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Monday, June 27, 2022

Dr. Joycelyn Thomas Receives Distinguished Alumni Award From UW School Of Nursing

Dr. Joycelyn Thomas

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

To celebrate National Nurses Month the University of Washington School of Nursing announced Dr. Joycelyn Thomas, President of the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization (MMPNO) – a professional organization of Black nurses in Seattle, as the recipient of its Distinguished Alumni Award and one of its Nurses of Influence. 

The award honors and recognizes a graduate whose career in nursing exemplifies excellence in leadership in a professional organization, contributions to the community, excellence in clinical practice and outstanding accomplishments.

Dr. Thomas received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1996, Master’s in Nursing degree in 2013, and Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2014; all at the University of Washington School of Nursing.  Reflecting on why she chose nursing as a career, she said, “That passion or drive to help people never went away as I grew older. I had a menagerie of little wild and domestic animals and tended to each one like they were a child. That was my goal in life, to be in health care. I fashioned school and activities around this.”

As an alumnus of the University of Washington School of Nursing, Thomas continues her spirit and commitment to the school. One way Thomas accomplishes this goal is serving as a clinical preceptor, an experienced practitioner who provides supervision during clinical practice and facilities the application of theory for students and staff learners. By doing this Thomas is paying it forward to succeeding generations of nursing students. She also gives homage to all women, Black women and women of color for the contributions they provide to make this world better.

“To be seen by my community is amazing,” says Thomas of the award. “There are so many Black women, women of color, women in general doing things that are just amazing, you can’t even imagine some of things these women are doing in the world today to move things forward in this world. To make a change, to make a difference. For me, I just feel for a lack of better word, I feel honored, but truly it’s humbling and exhilarating at the same time.”

One of the major accomplishments Thomas and her fellow members of MMPNO achieved during the pandemic was orchestrating the vaccinations of thousands of citizens during the pandemic. MMPNO’s collaborations resulted in delivery of over 8,000 vaccinations working with Southeast Seattle Senior Center, New Beginnings Christian Church, Dunia Clinic, Center for Multicultural Health, City of Seattle, Fred Hutch, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and African American Reach and Teach organizations.

“The pandemic along with the social justice movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd spurred me to action,” says Thomas.  “I felt energy I have not felt in years to get something done. I invested my efforts in collaborating with others, to administer vaccinations in underserved communities. It was amazing.”

In addition to providing vaccinations, MMPNO awarded fourteen nursing students of African descent scholarships this year. 

While Thomas is happy about her recognition, her goal is to lead by example and be an influencer and an inspiration to others.

“This honor is not for me, this honor is for my community because it highlights the work, I wouldn’t have gotten this honor if I wasn’t doing the work with my community,” Thomas says. “I want to be an example, a resource, an inspiration. I feel that if I can be the best at what I believe in, then others will mimic or follow.”

Keondra Rustan PhD, RN, CHSE, CNE, and member of MMPNO, was also honored by the UW School of Nursing. Rustan currently serves as Assistant Director-Clinical Nurse Educator Simulation at the UW School of Nursing Simulation Center.

“Nursing is a huge and humbling responsibility,” she says. “It takes a huge heart to be a nurse; I want people to appreciate nurses who are working in all settings, as many are working without adequate staffing.”

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