Thursday, April 29, 2021

A nurse practitioner's faithful journey: From injury and suffering to becoming an ordained UCC minister


                                                                        The Rev. Cleo Graham, RN, MS, FNP

Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School shared an alumni profile:

 "Cleo Graham attended Adelphi University, where she met her husband and began to pursue her career in nursing. She held many different roles in her thirty-year career as a nurse, variously working as a critical care nurse, as director of home care for the VA Hospital, and as an employee health supervisor with over nine hundred employees. She taught for a time, attained a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner, and organized community health programs with churches. She also identified that many veterans living at home were suffering from what she identifies as a “broken relationship with God” and that they needed spiritual care in addition to mental and physical health care. Working with chaplains, she developed one of the nation’s first medical codes for spiritual distress, billable services by which chaplains could provide spiritual health care to patients in need." 

"Then, she experienced a catastrophic injury of her spinal disks, caused by a fall while helping a patient. Bedridden for about a year, she would imagine talking to God about her suffering and wrote notes to document this conversation. The result was the book From Mess to Message."

"She began an aggressive regimen of physical therapy and eventually transitioned to walking with a cane. One day, her husband surprised her by driving her to Andover Newton Theological School because he knew that she had always wanted to be a pastor. He brought her to the chapel and she walked inside…"

 "Now this chapel was built in such a way that it’s all windows completely around, so you can look in and see. I was the only one in this chapel, and this huge Bible was open. It was open to Ecclesiastes 3: There’s a time and season for everything. A time to be born, and a time to die. The tears just rolled down my face. I felt like I was going to get the pages wet. I stepped back and sat down and thought about it, and I said, “Well, maybe I can do it.” 

"After graduating from Andover Newton Rev. Cleo Graham served as an associate pastor at several churches in Rhode Island before accepting the call to serve as the pastor of Hartford’s Faith Congregational Church in November 2020." 

Read more about the Reverend Cleo Graham at:



Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dr. Carolyn Burr, Nurse practitioner pioneer in stopping mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS


"Dr. Carolyn Keith Burr, a pediatric nurse practitioner and educator who helped save the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world through her work on the prevention of HIV/AIDS in pregnant women and children, died on Friday, October 30, 2020 at Chilton Hospital in New Jersey. She was 71. The cause of death was complications from acute pancreatitis."

"While an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University Nursing School, Dr. Burr first became active in bringing health care to those in need. Joining a coalition of health professionals, she helped bring clinics to remote areas in the Tennessee mountains where health care was scant."

"After obtaining a Masters Degree in Nursing from University of Rochester, she and her first husband, Richard Burr, moved to New Jersey in 1987. She took a job at Newark Children's Hospital in a special clinic devoted to treating mothers and their babies for an unknown disease, which later was identified as HIV/AIDS. For the next 27 years, her career was devoted to stopping mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Along the way, she acquired a Doctoral degree in Adult Education from Teachers College at Columbia University."

"Over the years, as treatments became available and the death rate in maternal transmission dropped to near zero, Dr. Burr rose to Associate Director of the Fran├žois-Xavier Bagnoud Center at Rutgers University and traveled around the world teaching medical professionals the life-saving treatments she had helped pioneer. She was greatly admired and honored with numerous awards."

"In 1998, Carolyn was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She continued her career and travels until she became confined to a wheelchair, retiring in 2014." 

Read more about Carolyn Burr here.

I taught with Carolyn for a few years in the 1980s.

We lost a good one!



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Meet Victoria Cliff: A nursing student with autism and mental health challenges


                                                                                 Victoria Cliff, Student Children's Nurse

Victoria shared her journey in an article published by the Children and Young People Student Network in the UK.

"I have Autism, and this will be with me for life. I have always had it and I always will have it. My brain works differently to others, I communicate differently, I process things differently - but these also become my strengths."

"Autism probably seems like enough to put some barriers in place to me getting where I want. But I have also battled with mental illness for as long as I can remember, and I have had days where tomorrow looked like it would never come. It caused me to drop out of my A levels because I got too unwell, and then when I started a different course a few months later, I only managed 5 days. At this point, I truly felt I would never be able to reach my goals. I felt like my education ended at GCSE’s because I just couldn’t get any further without losing myself to mental illness."

"These built barriers and walls in my way to success. I had no idea how I would get to where I wanted to be, I almost just accepted a lower quality of life than what I deserved. But I fought. I battled to be where I am."

"Then, I got my offer to study children’s nursing. I felt over the moon. I was there, I was going to get my goal after all. Starting university is difficult for anyone, then add into the mix my life and it was complicated. I almost gave up several times that first month. I wasn’t good enough; I could never do it. But the support from my lecturers and the university made a difference, proved that I could do it. Placement proved to me even more that I could do it, making a difference to families every day and I loved the feeling of helping people."

Read more about Victoria here: