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A night of shining stars

California nurses took one night off from their hectic lives to attend an event that pays tribute to the heart and soul of nursing for which many don’t expect to be recognized.

The 2011 Nursing Excellence Awards, held Aug. 26 at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank, honored 30 finalists in six categories. After finalists were called to the stage to be recognized,’s Judith G. Berg, RN, MS, FACHE, unveiled six regional winners and one Diane F. Cooper Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.

“This is truly our favorite night of the year,” Berg said among cheers, explaining that regional winners will advance to the national competition. National winners will be announced later this year.

When the last heartening acceptance speech of the evening was delivered and the lights in the ballroom faded, nurses headed back to their homes, their patients and their coursework. But they were left with a greater appreciation for one another, and an even greater sense of pride in four little words: “I am a nurse.”

View a photo gallery of this memorable evening at

Ellen Lewis, RN, MSN, FAAN

Diane F. Cooper Lifetime Achievement Award
Ellen Lewis, RN, MSN, FAAN
Clinical professor University of California, Irvine

This year marks Lewis’ 50th as an RN. She came to California in 1984 to be the CNE for the University of California, Irvine Medical Center. It was in this role that Lewis became aware that a student could not enroll in a nursing program at the baccalaureate level in the University of California system.

She set out to change that and in the late ’90s, Lewis became the project director for the California Strategic Planning Committee for Nursing and its work in identifying a serious nursing shortage in California. In 2005, Lewis was a major force in establishing the Program in Nursing Science as part of the UC Irvine College of Health Sciences, and she completed her formal affiliation with UCI as the associate director of the Program in Nursing Sciences.

“I am truly honored. There are so many of you who were helpful to me in my career in California,” Lewis said upon accepting the award. “I feel so grateful for the community in which I live.”

Marilyn Chow, RN, DNSc, FAAN

Advancing & Leading the Profession
Marilyn Chow, RN, DNSc, FAAN
Vice president, patient care services
Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

Chow is recognized for her expertise in innovation and in the regulation of nursing practice and workforce policy. Her career has focused on promoting the role of nurses in primary care, advanced practice and hospital-based care.

She served on the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration and is on multiple local and national commissions and boards. Chow advocates for the innovative and expanded roles of nurses to shape the future of healthcare and meet the demands of healthcare reform.

“This is a very humbling experience. [Nursing] is all about what we can do for patients,” Chow said. “Our future is here, and nurses are at the table … so it’s up to us to just seize it and do what we know we can do for our patients.”

Jolie Gordon Browar, RN-BC, BSN, MSN, PMH

Clinical Care
Jolie Gordon Browar, RN-BC, BSN, MSN, PMH
Psychiatric liaison nurse
Community Medical Centers in Fresno, Calif.

Browar’s colleagues say her psychiatric nursing expertise makes her a sought-after resource mentor. She trains staff and educates peers, patients and families, and she has extraordinary skill in assessing the client and the environment before establishing a multidisciplinary plan of care. Browar developed a staff training module for the annual competency validation process and assisted in the development of an in-house psychiatric liaison team. As a presenter in the video/lecture series, “Mental Health in our Community, It’s All About Us,” Browar opens discussions between consumers and providers about mental health challenges in the community.

“Everything that we do is based on what the person before us has done, and what we hand off to the nurse following us,” she said. “This award is just a continuation of that. I want to thank those of you who came before me, and I promise I’ll pass it on.”

Bryant Baldorado, RN, CCRN

Community Service
Bryant Baldorado, RN, CCRN
Clinical staff nurse
Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, Calif.

Using his adult and pediatric ICU expertise, Baldorado has taken on local and international humanitarian relief and medical missions work. He is a certified volunteer with the American Red Cross and a first responder in Los Angeles. Baldorado traveled twice to Haiti with medical relief teams to care for earthquake victims. He also has traveled to India and Morocco to serve with Operation Smile, an organization specializing in repairing cleft palates and lips. His community and international service work has been so positive that he seeks to involve other nurses in these outreaches. Many have been inspired and have followed in his footsteps.

“Three years ago in nursing school, I saw a [Johnson & Johnson] video about [Hurricane] Katrina. That is when I first wanted to do community service. I said, ‘If I ever get the chance, I’m going to do it.’ So I really want to thank Johnson & Johnson.”

Cathy Rodgers Ward, RN, DNSc, NEA-BC

Cathy Rodgers Ward, RN, DNSc, NEA-BC
Director of nursing
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles

As manager of clinical and fiscal operations for 24 inpatient units, Ward oversees more than 2,300 employees. During her tenure, patient satisfaction rankings have risen from the mid-60th to the 90th percentile. This past year, her leadership spurred successful development of daily multidisciplinary rounds on every service.

Ward also initiated the organization’s Succession Planning Program, which encourages graduate studies for potential future nursing leaders.

“This award is reflective of all the nurses I have worked with at UCLA,” Ward said. She also recognized her family and a network of supporting colleagues attending the event, including nursing unit directors, nurse managers and clinical nurse specialists, as well as UCLA’s CEO, COO, human resources executives and many others.

Carla Elizabeth Mensonides, RN

Carla Elizabeth Mensonides, RN
Healthcare career coordinator
Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, Calif.

Mensonides is a cheerleader for teenagers pursuing healthcare careers. Through her efforts, approximately 1,000 students volunteer, job shadow or complete their healthcare career requirements within Mensonides’ organization annually.

For 10 years, she has facilitated fast-track programs between local high schools and nursing programs. She serves on advisory boards of two nursing programs and several high school healthcare programs. Of high school seniors in the Health Academy Practicum, 100% have been accepted to healthcare-related colleges and universities; 80% of them are in nursing schools.

“I’ve had two mentors in my life. One was my mother, who was a nurse until she was 79. My second is my boss and my nominator, Betty Lopez,” Mensonides said. “I’ve had the profession of a lifetime — to be able to touch the future of healthcare providers and share something that we do from our heart.”

RaShaye Freeman, RN, DNP, APRN, FNP, BC, ADM-BC, CDE

RaShaye Freeman, RN, DNP, APRN, FNP, BC, ADM-BC, CDE
Diabetes education program manager
VA Greater Los Angeles in West Los Angeles, Calif.

Freeman partners with her institution’s educators, clinicians, practitioners and nurses toward a positive outcome for patients with diabetes. She provides education classes where clients may continue their journey to self-manage the disease.

Freeman launched classes in her facility, inviting all interested staff to gain the latest diabetes information. Her intention is for every nurse to act as an ambassador on his or her unit, clinic or home health situation, teaching patients and other nurses. For nurses and clinicians at distant locations who cannot travel to the main campus, Freeman travels to their sites to instruct classes.

“This is really a team,” Freeman said. “There is no one person who gets things done at the VA for our veterans. And if it wasn’t for [veterans], we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy in our nation.”

By | 2020-04-15T13:56:47-04:00 October 10th, 2011|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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