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This Nursing Life

Hospital CEO and student connect through Adopt-a-Scholar Program

By Kerry Ludlam

Story Photo

Marilyn Margolis (left) and Taryn Connelly

If there is a theme to be followed through Taryn Connelly's education and now, her career, it most certainly is a commitment to public health.

In high school, Connelly 17N, who speaks Spanish, served as an interpreter in Moultrie, Georgia, for the Farmworker Family Health Program. Then, as a nursing student at Emory, Connelly returned to Moultrie as a caregiver.

"That sealed it for me," Connelly explains. "I saw how the farmworkers in Moultrie were living, and it just was not acceptable. It led me to look into a more public health-oriented path of nursing. I want to make changes in health care, find out where the problems are and why certain people are overlooked. The easiest way for me to understand it is to be part of it."

Serving in Moultrie, Connelly saw many of the public health issues—hypertension, diabetes, skin problems, and dietary concerns—that she saw as a Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Program (VANAP) scholar. As part of VANAP, Connelly completed all of her clinical rotations, except for labor and delivery, at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

"In many ways, the patients are similar," Taryn recalls. "Some are homeless, many are disabled, and their ability to follow up and be compliant can be limited. That's where the VA comes in to provide transportation and telemedicine, as well as other types of support."

Fortunately, as her education progressed, Connelly had some support of her own. As part of Emory's Adopt-a-Scholar Program, Connelly was "adopted" by Marilyn Margolis 89MN RN NEA-BC, the CEO of Emory Johns Creek Hospital. The program, now in its 13th year, provides a way for alumni and friends of the school to support students financially.

"When I first met Taryn, I understood very quickly that she is well spoken, kind, self aware, and really wants to make a difference," Margolis says.

An obvious benefit of the program is the scholarship component, which eases the financial responsibilities of higher education.

"I'd always dreamed of attending the School of Nursing at Emory," Connelly says. "Marilyn's support of me through the Adopt-a-Scholar Program made it so that I didn't have to work full time through school. I felt so lucky to be able to work for the experience rather than working just to afford books and tuition. It took a huge load off my shoulders."

Even more lasting is the relationship the two women have formed.

"We were paired really well," says Connelly. "From the start, Marilyn took an interest in me, honing in on my interests. For someone in her role to give me hours of her time, help me map out my career trajectory, and tour me around the hospital meant a lot. She's very engaged, and her style of leadership transcends her role as CEO and trickles down to other leaders."

Adopting a scholar has its benefits for Margolis too. "I have been a nurse for 36 years and am now a hospital CEO," Margolis says. "All along the way, I have received coaching and mentoring to be who I am now. It's my turn to give back. Mentoring is an important part of who we are as leaders and how we can give back to others."

When deciding where her first position would be, Connelly reflected on her experiences in Moultrie and the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Wanting to continue down a path in public health, Connelly began her role as a nursing resident in the emergency department—at Emory Johns Creek Hospital.

"The closest access point to patients and dealing with public health issues is through the ED," Connelly explains. "And getting to work with Marilyn is awesome. It's like everything has come full circle."

Their relationship highlights the benefits of the growing clinical partnership between the School of Nursing and Emory Healthcare.

"We know when we hire nurses who have been educated at Emory that they will be well educated and trained in evidence-based outcomes," Margolis says. "These are nurses who can be leaders and remain at the bedside. In turn, we hope we provide students with relevant opportunities that allow them to learn from us and us to learn from them."

Margolis is confident with Connelly on the frontlines. "Taryn knows the direction she wants to go, and she's working toward those goals," Margolis says. "We're continuing to work together to map out her future path."

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