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Health Commissioner Announces State and Regional Public Health Nurses of the Year
Fairfax, Chesterfield and Wise County Nurses Recognized for Outstanding Service
(RICHMOND, Va.)—State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP, Robert Hicks, Deputy Commission for Community Health Services and Joanne Wakeham, RN, PhD, Director, Public Health Nursing today recognized Laura Suzuki, public health nurse in the Fairfax County Health District, as Public Health Nurse of the Year for the Virginia Department of Health.
Laura leads the maternal and child health (MCH), immunization and low income car seat programs in her health district. She is active in her community and serves on the Head Start policy council, Healthy Fairfax Families management group, on the National Association of County and City Health Officials MCH Advisory Workgroup and the School Readiness Collaborative Council.
Among Laura’s many accomplishments, the design and implementation of a new MCH service delivery model stands out. Laura engaged Inova Health System, the region’s largest hospital system, to enroll eligible prenatal clients for MCH services during the first, as opposed to the third trimester of care. The new model includes screening of psychosocial status and behavioral health risks, including domestic abuse and intimate partner violence for each prenatal client. Based on these assessments, risk levels are assigned and at-risk clients are referred to one of Fairfax County’s home visiting programs. Laura’s leadership in this project allows the Health Department to strategically focus limited resources on clients with the greatest needs.
“Public health nurses are some of the most resilient and resourceful members of the public health team,” said Levine. “Laura demonstrates these characteristics by using her gifts of creativity and intellect to fashion solutions to public health challenges in her community. Laura’s abilities to see the big picture, foster valuable relationships with stakeholders, identify what needs to be done and then lead the charge to see it through, exemplify the fierce spirit of public health nurses.”
Laura also worked tirelessly with the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a nurse-based home visiting program for first time mothers, to secure grant funds that provide home visiting services to two medically underserved regions of Fairfax County. Thanks to Laura’s vision and determination, an additional 100 families with young mothers at greatest risk for poor health outcomes are now being served by the home visiting program.
The Health Commissioner and staff also recognized two other public health nurses today for their outstanding contributions within their health regions. Kathleen Smith, in the Chesterfield Health District, and Erra Sutherland of the Lenowisco Health District are being honored as Central Region and Western Region Public Health Nurses of the year respectively.
For the past six years Kathleen has served students through the Chesterfield County Health Department School Health Services program. She is known for her creativity, problem-solving skills and her heartfelt commitment to her community. In addition to her numerous contributions to school health, Kathleen also supports and participates in the Girls on the Run program. Girls on the Run is a positive youth development program that inspires pre-teen girls to develop self respect and healthy lifestyles. It focuses on physical, emotional, mental and social well-being and culminates in a 5K race.
“Kathleen takes her dedication to school health beyond the regular workday,” said Levine. “Her mentorship in programs like Girls on the Run exemplifies her holistic passion for community health.”
Erra Sutherland is well-known in Wise County. She is not only a public health nurse in the Lenowisco Health District, but also the Mayor of Wise. Erra’s work with the telemedicine clinic with the University of Virginia (UVA) and Every Woman’s Life helps provide life-saving medical services to women who would not otherwise have access to care due to travel and financial restrictions. Her commitment to her community is visible in the many volunteer hours she dedicates. Whether it is working with the Rural Area Medical Clinic for the past 15 years, the athletic program at UVA’s Wise campus or serving as a medical missionary to South America, Erra has a passion for helping others and giving back to her community near and far.
“If ever there were a well-rounded public servant, it is Erra,” said Levine. “Her leadership in her community, focus on rural health and willingness to always lend a hand to those who need it most, reveal a dedicated public health nurse with a servant’s heart.”