Rep. Renee Ellmers visits the School of Nursing

On May 7, the School of Nursing welcomed U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers for a roundtable lunch with students and a human simulation demonstration. Don Curtis, chair of the UNC Board of Trustees External Relations committee, accompanied the congresswoman during her visit to Carolina.

Before being elected to congress in 2010, Rep. Ellmers served as a registered nurse for more than twenty-one years, both as a surgical intensive care nurse and working with her husband in their general surgery practice in Dunn, North Carolina.

Interim Dean Donna Havens and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Gwen Sherwood showed the congresswoman the School’s birthing mother and newborn human patient simulators. Darlene Baker, assistant director of the Education-Innovation-Simulation Learning Environment, took the visitors through a simulated birth and explained the importance of simulations in helping students practice and gain confidence in their clinical skills.

A diverse group of students from across the School’s programs as well as Associate Dean of Research Kathleen Knafl, Dr. Havens, and Dr. Sherwood, participated in the roundtable lunch. Rep. Ellmers spoke about her journey from nurse to a U.S. congresswoman and how much the communication skills she learned as a nurse have helped her in the political arenas. She also discussed bills she has supported to stop human trafficking and to support mental health care.

Students and faculty brought some key issues to the congresswoman’s attention, including removing barriers for nurse practitioners, the importance of funding for NIH training grants such as the School’s T32s, and supporting research that not only focuses on curing diseases but also on helping people manage diseases.

Rep. Ellmers presented highlights of the 21st Century Cures initiative, which she describes as a whole package to move health care into the future. “We understand that the hurdle that we’re faced with is funding and bringing down the cost of health care,” she said. “We want to make sure that the funding is there for innovation and research. We want to break down the time it takes for drugs to get to market through the FDA process. We want to look at the CDC and how we can do a better job working with the CDC so that we are identifying diseases and working on those things.”

The lunch concluded with Rep. Ellmers responding to a question regarding leadership characteristics she viewed as key. “You have to know that communication is vital and be the one to make sure that communication takes place,” she said. “As a nurse, it is part of who you are to take that initiative and be a mentor to the ones you work with.”

While on campus, Rep. Ellmers also toured the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and North Carolina Children’s Hospital and met with William L. Roper, M.D., who is dean of the School of Medicine, UNC vice chancellor for Medical Affairs, and CEO of the UNC Health Care System.

Below are some photos from the visit. Click on the photo to see a larger version.