Susan Albrecht, associate dean for external relations for the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, has won the 2015 Distinguished Professional Service Award at the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN).
By Amaka Uchegbu / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Eight girls were playing cards in a high school gym when Susan Albrecht entered.
“What do you want?” snapped one student.
The teens, excused from gym class because they were pregnant, didn’t want to be bothered — particularly by a nurse trying to get them to stop smoking.
But Ms. Albrecht won them over. Three months later, her most challenging student led the class to thank her for her help.
Ms. Albrecht, associate dean for external relations for the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, among myriad credentials, has improved the health of countless mothers and babies in her 40-year career.
To honor her for that dedication, the international Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses last week gave her the 2015 Distinguished Professional Service Award — the organization’s highest honor.
“I was thrilled when she [won],” said Geraldine Maurer, assistant nursing professor at Pitt, who has worked with Ms. Albrecht since 1977. “When someone puts that much time and effort into their career and devotes it to other people, they deserves the recognition.”
AWHONN, based in Washington, D.C., is a 24,000-member organization committed to strengthening the nursing profession and improving health outcomes for women and babies.
The award celebrates nurses who consistently demonstrate commitment and excellence, said David Mays, senior director of scientific engagement for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., the corporation that sponsors the award.
Candidates are nominated by a board member. Then, three non-board members must send letters of reference on behalf of the candidate. A task force narrows down the candidate list to two or three. The board then votes on who should receive the award.
Ms. Albrecht, 61, of Jefferson Hills, has a doctorate in nursing from Pitt and specializes in smoking cessation, substance use and its relation to pregnancy. Her work, which has been widely published, has been funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Donna Abriola, AWHONN chapter co-leader for southwest Pennsylvania, and clinical nursing faculty member at Pitt, recommended Ms. Albrecht because of her inclusive attitude to research.
“She does not just encourage people verbally, she takes an active part in getting you involved,” Ms. Abriola said, adding that Ms. Albrecht invited her into a project when she was new to research.
Ms. Albrecht has been chair of three AWHONN committees, and was president of AWHONN in 2010.
Despite her administrative positions, Ms. Albrecht has “boots on the ground,” said Suzanne Ketchem, AWHONN president-elect.
Ms. Albrecht works as a nurse practitioner in the Pitt Student Health Services and also in the ER. She also is a substitute school nurse and volunteers as a crisis intervention counselor for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.
“She’s a nurse many people aspire to be,” said Ms. Abriola. “She balances everything so well.”
Ms. Albrecht said she felt “called” to be a nurse because she likes to take care of people. She plans to spend the rest of her career in primary care and health promotion.
“I honestly believe that she will continue to advocate for women, newborns and nurses,” Ms. Abriola said. “It’s not just a function of her job, it’s who she is.”
“I expect great things from her, no matter what her next venture is.”
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