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College of Nursing at
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Honors 2012 Outstanding Alumni Award Recipients
Memphis, Tenn. (June 4, 2012) – On May 18, alumni from the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) honored the recipients of its Outstanding Alumni Award series, which is coordinated through UTHSC’s Office of Alumni and Annual Giving. Betty Witherspoon, EdD, (BSN ’71) was this year’s Outstanding Alumna, and Irma L. Jordan, DNP, APRN, FNP/PMHNP-BC (BSN ‘97, MSN ‘98 and DNP '10) was named Most Supportive Alumna. The awards ceremony, reunion and scholarship dinner dance was held at the Memphis Marriott Downtown.
“There is no better gift than an education,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “It is the gift that opens doors to a better life.”
With a strong mantle of education and work ethic impressed upon her early in life, Dr. Witherspoon received her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Tennessee at Memphis (as UTHSC was previously called), a master’s in nursing from the University of Alabama, and a doctorate in education from California Coastal College.
With her wit for science and math, and passion for caring for others, Dr. Witherspoon knew her calling was nursing. “I was influenced by watching a cousin and a friend’s mother who were both nurses,” she said. “I have always been fascinated by the health care industry, and I knew nursing was a profession that would bring great satisfaction and meaning to my life.”
After nursing stints at military hospitals in Germany and hospitals in Mississippi and New Orleans, Dr. Witherspoon compassionately taught nursing, with specialties in child care and mental health, for close to three decades at Tennessee State University. In 1988, she began nursing babies back to health in the neonatal intensive care unit of Vanderbilt University Hospital. She continues to share her craft with students and faculty members at Vanderbilt.
“UT in Memphis holds a special place in my heart…it’s where John (her husband John D. Witherspoon, MD, a ’68 graduate of the UTHSC College of Medicine) and I met; it’s where I was molded by many amazing students, faculty, and mentors. Many of my college classmates are still great friends,” she said.
Faith, family and friends are what inspire Dr. Witherspoon, who calls Nashville home, to be one of the biggest philanthropic cheerleaders for education, the arts and community service. Mother and grandmother are her nearest and dearest titles. Her son John has a thriving real estate career, and her daughter Reese -- “who could have been a doctor, if she wanted to” -- is an Academy-Award-winning actress. Her granddaughter Ava, 12, “is a budding veterinarian,” while grandson Deacon, 8, “has his eyes on architecture.” Her youngest grandchildren – Abby, 6, and Draper, 5, “still have some time,” she said laughing.
A member of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Dr. Witherspoon is also a tireless advocate for the Arthritis Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Children’s Theatre, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Nashville. She also enjoys spending time with her pets – horses, which are often used for therapeutic and educational purposes.
Most Supportive Alumna
Dr. Irma Jordan bleeds orange through and through. She received her bachelor’s, master’s, and Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing, where she serves as an assistant professor of primary care and public health.
Born in Millington, Tenn., Dr. Jordan might have graced the silver screen if the nursing profession hadn’t chosen her first. Being a Red Cross volunteer at a naval base left a lasting impression. “It was my first job, and I got to see firsthand the cost of our freedom in the young men returning from Vietnam,” she said.
Having practiced as a family nurse practitioner since 1998, Dr. Jordan said, “I see nursing from the viewpoint of where we are going. I, along with other amazing colleagues, have the role of educating students to not only deliver high-quality health care, but to also serve as leaders directing the health of our citizens.”
Practicing what she preaches, Dr. Jordan is developing an integrated model of health care delivery in the primary care setting for those with mental health disorders. With teaching roles in the family nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health options, Dr. Jordan also teaches mental health nursing in the Clinical Nurse Leader Program. Her invaluable work earned her an educational grant to examine the enhancement of mental health/substance use education and practice in an advanced education Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.
Along with her service as a crisis line volunteer in Memphis and on the board of the UT Health Science Center Nursing Alumni Association, Dr. Jordan also serves in a number of professional organizations, including Sigma Theta Tau, American Nurses Association, Tennessee Nurses Association, American College of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (Tennessee State Representative), National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, and the Tennessee Primary Care Association.
Living her life inspired by Anais Nin’s quote: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are,” Dr. Jordan is the proud wife of Billy and mother of three, who enjoys simple days of doting on her seven grandchildren – all under the age of 5. She still hopes to one day cross Europe (and other quiet vacations) off her bucket list.
As the flagship statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. In 2011, UT Health Science Center celebrated its centennial: 100 years advancing the future of health care. Offering a broad range of postgraduate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The UTHSC campus in Knoxville includes a College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and an Allied Health Sciences unit. In addition, the UTHSC Chattanooga campus includes a College of Medicine and an Allied Health Sciences unit. Since its founding in 1911, UTHSC has educated and trained more than 53,000 health care professionals on campuses and in health care facilities across the state. For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.
This study quantifies the economic impact of the UTHSC on the economy of the state of Tennessee for FY2010.
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