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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI nursing graduate to help wounded U.S. soldiers

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Milford, Mass. resident assigned to Army hospital in Germany

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 23, 2005 -- During her time as a nursing student at the University of Rhode Island, Kelly Sullivan completed a three-week internship in Hawaii.
It may sound like a dream assignment, but not in the way most people would characterize it.

“I cared for three soldiers wounded in Iraq and it was difficult,” said Sullivan, this year’s President’s Student Excellence Award winner in URI’s Military Science Program. “But I realized helping soldiers is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Sullivan, a member of the URI Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, was commissioned a second lieutenant just a few hours before receiving her bachelor’s degree in nursing during URI’s 119th Commencement on May 22.

By January, this newly minted Army officer-nurse, will wing her way to the Army hospital in Landsuhl, Germany where she will treat America soldiers injured in the Iraq war.
“Here she is, Miss Florence Nightingale, ready to go treat our solders, but she has all the mental and physical toughness of a solider and she loves it,” said Army Lt. Col Paul Krajeski, who oversees the URI ROTC program.

Originally enrolled at Salve Regina University, the Milford, Mass resident transferred to URI during her sophomore year. She began her ROTC experience at Salve Regina and then signed a contract for a full military commitment at URI.

“I liked the fact that it was a bigger school,” Sullivan said. “There is just more variety, everywhere I went to class, I got to meet new people. Coming to URI was the best thing I could have done.”

She also liked being part of a tight-knit ROTC family at URI. “My fellow ROTC students are just phenomenal.”

Sullivan said she also enjoyed the collaborative learning and teaching approach of the URI College of Nursing.

Sullivan credits Assistant Professor Laurie Lauzon Clabo for playing a pivotal role in her nursing development. “Nursing is a hard major and combined with ROTC, it can be overwhelming. When she saw I was slipping she asked how she could help.”

Sullivan said that Associate Nursing Dean Paula Viau was also a great help. She was at Sullivan’s side when she presented her Hawaii internship experiences at a Boston College conference.

“Practicing nurses, professors, ROTC people, and nursing deans were there for the presentation,” Sullivan said. “I was really, really nervous, but Paula was with me throughout.”

She said it was a bit humbling to be presenting as a student, particularly to practicing nurses. “Many of them came up to me after the presentation, and said they were unaware of the pressures faced by nursing students in an ROTC program.”

The former track star at Milford High School also paid tribute to her ROTC instructors, Master Sgt. Spencer Brooks, and Capt. Eric Carlson. She also had high praise for Lt. Col. Krajeski.

“Each year, I had a different instructor and each one prepared me for the next level. They got me ready to do the things I needed to do. Plus, they all had great interest in my nursing career.”

Her mother, Laurie, and father, David, and brother, Kevin, were all at the commencement.
But her father, a former Marine, is a little anxious about his daughter’s next step. Still, Sullivan is ready and thrilled to be going to Europe.

While she said one is never fully prepared to see the terrible trauma inflicted by war, she said that her nursing and ROTC education at URI have given her the edge she needs to succeed.

“The Army gave me the leadership and mental capacity, which will help me understand what the soldiers are going through because I am a soldier, too.”


URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography