R e t u r n   t o   t a b l e   o f   c o n t e n t s


F r o m   t h e   D e a n


Dean Marla Salmon


The Power of One
Amazingly, another academic year has ended, marking the next exciting and challenging phase in the lives of our graduates. The 67 baccalaureate nurses in the Class of 2002 are now headed in 67 different directions. Although they have begun to scatter, they are forever united by their student experiences and their Emory nursing pins.

The pinning ceremony is one of nursing’s most cherished traditions. But what is the real meaning of the nurse’s pin? Why is it special? I believe the real function of the nurse’s pin is to serve both as a touchstone and a reminder—something that causes us to step back and reflect every time we see it, touch it, or think about it. Something that helps us measure ourselves against the norm that we have set for ourselves as nursing professionals.

This year, I gave our graduates one last assignment as they were about to be pinned. I asked them to name their pins for someone who embodies the nurse they would like to become. The person I think of when I see my own pin is Vernia Jane Huffman. She was my own dean, and she drove me nuts when I was a nursing student at the University of Portland.

V.J., as I’ve come to know her, is well into her 80s, is almost completely blind, and continues to be the nurse that I came to know and respect. One of her most recent projects was starting a support group for elders who were also losing their sight.

So what was it about V.J. that made me attach her name to my pin? V.J. was driven by an absolute and unflagging commitment to the provision of safe, knowledgeable, and competent care of people. As a student and future nurse, I was very aware that her concern for me was secondary to her commitment to assuring that patients would be well served by those she prepared to be nurses. V.J. was rigorous. She didn’t let important things fall off the table, and she valued my potential enough to not let me get away with anything. Dean Huffman was also a seeker—someone who was never satisfied with the state of practice and the knowledge that underpinned it. Her fundamental concern was for the health of others, and she committed herself (and still does) to finding better ways to improve nursing care and services.

Vernia Jane Huffman is more than a superb nurse. She is a gifted human being who has the capacity to see the possibilities in others when they themselves might be blind, the wisdom to give them a chance, and the capacity to help them prove to themselves and others that they could become more than they ever believed possible.

I think of her to this day whenever I see my nursing pin. She is my touchstone for who I am as a nurse and the nurse I have yet to become. As you read this magazine, you’ll find many examples of excellence. Perhaps one of them will be your touchstone.


Marla E. Salmon, ScD, RN, FAAN
Dean, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing


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