After nearly three years filled with anxiety and unknowns, the College of Nursing is ecstatic to celebrate the culmination of a history-making campaign. The University of Florida’s Go Greater Campaign began in 2014 and came to a close this fall with a record-breaking $4.5 billion raised through philanthropy. The College of Nursing’s $22 million goal was exceeded earlier this spring through the thousands of generous alumni and friends who have contributed to the college’s missions of teaching, research and clinical service. Closing out the campaign with $23.5 million, we look back on the journey over the last seven years and highlight several of the accomplishments being celebrated by Gator Nursing through the Go Greater Campaign.
A rock for rural communities
In 2021, the college’s nurse-led practice celebrated its 20th anniversary in the small, rural town of Archer, FL. UF Health Archer Family Health Care, or AFHC, has been a fixture in the underserved community and the surrounding areas, providing primary and mental health care to individuals and families who are primarily lower-income and uninsured.
The practice has grown over the last 21 years. Now with a team of five nurse practitioners — including family, psychiatric mental health and pediatrics — and six support staff, the practice is able to provide access to those with limited resources.
AFHC relies on philanthropic support and grants from federal, state, local and private organizations. During the Go Greater Campaign, AFHC was a fundraising initiative to sustain the practice and allow the community to continue to benefit from its unique approach to personalized care. Nearly $800,000 in private donations has been raised for AFHC since the beginning of the campaign. In the fall of 2021, a giving challenge sought to raise $20,000 for the practice’s 20th anniversary.
Through a $100,000 gift, Nancy Cross Hamilton (BSN 1964, MN 1966) was a lead contributor for the 20th anniversary giving challenge, which exceeded the original goal of $20,000 and raised $132,700 between Dec. 1-15. The Hamiltons have been loyal supporters of the College of Nursing for decades, establishing a Charitable Remainder Trust to support graduate students with intentions to become nursing faculty.
Hamilton said donating to AFHC is important because the practice is a leader and prototype for rural health. She and her husband, Jerry, spend nearly half of the year in western North Carolina, where the need for access to health care is very evident. Recently, they witnessed how the closing of a local clinic in their area of North Carolina led to individuals having no access to care at all.
“A clinic like AFHC can provide that consistent family-centered care, and I believe that the care offered is one that preserves the dignity of the individual.” Hamilton said. “The change that AFHC presents is a powerful one, giving nurses a lead in providing primary care. Because it also provides an educational laboratory for Gator Nursing students, I would hope it might lead some to go into rural health nursing.”
Recent Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate, Anthonia Rich (DNP 2022), is one such student who took advantage of the educational opportunity at AFHC.
For a semester under the mentorship of Practice Director Denise Schentrup, APRN, DNP, Rich worked as a clinician at AFHC. A Newberry, FL, native, Rich grew up seeing firsthand just how important rural health practices are to making sure a local community has access to crucially important, quality care.
“Growing up in Newberry, the only health care option we had locally was a dentist’s office — my grandmother still makes the commute to Gainesville for her appointments,” Rich said. “Rural health care is essential because it provides access to treatments and care patients in these communities would have difficulty seeing otherwise. Every Gator Nurse should gain experience at Archer to learn about these rural health disparities and develop skills to navigate the challenges that exist when providing care to those individuals.”
From a young age, Rich enjoyed helping people in need get better. She joined AFHC to provide care through performing assessments and physical exams for patients who lived in communities like her family. The environment within its four walls was like nothing she had ever experienced before.
“Each provider at Archer Family Health Care truly cares — they are so passionate about their work and go above and beyond in everything they do,” Rich said. “To them, these patients are family.”
Now a new bedside nurse at UF Health, Rich plans to eventually return to the rural health setting. She sees herself opening up a mobile health clinic for an underserved community in the future, as well as working on policy to improve health outcomes.
But according to Rich, AFHC will always have a special place in her heart.
Supporting student success
With more than $6 million raised during the campaign, student support represents the largest funding initiative at the College of Nursing. Nearly 20 scholarships were established to support students at all levels pursuing their dreams of becoming nurses.
One such scholarship is the John and MaryLou Kohler LGBTQ+ Scholarship that was established by Susan Kohler (BSN 1994). Kohler is passionate about equitable health care for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as educating nurses and health care professionals on how to be advocates for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Kohler made her first gift to the college more than 15 years ago when a nursing student called on behalf of the university asking for a donation.
“I could only afford $50 at that time,” Kohler said. “As time passed, I started donating more to set up funds I was passionate about. I was able to go to college because of scholarships and wanted to support other students in similar life situations.”
In 2017, Kohler documented a $250,000 gift in her estate — as well as continuing to make generous annual donations — to establish the scholarship and an education fund. The John and MaryLou Kohler LGBTQ+ Scholarship supports students who demonstrate, through advocacy and action, a clear understanding of the health care needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ individuals, communities and populations.
DNP student Kailey Coventry (they/them) has been supported by the scholarship since last year. Coventry, who is the co-leader of the college’s LGBTQ+ in Nursing student interest group, is focusing their attention on improving access to health care for the LGBTQ+ population. Specifically, their DNP project is developing an LGBTQ+ health educational needs-based intervention for providers at the university’s Student Health Care Center.
Coventry is passionate about the role of nurses in recognizing the health disparities the LGBTQ+ population faces and implementing changes to correct these health disparities.
Coventry and Kohler had the opportunity to meet at the college’s Donor Recognition Event in September and connected through their shared passion.
“I was very inspired by Kailey, the recipient of the scholarship fund,” Kohler said. “They had a vision on how they could impact the community, which is very different from past years. The fact the college is talking about LGBTQ+ health needs and inspiring the student body means the funds I set up are having an impact. UF often sets the standards in health, and having these discussions will encourage this unique population to seek and receive health care.”
For Coventry, meeting Kohler was just the beginning of what they hope will lead to more collaboration.
“Meeting Susan was fantastic,” Coventry said. “I am always a bit anxious about meeting new people, but I felt instantly at ease talking to her and hearing about all of the amazing work she does. I’m sure we’ll end up working together in the future to improve LGBTQ+ health care in Florida. She is a role model for me in regards to nursing and activism, and I’m honored to be a recipient of her scholarship.”
Leading-edge learning lab
After years of thoughtful planning and fundraising, the exhaustively renovated Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Innovation and Learning Laboratory was opened in January 2021. For nearly two years, students and faculty alike have relished in the improved space that boasts seven technologically advanced patient care rooms, a large skills lab, a debriefing room, central control and more.
The college recognized the need to renovate the previous Nursing Resource Center to not only keep up with current nursing education, but to advance educational opportunities as would be expected at the state’s top-ranked nursing program.
High-fidelity simulation allows students to practice skills in a realistic environment. Making mistakes allows for safe learning opportunities, without exposing real patients to potential harm.
Dozens of individual alumni and friends, as well as foundations and organizations contributed financially to the renovation of the previous space. The Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Foundation, for which the lab is named, provided the lead gift of $1 million that funded construction. With more than $3 million initially raised for construction and equipment, the lab continues to be a fundraising focus to keep equipment and software up to date.
The opportunity to name rooms and spaces within the lab led to one successful fundraising campaign in 2021 to honor Professors Emeriti Dr. Jo Snider and Jodi Irving. More than 90 alumni and friends contributed to the Snider-Irving Innovation and Learning Lab Challenge, which raised $100,000 in two weeks.
“The Professors Emeriti Jodi Irving and Dr. Jo Snider Debrief Room” was named for the legendary faculty who have a combined 100 years of educating and inspiring Gator Nursing. The Debrief Room provides space for faculty and students to meet either one-on-one or in small groups to reflect on their simulation experiences and performance. Irving and Snider feel connected with the Debrief Room because they value the communication aspect of debriefing and its importance in nursing education.
“We are grateful and honored by the generosity shown by our friends and former students during the campaign to name the debrief room,” Irving said. “The money raised contributed greatly to the college’s educational needs and will support the values of nursing practice, ensuring the success of current and future Gator Nursing students. Our time at the UF College of Nursing has been fulfilling beyond words, and we will forever be thankful for the lasting relationships and memories we have had.”
Prestigious professorships spearhead scholarship
Three College of Nursing professorships to support excellence in nursing research were established during the Go Greater Campaign. All three benefactors held prestigious positions of their own during their respective careers in academia and chose to likewise enrich their alma mater because of their understanding of the importance of faculty scholarship and support.
During 60th anniversary celebrations at the Dorothy M. Smith Nursing Leadership Conference in 2016, the College of Nursing was honored to announce that Linda Aiken (BSN 1964, MSN 1966), PhD, RN, FAAN, FRCN, committed $1 million to endow the Linda Harman Aiken Professorship.
Recognizing an increased need for research to address the COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges impacting nurses, Aiken expanded upon her original gift in February 2022 to create the Linda Harman Aiken Chair. According to Aiken, she hopes this endowment will motivate other alumni to make similar gifts to benefit new generations of nurse leaders. College of Nursing Dean Anna McDaniel, PhD, RN, FAAN, was named the inaugural Linda Harmen Aiken Chair earlier this year.
An additional estate commitment in 2018 from alumna and former faculty member Linda Moody, PhD, MSN, MPH, FAAN, (BSN 1965, MSN 1969) before her passing in 2020 established the Linda E. Moody Endowed Research Professorship at the college.
According to Moody, this gift was inspired by two special mentors she had as both a student and a faculty member at the College of Nursing. This endowment was the result of her desire to give back to the college and university, while also making a difference in supporting nursing research.
The same year, Patricia Chamings, PhD, FAAN, (BSN 1964, MSN 1965) amended a previous scholarship fund she endowed to create the Chamings Professorship in Nursing. This professorship was endowed through a blended gift of $1 million comprised of funds from the previous scholarship, a documented estate gift, distribution from an Individual Retirement Account and yearly pledge payments.
Through the support of the endowment, inaugural Chamings Professor and Assistant Dean for Research Development Angela Starkweather, PhD, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, plans to include interdisciplinary scientists working to improve health outcomes and symptom management for people with chronic conditions in an expanded research program. Starkweather also intends to build research development resources for faculty and students in the college and UF Health Shands Nursing to encourage cross-unit collaboration.
“It is such a special honor to be recognized through this endowed professorship,” Starkweather said. “Pat Chamings is an ideal citizen of our profession and someone I aspire to be like by making an impact on improving patient care, nursing education and nursing research. I am humbled by her great vision for the future of nursing and it motivates me to give my all to the work that needs to be done.”
With the brilliant and talented faculty and students in the College of Nursing and the strong partnership with UF Health, Starkweather said the college is well-equipped to make a significant difference in health care. She believes support in the form of endowments like the Chamings Professorship will not only grow faculty and student research, but also improve patient care and health outcomes.
“This is an investment in our profession and the future of nursing,” she said. “Our faculty, students, and UF Health Shands Nursing colleagues are all deeply committed to bettering support teaching, research and clinical service — it is inspiring to see the work being done to improve nursing practice and the patient experience.”