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NAA honors five of its own

The Nurses' Alumni Association presents its annual awards during Homecoming 2015
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The 2015 NAA award winners are (standing L-R) Mary Zellinger and Michelle Dynes, along with (seated L-R) Crystal Johnson, Jason Slabach, and Laura Mitchell-Spurlock.

Distinguished Nursing Achievement Award

Mary Zellinger 85MN has been a leader in critical care and cardiovascular care at Emory University Hospital (EUH) for more than 30 years and an adjunct faculty member at the School of Nursing for more than 25 years. At EUH, Zellinger chaired the Resuscitation and Nursing Champions of Quality Committee to advance quality patient outcomes and worked closely with Cardiovascular Critical Care Unit staff to become EUH's first ICU to receive Beacon Status and Outstanding Critical Care Unit designation from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). 

She has held several leadership positions with AACN and served globally to advance cardiovascular and cardiothoracic critical care and share her knowledge through nursing leadership education in Tbilisi, Georgia. Previous honors include the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award for Advanced Practice and AACN's first National Mentor.

Excellence in Nursing Award

Three alumni were honored for the roles they played in caring for the four Ebola patients treated at EUH in 2014. 

For nearly a decade, Crystal Johnson 00N has volunteered with the EUH Serious Communicable Diseases Unit (SCDU) for patients with highly contagious conditions.  When the unit was activated to receive its first Ebola patients, Johnson helped treat them successfully despite the stigma and fear surrounding the disease. She raised awareness about Ebola and shared lessons learned by participating in media interviews, forums, and website development.

Like Johnson, Laura Mitchell-Spurlock 95OX 97N trains annually to care for patients in the SCDU. Spurlock serves as a nurse clinician in the cardiothoracic ICU at Emory University Hospital Midtown. She played an integral role in efforts to reduce the spread of the Ebola virus and used her prior training and "patient and family first" motto to excel in the intense training used to care for Ebola patients. She also participated in print and video interviews to help educate others about the Ebola virus.

Jason Slabach 13N joined the EUH cardiovascular ICU in 2013. His training at the School of Nursing and as a paramedic in Virginia prepared him for his role in the SCDU, where he handled patients' every need while following the stringent guidelines set by the unit. Slabach was interviewed on NBC and, along with Johnson and Spurlock, was part of the team named as Time Magazine's Person(s) of the year in 2014 and which received the Daisy Foundation's first Team Daisy Award.

Recent Graduate Award

Michelle Dynes 13PhD is a senior nursing adviser in the Center for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she is a former Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer. In 2014, she was deployed for six weeks to Kenema, the third largest city in Sierra Leone and one of the epicenters of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

While in Sierra Leone with EIS, Dynes and her colleagues taught local health professionals how to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading Ebola. She also created a counseling space in a government hospital to provide ongoing psychosocial support for health care workers and Ebola survivors. By conducting interviews and focus group sessions with new mothers and health workers, Dynes and her colleagues identified ways the hospital could continue to serve patients without Ebola—and spread the word that the hospital was safe for them.

For her efforts, Dynes received two awards for emergency response excellence from the CDC and the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. She also was part of the team named one of Time Magazine's Person(s) of the Year in 2014.

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