Frontier Nursing University (FNU) announced its annual award recipients for 2023. These awards are presented to FNU alumni who have gone on to make significant contributions to their communities or to the university. The awards will be presented at a ceremony during FNU’s Homecoming event on March 25, 2023, and we invite you to join us at the event to celebrate the honorees.
“So many of our alumni have gone on to do amazing things in communities all across the country and even the world,” said FNU President Dr. Susan Stone, CNM, DNSc, FAAN, FACNM. “I am so proud of the way they represent and support Frontier Nursing University. Their dedication, commitment, and generosity are truly inspiring. I look forward to celebrating and congratulating each of this year’s very deserving award recipients.”
Distinguished Service to Society Award
The Distinguished Service to Society award recognizes an alumnus who goes above and beyond to provide exceptional service in his or her community. The 2023 recipient of this award is Lisa Uncles, MSN, CNM (Class 33). Uncles attended the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, where she earned her MSN, before attending FNU. Uncles is the Lead Nurse-midwife at MedStar Franklin Square Women’s Health Center in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Lisa worked for Metropolitan OB/GYN as a nurse-midwife at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Previously, she served as the clinical director in Washington, D.C., at the Family Health and Birth Center, part of the Developing Families Center, which collaborates with local nonprofit organizations to provide quality care and social services to low-income families. There, she provided care to a population suffering from some of the highest infant mortality rates in the U.S. Under her direction, the birth center’s patients had fewer low birth weights, cesarean sections, and premature births than the city’s overall Black population. Uncles was featured in Making Mothers, a short documentary capturing the lives of two caregivers at the Center. She was also quoted in The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, published in 2011 by the Institute of Medicine, Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine: “A lot of our moms in the neighborhood don’t have much control over their lives,” she said, referring to maternal care. “This is something they have control over.” Throughout her career, Uncles’ top priority has always been her patients and providing them with access to the care they need and deserve. In an online review, one patient said of her visit with Uncles: “What a wonderful experience. Excellent bedside manner! She took her time, and talked me through everything, so I knew what was coming and felt very relaxed and at ease.”
Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award
The Distinguished Service to Alma Mater honors an alumnus who has continued to provide support to Frontier through volunteer efforts and/or philanthropy. The 2023 recipient is Dr. Mary Hunt, DNP (Class 06), CNM (Class 32), ENP-BC, FNP-BC (Class 56), PMHNP-BC. Hunt, who is an assistant professor at FNU, is a three-time graduate of the university and is an emergency department nurse practitioner at Genesis Healthcare System in Zanesville, Ohio. She obtained her MSN from Case Western Reserve University in 2005. She went on to obtain her FNP in 2009 and DNP in 2012, both from Frontier. In 2011, she began teaching at Frontier and has served as Regional Clinical Faculty, Course Faculty, and Clinical Bound team leader. She has also taught at Shawnee State University, Ohio University-Chillicothe, Belmont Technical College, and Ohio University-Zanesville. Hunt, who is a generous longtime donor to the university, also supports FNU students by graciously giving her time and expertise as an instructor at FNU. As a member and past chair of FNU’s scholarship committee, Hunt participates in essay reviews in order to match students with various scholarships at the university. She has also served on the leadership board, including stints as president and treasurer, for Chi Pi, FNU’s Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society, since the chapter was established in 2015. As a Chi Pi board member, she helps select student members to receive scholarships; helps decide on the donation of funds to the university for use on items needed for student use while on campus; and allocates payment for speakers enabling all members to have access to continuing education.Hunt also shared her experiences and extensive knowledge as a featured guest on the FNU All-Access Podcast episode titled “What the Heck is an RCF?”. Hunt’s devotion to Frontier Nursing University, her passion for teaching, and her commitment to giving back are matched only, perhaps, by her boundless energy. Avid about health and fitness, she has completed several triathlons and long-distance bike rides, including the Dick Allen Lansing to MACkinaw (DALMAC) Bicycle Tour and the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).
Unbridled Spirit Award
The Unbridled Spirit Award is given annually to a former Courier who is dedicated to serving others; has ongoing, longstanding stewardship of Frontier; and has demonstrated conviction, courage, and a zest for adventure. FNU The Courier Program is an eight-week rural and public health summer service-learning program for college students with an interest in public health, healthcare, or a related field.
