Welcome to the Exceptional Nurse Blog! I am Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP, founder of www.ExceptionalNurse.com, the nonprofit resource committed to inclusion of people with disabilities in nursing. We facilitate inclusion of students with disabilities in nursing education programs and foster resilience and continued practice for nurses who are, or become, disabled. We celebrate abilities, share resources and examples of nurses with disabilities who work with and without accommodations.
Dyan Summers, DNP identified first case of Zika: She also benefited from experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis
Dyan Summers, DNP
On May 9, 2016, Adam Piore wrote the following story for "Columbia News". "When Dyan Summers’ patient suggested he might have a disease called “Zika Fever” in 2013, she was dubious.
In her 15 years as a certified nurse practitioner specializing in tropical medicine, Summers had diagnosed malaria, Dengue fever and at least one case of Cutaneous larva migrans—a thread-like worm lodged in a patient’s leg.
But as Summers has learned over her years working as a healthcare practitioner, most recently at Travelers Medical Service in New York City, “You listen to your patients, even if what they’re saying sounds a little wacky.”
This patient was an adventure traveler, and had read an article about Zika while traveling through French Polynesia. As her assistant drew blood, Summers did some online research, and then called the CDC.
“I think I have the first American traveler with Zika sitting in my office,” she said, before sending blood samples to its Atlanta headquarters. The CDC confirmed the case.
Summers’ patient recovered, and his case was the basis for an article she wrote for the Journal of Travel Medicine, and the portfolio she put together in order to earn a doctorate of nursing practice—her third Columbia degree—from the Columbia University School of Nursing this spring. The New York Times quoted her during the recent outbreak of the disease. It is just the latest achievement for Summers, whose educational attainment would have seemed as unlikely to her as that rare case of Zika.
A native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, Summers grew up in a trailer in a farm community and enrolled in a nurse’s aide training program in high school. The experience gave her the confidence to enroll in a correspondence course and earn an associate’s degree from Regents College.
In 1991, she read an article about disenfranchised New Yorkers caught up in the AIDS epidemic, and moved to the city to work in an AIDS unit. Summers went on to earn a B.S. at Pace University and did volunteer work in Nicaragua, which in turn led her to pursue travel medicine. Certificates from Johns Hopkins soon followed, in tropical diseases and travel medicine. In 1997, she earned her first degree from Columbia, a master’s from the Mailman School of Public Health. She earned a second as a nurse practitioner from the School of Nursing in 2001.
Summers has also worked in home healthcare and as a medical consultant. But it was her 2007 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis that has most changed her.
The medicine she took for it made her feel worse, and she was exhausted all the time. So she began researching her disease and learned about an experimental procedure using angioplasty to increase blood flow in the jugular vein. Summers consulted with David Sperling, an interventional radiologist and an associate clinical professor at Columbia University Medical Center who, after careful study, performed the procedure in 2009.
It changed her life. Her balance and cognition improved. She has since made exercise and diet a priority, has hiked Venezuala’s 10,200-foot Mount Roraima twice and is an amateur natural fitness competitor, which is akin to bodybuilding.
“I’m in the best shape of my life because of the MS,” she says. “You wouldn’t know that I have a serious disability.” Bravo and congratulations to Dr. Summers! Keep up the great work! Wish you all the best, Donna