Nursing Alumni News & Stories 2011

Martha Langhorne, MSN, RN, FNP, AOCN®, Receives 2011 Oncology Nursing Society Pearl Moore Making a Difference Award - April 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA – April 25, 2011 – Martha Langhorne, MSN, RN, FNP, AOCN®, is the 2011 recipient of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Pearl Moore Making a Difference Award. Langhorne is a nurse practitioner at Binghamton Gastroenterology in Binghamton, NY. The award recognizes her significant contributions to the oncology nursing profession at the local and regional levels. She will be honored for the award at ONS’s 36th Annual Congress, scheduled for April 28–May 1 in Boston, MA. Langhorne is recognized at her institution for the cancer nursing education programs she has developed, her advocacy for certification, and her strong mentoring skills. She is a leader and charter member of her local ONS chapter.

“Compassion is what connects oncology nurses with their patients and families,” said Langhorne. “Yes, nurses have acute assessment skills, clinical expertise, a keen lust for learning, are great at communication and work well with all members of the team. But, it is their compassion for others and their witness of the struggle itself that sets oncology nurses apart.”

She is an active member of ONS, the ONS Clinical Nurse Specialist Special Interest Group, and the New York State Southern Tier Chapter of ONS.

Langhorne received her associate degree in nursing from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY, her bachelor of science in nursing degree from Syracuse University, her master of science in nursing education and clinical nurse specialist degree, and her post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate from Binghamton University in Binghamton.

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) is a professional organization of more than 35,000 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals committed to excellence in oncology nursing and to leading the transformation of cancer care by initiating and actively supporting educational, legislative, and public-awareness efforts to improve the care of people with cancer. ONS provides nurses and healthcare professionals with access to the highest quality educational programs, cancer-care resources, research opportunities, and networks for peer support. Learn more at

News and Stories 2010

Alexander Nicholson, FPMHNP 2012, with his wife, Kristin.  Enrolled full-time, Alex also works as an RN at Hillside Children’s Center in Varrick, NY.
“Nurses are the Face of Patient Care”

Annual White Coat Recognition Held

The Third Annual Nursing White Coat Ceremony was held in Weiskotten Hall, welcoming the master’s students with a white coat presentation, and BS degree students with a book satchel. Approximately 60 students along with their families and friends attended the ceremony and dinner that followed.

The event was made possible by sponsors: KeyBank, the Nursing Alumni Association, Office of the President, and the Student Association of the College of Nursing

Sean Capria, KeyBank’s representative at the event, knows firsthand from volunteering in University Hospital’s pediatric oncology unit that, “nurses are the face of patient care. For the patient and their families, they are their advocates and a shoulder to cry on. This ceremony is recognition that is more than well deserved by nurses who have a profound, positive impact on patients and their families during, often, the worst of times.”

See two students from the White Coat event, Elijah Dut and Valerie Khan, in Student Spotlight. 

KeyBank's District Lease Manager Sean Capria; SACON Co-President Nisha Andrews, FNP '11, College Dean Elvira Szigeti, PhD, RN; Upstate Medical University President David R. Smith, MD; Nursing Alumni Association President Bonnie Miner, RN, MS '96.
Sally Hafner, CNS '12, and Edeline Mutanga, FNP '14, enjoy the event. 
RN-to-MS degree students obtaining the BS degree in 2011, ready to start the year with new white coats: Colleen Curtiss, Kathleen McDonnell, Laura Osika-Michales, Valerie Khan and Dolleen Drenckhan.


Largest Class Graduates, Trend in Rising Enrollment

The 2010 Upstate Commencement represents the largest class of nurse graduates for the College of Nursing - conferring 87 degrees, including 42 bachelor’s degrees and 45 master’s degrees. In addition, the College awarded eight registered nurse first assistant (RNFA) certificates, and 14 post-master’s advanced certificates (Adult, Family and Psychiatric NPs, and Education).

According to College of Nursing Dean Elvira Szigeti, PhD, over the past five years, enrollment numbers in the college have grown by 66 percent. In the past, students were primarily entering the baccalaureate program. This spring, 52 percent were in the MS degree program, with 37 percent in the BS degree and 11 percent in the post-master’s advanced certificate programs. Since 2007, the number of graduate students has almost doubled in number, Szigeti noted.

“It is very exciting to see we’ve reached out successfully -- more are going to school for higher goals and responding to the nation’s need for advanced nurse practitioners,” said Szigeti.

Master’s in Nursing Offered in Ithaca

The College of Nursing will offer for the first time classes in Ithaca for registered nurses who want to earn a master’s degree and nurse practitioner certification. Classes will start in Fall 2010 and be held at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca.

The program, designed to meet the needs of the working nurse, will feature two courses each semester and can be completed in four years of study. Nurses enrolled in the master’s degree program can receive certification in the following specialties: family nurse practitioner in mental health, family nurse practitioner in pediatrics, nurse practitioner in pediatrics, or clinical nurse specialist. Upstate introduced its bachelor’s degree program in nursing in Ithaca at Cayuga Medical Center in 2006, and expects its class to graduate in 2011.

For an application, call Student Admissions at 800-736-2171 or learn more at:

Nursing Education Outreaches to Northern NY

A new partner institution with Jefferson Community College (JCC), SUNY Upstate Medical University is offering educational programs to benefit the North Country region’s workforce and economic development. Formalizing a partnership with JCC’s Higher Education Center (Center) this January, Upstate provides increased access to bachelor’s and master’s degrees and professional certifications for area residents.