The 2023 recipient of the Unbridled Spirit Award is Rev. Wendy (Neel) Ellsworth. Ellsworth, who studied at the University of Colorado, was a Frontier Courier in 1967. She was ordained as an Interfaith Minister in 2002 after attending the Pebble Hill School of Sacred Ministries in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Ellsworth, who resides in the mountainous region of western North Carolina, co-created a Circle of Welcome in January 2022. This community-based initiative assists in aiding Afghan refugees who are coming into the U.S. In 2003, Wendy received a Fellowship from the PA Council on the Arts and traveled to Kenya to research the beadwork of the Maasai and Samburu tribes. She has returned nine more times over the past 20 years to work with tribal women who bead and has sponsored the education of more than a dozen girls from primary school through university. In 2021, she joined Morning Star Rotary Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and helped acquire an $85,000 Global Grant through Rotary International for Maternal and Child Healthcare which will be used to improve an existing rural clinic in the Turkana community of Manyatta Zebra in Northern Kenya.Ellsworth also started the Hands & Heart Doll Project, whose purpose is “to give refugee children hand-made dolls to show them that compassionate people care about them and that they are not alone in the world.” Ellsworth is also a nationally and internationally recognized seed bead artist and has won numerous awards for her work. Wendy attributes her interest in maternal and child health care directly to her experience as a Courier at FNS. She and her siblings have funded the Mary W. Neel Scholarship at FNU in memory of their mother, Mary (Wilson) Neel, who was a lifelong supporter of Frontier and was a Courier in the 1930s.
Lifetime Service Award
The Lifetime Service Award recognizes an individual or organization providing long-standing support and commitment to the mission and work of Frontier Nursing Service and Frontier Nursing University. The 2023 recipient is FNU President Dr. Susan Stone, CNM, DNSc, FAAN, FACNM. Dr. Stone has served as the president of FNU since 2001. Whether as a practitioner, instructor, university president, presenter, or organizational leader, Dr. Stone’s professional career has been consistently directed toward supporting advanced practice nurses through advocacy, education, and innovation. As a nurse-midwife herself, she has had a special focus on advancing the midwifery profession.
Dr. Stone earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from SUNY College of Technology. That launched her career, which included serving as an obstetrical supervisor at Little Falls Hospital in Little Falls, N.Y., and as the program director of the prenatal care assistance program at Bassett HealthCare in Cooperstown, N.Y. After completing her midwifery certification, she practiced as a full-scope midwife at Bassett Healthcare for nearly a decade. She earned a Master’s in Nursing Administration from SUNY College of Technology, followed by a Post-Master’s Certificate in Nurse-Midwifery from Frontier Nursing University and a Doctor of Nursing Science from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
While practicing as a certified nurse-midwife at Bassett HealthCare, Dr. Stone continued her affiliation with Frontier, serving as course faculty; regional clinical coordinator; assistant clinical director; program director of the community-based nurse-midwifery education program; and dean. In 2001, Dr. Stone became president of FNU, serving as both the president and dean before relinquishing the dean duties in 2014 to focus solely on her role as president and as a leader throughout the healthcare community.
Dr. Stone is a past president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) from 2019-2020, where her agenda included increasing the midwifery workforce through educational quality and capacity strategies, midwifery advocacy focusing on the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis, and growing diversity in the healthcare workforce. She was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine Class of 2018 as one of only two nurses in her class. She is a Fellow at both ACNM and the American Academy of Nursing. She was the recipient of ACNM’s Kitty Ernst Award in 1999, which recognizes “innovative, creative endeavors in midwifery practice and women’s health care.” Other honors include the 2011 American Public Health Association’s prestigious Felicia Stewart Advocacy Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a strong commitment to advocacy on behalf of reproductive health and rights.
Dr. Stone has made it central to FNU’s mission to diversify the student body. Throughout FNU’s growth and innovation, Dr. Stone has kept the university on a path of commitment to the mission of educating advanced practice nurses and midwives to serve in rural and underserved areas. The model of distance education allows these nurses to learn while continuing to practice in the areas where they live. The ultimate goal is to expand and diversify the primary care workforce, thus helping to fill in the gaps in accessible healthcare prevalent in so many rural and underserved populations. Her devotion to this goal and her leadership at FNU has resulted in the tremendous growth of the university from 200 students in 2001 to an enrollment of 2,500 today. Today, more than 8,700 FNU graduates practice in every state in the U.S. as well as several foreign countries.
In February, Dr. Stone announced that she will transition into a new role as the university’s appointed Distinguished Chair of Midwifery. Dr. Stone’s transition into this role will tentatively occur at the end of 2023, pending the identification of her successor.
All FNU alumni are invited and encouraged to attend Homecoming 2023, which will be held on the beautiful Versailles campus for the first time. In addition to the awards banquet, the event will include a number of special events and activities, including a CE “Identification and Treatment of Mood Disorders,” campus tours, and more. All the details, including the full itinerary, lodging information, and the link to register, can be found at frontier.edu/Homecoming. Please register before the March 17th deadline.