Supporting Home and Community-based Health Services for Chicago’s Medically Underserved

2003 Super Star in Community Nursing Award Winner

Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP

CHICAGO — May 29, 2003

VNA Foundation Executive Director Robert DiLeonardi congratulates Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP.

VNA Foundation Executive Director Robert DiLeonardi congratulates Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP.

34-year-old Teresa Davis doesn’t see herself as a super star at all. As the women’s health nurse practitioner and clinical manager of Loyola University/Proviso East School-Based Health Center in Maywood, Illinois, she views herself as someone “just doing her job.” But with more than 2,000 students seeking medical, mental health, dental and preventive health services at the center each year, Davis’ job is a very important one. Each day, she supports Proviso East students by providing routine and preventive health care, supporting and counseling pregnant teens and their families, providing health education and referrals and promoting the importance of good nutrition and disease prevention — often before the first period bell rings.

Anyone who comes in contact with Teresa Davis at the health center will say that she is a true patient advocate — her enthusiasm, passion, dedication and perseverance to make a difference in the young lives of her patients clearly sets her apart from others in her field. She has made it her job’s mission to be a mentor, trusted confidante and positive role model for the youth of Proviso East and to offer them a safe environment to seek treatment. This week, Davis was recognized for her exceptional professional contributions in public health nursing by being named the winner of the 2003 VNA Foundation Super Star in Community Nursing Award and recipient of a $25,000 unrestricted cash award.

The VNA Foundation of Chicago’s 2003 Super Star in Community Nursing Award is intended to acknowledge the service that Public Health/Community Health nurses provide, recognize the value of nursing in the community, help attract young people to the profession and contribute to efforts to decrease the nursing shortage.

“This year’s award nominees were of a truly exceptional caliber,” said Robert DiLeonardi, Executive Director of the VNA Foundation of Chicago. “However, after reviewing Teresa Davis’ impressive credentials, meeting her in person and witnessing her enthusiasm and passion for public health nursing, it was evident that she was most deserving of this recognition. Teresa is an inspiring example to others who are considering a career in community nursing.”

Since helping open the Proviso East School-Based Health Center in 2001, Davis has been instrumental in encouraging often reluctant students to seek treatment for various medical concerns or conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, obesity, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Each patient she meets with receives a comprehensive risk assessment and personalized care. Always striving to connect with and better serve her patients, Davis has implemented a number of important programs and initiatives.

Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP, with VNA Foundation Board Member Mrs. Anne Davis.

Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP, with VNA Foundation Board Member Mrs. Anne Davis.

Concerned about the increased cases of obesity in her young patients, Davis conducted a chart review to assess the level of obesity among the students who were using the health center. She found a very high rate of obesity and/or poor nutritional habits. To help combat this problem, Teresa and the health center’s team created a new program they deemed the “Nutrition Revolution” to encourage healthy eating. With her positive approach and friendly demeanor, she has influenced students to trade in their “junk food” for healthy snacks provided within the center (again donated by local business solely by her persuasion.) Davis also helped introduce a program called “Cooking with Heart and Soul” to encourage students and their families to cook and communicate in a healthy way. She also works extensively one-on-one with patients providing dietary counseling and weight loss plans.

After recognizing the need for teen-friendly, culturally relevant prenatal classes for pregnant teens at Proviso East, Davis single handedly started and taught a six-week prenatal class that is currently ongoing and has “graduated” 12 young women. She also encouraged members of the community and local businesses to support this important initiative by donating car seats, baby clothing and other essentials to help the young mothers. Much of these efforts were done after working hours and on her own personal time.

Teresa Davis also wants to make sure others follow in her footsteps and explore a career in a medical field — particularly nursing. She established the “Future Medical Professionals” group at the health center for students to receive information and guidance and also offer interested students “job shadowing” opportunities. The group is designed to get high school students excited about nursing and offers them a forum to talk about health issues that are important to them. Davis serves as a mentor to many and often teaches on health topics such as sexuality issues, conflict resolution/bullying, nutrition/obesity issues, and infection and disease prevention.

Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP, with some of her students at Proviso East High School.

Teresa Davis, RNC, MSN, WHNP, with some of her students at Proviso East High School.

“I am so honored to receive this recognition from the VNA Foundation,” said Teresa Davis. “It was amazing just to be nominated among such a group of exceptional community health nurses and to actually win is just incredible to me. I am so thankful for an award like this and so grateful to the VNA Foundation for recognizing nurses this way. My career is very rewarding in and of itself, so this just makes it even better. I hope this award encourages young people to pursue nursing and to specialize in community health where we so much need it. I hope that they, too, fall in love with community health the way I did during my senior year of nursing school; I’ve been in community health nursing since I graduated and have loved every minute of it.”

In her true selfless spirit, Davis plans to give half of the $25,000 award to others. She will help her mother with some financial obligations, purchase a new computer for her sister’s three children who are home-schooled, start a petty cash fund to recognize Proviso East High School students who volunteer in the health center, help a few friends out and the rest she will save or use for home improvements.


Five finalists from the Chicago area also received recognition and a $1,000 cash award for their extraordinary efforts in the field of community health nursing.

Hong Deng, RN, Clinical Manager of the Henry Booth House Medical Center in Chicago was recognized for her care of the underserved Asian population within Chicago’s Chinatown community and support of the Hepatitis Education and Prevention Program (HEPP).

Judy Scully, RN, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Loyola University, was recognized for her commitment to community nursing as an inspirational teacher and outstanding role model to nursing students and her leadership in the area of school-based health centers.

Carol Palmer Wardlaw, RN, MSN, APN, Site Manager and Family Nurse Practitioner of the Huginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center located at Crane Technical Preparatory Common School in Chicago was lauded for her exceptional care of students at Crane and her commitment and leadership with the Illinois Coalition for School Based Health Centers.

Betty White-Zappa, RN, MSN, Ph.D., Vice President, Patient Care Services of Erie Family Health Center in Chicago was commended for her commitment to supporting community health nursing. Under her leadership, the nursing staff at all four Erie Family Health Center locations play prominent leadership roles in providing primary health care, case management, telephone triage, and health education to over 20,000 patients a year.

All of the nominations for the VNA Foundation’s Super Star in Community Nursing Award were provided by colleagues and peers of the nominees and were judged by the VNA Foundation and a distinguished panel of public/community health nursing experts.

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