Upstate has been “a leading proponent of this initiative, and in recognizing the critical shortage of nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals in the Jefferson County area and the need for education programs for those currently working in the field,” noted JCC President Carole A. McCoy.

Initially, Upstate is offering four programs on the JCC campus in Watertown that include two advanced degrees in nursing: a master of science in family health nurse practitioner, and a master of science in family mental health nurse practitioner. Classes for both of the nursing master’s programs began in Fall 2009 and enrollment continues until April 1 for Summer and Fall 2010. There are seven students currently enrolled between the two programs. Designed for the working adult, these nursing programs are offered as part-time study with two courses each semester and approximately four years to degree completion. (Respiratory therapy and medical technology degree programs will also be offered.)

“The College of Nursing has had a longstanding working relationship with nurses in the North Country,” noted Elvira Szigeti, PhD, RN, dean of Upstate’s College of Nursing. “There is an articulation agreement between our College and the JCC program in nursing where graduates of JCC make a seamless transition into our BS degree program.”

College Presents $3,000 to Nursing Scholarship Fund

The Student Association of the College of Nursing (SACON) Class of 2010 raised $1,000 for the Nursing Alumni Association scholarship fund. It was matched both by College of Nursing Dean Elvira Szigeti, PhD, RN and University President David R. Smith, MD, for a total of $3,000 donated for nursing scholarships. Thanks to all! Here, Dean Szigeti accepts the check from SACON co-president, Melissa Reynolds, MS/FNP’10.

2010 Alumni scholarships Awarded

The Nursing Alumni Association selected 10 deserving College of Nursing students to receive the following scholarships, ranging from $500 to $1,000. They were presented at May Commencement’s Awards and Alumni Induction Convocation. Congratulations!

Colleen K. Drenckhahn, Phoenix, NYMary Gleason Scholarship
Valerie Jeanne Khan, Manlius, NYSACON Scholarship
Jamie Fauth, Fayetteville, NY -- Sam’s Club Scholarship
Diana Maria Fowler, Clyde, NYSam’s Club Scholarship
Kathleen McDonnell, Syracuse, NYBess Buser Endowed Scholarship
Kathleen Joseph, Weedsport, NYEdgar & Josephine Olson Parental Scholarship
Colleen Curtiss, Rushville, NYDean Janice Nelson Scholarship
Kelly Hicks, Syracuse, NY Jorge Grimes Scholarship
Linda Talerico, Oriskany, NY -- General Alumni Scholarship
Kim M. Richards, Ogdensburg, NY -- General Alumni Scholarship

Kalman Publishes Nursing Research

Alumna Melanie Kalman, CNS, PhD (BS/MS ’92), associate professor and research director of nursing at Upstate’s College of Nursing, co-authored an article in the January-February issue of Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing titled, “Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist – Is This the Role for You?” The article describes the role of this advanced practice nurse in clinical care - the characteristics, attributes roles and skills of the CNS. Kalman also was published in the Fall 2009 edition of the Journal of Rural Health detailing her study about mental health as a key predictor in the resiliency of older adults living in rural communities (see also Alumni In Touch, Spring 2008 edition, newsletter archives at This April, Dr. Kalman and fellow alumna, Connie Randolph, MS, CNS (MS/CNS ‘05), presented at the Women and Heart Disease Conference sponsored by the College of Nursing.

Kitty Leonard, RN, OCN, MS/FNP (’09), MLT
Touch in Patient Care: A Profound Medium of Communication

Touch is an element inherently important to the full dimension of health care practice. As a clinical oncology nurse and massage therapist, Katherine (Kitty) Leonard of Cazenovia, NY, knows that full well. While data exists on touch therapy, Leonard found that very limited “qualitative” literature existed regarding the patient’s perception of touch, so she conducted a study titled, “Participating in You: The Lived Experience of Being Touched in People Being Treated for Cancer,” as part of her MS/FNP degree. She presented her results at the Ross Student Research Day held in March on campus.

“The patient’s experience of being touched is far more than the physical sense of touch,” noted Leonard. “It is what it means to be human in the world. It brings the feeling of being whole and is a profound medium of communication. One patient explained to me that she could tell if practitioners were not engaged with her as a person when they touched her. She said it felt as though they were ‘just doing their j-o-b and not participating in you.’ I thought that was so profound I used it in my title.”

Using open-ended questions, Leonard interviewed 11 patients in treatment at oncology clinics in the northeast on “how they felt being touched in the context of having being treated with chemotherapy for cancer.” 

One patient told Leonard, “being touched is the first minute I look at you.”

The communication of touch builds the feeling of “presence,” for the patient, she found. Feeling supported by family and friends, could also be enhanced by touch. The touch experience -- ranging from massages and hugs, to a light touch of the hand -- conveyed these feelings to the patient: wholeness, acceptance, rapport and reassurance, depending on the quality of the touch and the interaction around it, both spoken and unspoken.

“It helps transform the clinical relationship into a human-to-human relationship,” said Leonard.

However, touch could also bring discomfort to the patient at times: “For some, it was uncomfortable to be touched during the early phase of hair loss; but later, scalp massages felt good,” some participants reported. 

"Health care providers need to be aware of beliefs and attitudes regarding touch and have a depth of self knowledge. Reading ‘cues’ from patients (or the do’s and don’ts of wanting to be touched) can be learned and should be initiated during school, not after graduation,” Leonard summarized.

A nurse to cancer patients for over a decade, Leonard comments that, “these patients give to me as well. They teach me about how life can be lived in profound and wonderful ways in light of adversity. I hope my study will be a springboard to even more detailed studies and interventions relating to touch in patient care.”

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