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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI College of Nursing honors top alumna for 2004

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Heart-rending experiences mold honoree into compassionate professional

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 17, 2004 -- When Marie Ghazal was a freshman nursing student at the University of Rhode Island, her 32-year-old aunt died of ovarian cancer and then in her senior year, her father died of bone cancer.

"I remember the love and family support given to my aunt," Ghazal said, "and I still remember the nurses who took care of my father and who supported my family. At this devastating time in my life, I saw how nursing played such a supportive role."

What she learned during those times of loss about compassion, commitment to the patient and to the patientís family, have stayed with her through 27 years of professional nursing service.

For her outstanding contributions to the profession, the East Providence resident who grew up in Central Falls was named the URI College of Nursing Alumna of the Year for 2004.

Currently the vice president of nursing and patient care at the Providence Community Health Centers Inc., Ghazal was honored by faculty, students, alumni and co-workers during recent ceremonies at URI.

She recounted her days at URI, standing in front of Butterfield Dining Hall at 7 a.m. waiting for a bus to take her and her peers to their clinical rotations in the hospitals. "We were the students walking around campus with index cards so we could memorize our diagnoses," she said.

After graduating, she completed a one-year internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and then stayed on for five more years in medical-surgical nursing.

She earned her masterís degree at Boston University, and then became a visiting nurse. Her career also included stints as a clinical instructor at Rhode Island College and Salve Regina University.

In 1985, she became the clinical director of the Community Health Center in Central Falls, and in 1990, she began at the Providence Community Health Centers Inc., the largest primary care health provider in Providence with 30,000 patients.

In her current position as vice president, she administers the centerís clinical operations, school-based clinics, the Womenís Prison Project and the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic. As chief nursing officer, she is responsible for all nursing practice issues in the organization.

She developed new patient services to improve HIV education, diabetes education, womenís cancer screening, prenatal care and adolescent clinics, and she helped lead the agency to its accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Ghazal told the audience that her fellow nurses are dedicated, consummate professionals. "I tell young people that anyone can make money, but not everyone can make a difference," said the wife and mother of two daughters and a son.

She told the group that nurses are consistently ranked among the most trusted and honest professionals. "There is this public perception of nurses that they put the patientís interests and welfare first," Ghazal said. "Make sure you take the extra step because youíll be doing the right thing."
For Further Information: Dayle Joseph 401-874-2766