gwynedd Mercy College, and Abington Memorial Hospital Dixon School of Nursing. She is now an Assistant Professor at Temple University. She is also a Certified Nurse Educator, an Evaluator for the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, and has served on a number of Boards, including the Nursing of Children Network, the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, and the National Coalition of Hospital Associated Schools and Colleges of Nursing.
Genevieve Jedrziewski Williams and Kelsey Duinkerken
This oral history was completed with Genevieve (Jenny) Williams about her older sister Stella Jedrziewski Wawrynovic, a 1940 graduate of Jefferson's Nursing Training School.
Stella Jedrziewski Wawrynovic was born in Osceola Mills, Pennsylvania to Polish immigrants. Her parents championed the importance of education for all of their children, and so when the oldest daughter Stella graduated from high school in 1936 she moved to Philadelphia to pursue a nursing degree at Jefferson's Nursing School. She began her career at Jefferson before joining the Army during WWII to work as a nurse. After the war she returned to Jefferson, where she continued working until she married Frank Wawrynovic in 1949. Though she spent much of her remaining career working for her husband's business, she was always proud of being a Jefferson nurse. Upon her death in 2013 the Stella Jedrziewski Wawrynovic, DN ’39 Scholarship was created to support Jefferson College of Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students who demonstrate academic excellence.