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Message from the Dean

Susan LaRocco standing in the Nursing simulation lab.Another academic year ends. It has certainly lived up to being "a year like no other." Our students have been active in contact tracing, rapid testing, and, of course, administering vaccines in a variety of places. The end of year celebrations are looking a bit different this year as well, with pinning, commencement, and the White Coat Ceremony for the nurse practitioner graduates, all rolled into one monumental in-person celebration, with guests. This makes us optimistic that a return to normalcy will eventually occur.

Some of our clinical agencies are allowing us to increase the size of our clinical groups and others are opening their doors to our students. Some are requiring students to be fully Covid-19 vaccinated; I expect others will follow suit. Although students learned in virtual clinicals, they are better as a supplement rather than a substitute for clinical experiences.

During this semester, we have been busy creating a new master's track – Nursing Education. This effort, led by Dr. Teresa Hurley, assisted by Professor Lynette DeBellis, has been approved by the Board of Trustees and will now move to the state for approval. Our first non-traditional class in the 19-month curriculum plan will graduate in August, and a new cohort is in the process of being selected for a January start. The new one-credit nursing electives were offered for the first time and were popular. Moving forward, we can anticipate creating more one-credit courses to provide students with additional opportunities to learn.

On a personal note, I will be retiring at the end of this academic year and moving back to Boston. It has been my privilege to lead the School of Nursing and to work closely with faculty and staff throughout the College. I will leave with many fond memories and the greatest respect for the dedicated faculty and staff who demonstrate their commitment to excellence in education.

Highlights from the School of Nursing

Health Services staff holding DAISY award recognition banner.The School of Nursing honored the college's Health Services staff for their amazing work throughout the pandemic. The Health Services staff was surprised when Dean Susan LaRocco and Professor Kathy Pecoraro unrolled a banner proclaiming that they were "united in caring, courage, and compassion." Their efforts to provide compassionate care to students ill with Covid-19 and support for those who were quarantined due to exposure, as well as their guidance for safety protocols, demonstrated teamwork at its best. Read more of the story here.

We are pleased to welcome Brendan Quinn (2020) back to campus to teach CPR to students. Brendan is an EMT with the New Windsor Fire Department and a Staff Nurse in the Burn Unit/ICU at Westchester Medical Center.

AHEC Scholars
We are proud to recognize students Olivia Rice, Sonamjit Kaur, and Nicole Villachia as New York State Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Scholars. AHEC Scholars are dedicated health profession students engaged in providing community-based learning opportunities within underserved and medically disadvantaged areas in New York State. Each scholar is committed to a two-year academic program sponsored by AHEC, consisting of 40 hours of annual experiential or community-based training, and 40 hours of didactic instruction. We are excited to follow the accomplishments of these three scholars as they fulfill the mission to identify barriers to quality healthcare, while working with an interprofessional cohort of medical and nursing students from the region. Read more on the story here.

Traditional Program
Student resilience has highlighted this semester. Some clinical facilities were available, but mostly with decreased clinical group size. To provide some hands-on experience to the most students, we shortened many of the rotations. Virtual sessions were held on the other clinical days. Classes continued over Zoom. We are planning for in classroom instruction in the fall, but distancing requirements may alter those plans. Approximately 125 traditional students will graduate in May.

Non-traditional Program
The December 2020 graduates as well as the August 2021 graduates have been invited to participate in the commencement ceremonies this May. The August graduates are the first to complete the revised curriculum that shortened the program time without eliminating any of the coursework. They will have a Pinning Ceremony in September. The cohort that started in January began their clinical experience at Garnet Medical Center and are now progressing into their summer classes with clinical sites at a variety of hospitals. Selection of the next cohort will occur later this month. Interest in the program continues to grow, so the plan is to increase the number of students who are accepted.

Master's Program
In May 22 students will graduate and 22 new students will begin in one of the two current nurse practitioner programs. The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program and post master's certificate have undergone initial state review. While the reviewer has a few questions, she has indicated that the program is well planned. The Nursing Education master's program has been approved by Faculty Senate and the New Programs Review Committee as well as the Board of Trustees, and it will soon be sent to the state for approval. This program will provide master's education in nursing for nurses who are not interested in becoming nurse practitioners.

School of Nursing Calendars
We still have some calendars available. Even though almost half the year is over, the pictures will bring memories of earlier days in the School of Nursing. If you would like a calendar, please contact Erica Torres at

Preceptors Needed for Nurse Practitioner Students
As the graduate program has grown, we are always in need of preceptors for our nurse practitioner students. If you are an NP and would consider precepting a student, please contact Dr. Christine Berté, Graduate Program Director, at, or Rhonda D'Agostino, Co-Director at

Faculty News

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Teresa Hurley
Headshot of Teresa HurleyDr. Teresa Hurley is 'A Pillar of Nursing Education & Excellence' at MSMC. She is a tenured Professor, former Chair of the MSMC Institutional Review Board (IRB), a published researcher, a peer-reviewer for Nursing Education Perspectives, and a guest peer-reviewer for medical and pharmaceutical journals.

Prior to coming to MSMC in 2005, Teresa taught at Dorothea Hopfer School of Nursing in Mount Vernon. Teresa graduated with a diploma from Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing, a BS in Nursing from Hunter-Bellevue (CUNY), an MSN from Hunter-Bellevue on a scholarship, and holds a Doctorate in Health Education from A.T. Still University, Kirksville, MO.

When off-campus, Teresa can be found cuddling and playing with Daffodil and Lillybelle her two beloved rescue cats. A seasoned traveler, she loves to explore other countries and distant corners of the U.S. Swimming, kayaking, nature walks, reading, and writing poetry are hobbies she enjoys. As a long-distance swimmer, she was able to complete 32 laps in an Olympic size pool a few years ago.

When asked if she always wanted to be a nurse, Teresa relates a painful story of what opened her eyes to a nursing career. From the age of 18 months until eight years of age, she was a child model and singer-performer. Her picture, painted by Norman Rockwell, appeared on the cover of Saturday Evening Post. Teresa spent time on modeling shoots with model, and later actress, Patty Duke. Childhood up until age eight was a happy and adventurous time. Then, at eight years of age, Teresa was critically burned in a house fire. She spent eight months in the hospital and has had 26 surgeries to repair burn damage and scars over the years. Teresa believes that nursing is a vocation, a "calling from God to serve others." This calling grew stronger for Teresa in her adolescence and young adulthood. A nursing career also enabled her struggle with burn scars because she worked in a supportive and nurturing environment. Teresa is a woman of faith, who has served as a prayer group leader, a lay Eucharistic minister, a church choir member, and a lector.

Prior to teaching in academia, Teresa worked in critical care at Misericordia Hospital and Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, NY, and in primary care in Scarsdale, NY. When asked what she is passionate about, she replied "Nursing research and teaching." That reply comes as no surprise since she has taught the undergraduate nursing research courses and currently the graduate research courses. She has conducted quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method research studies on a variety of pertinent clinical and educational topics. She also serves as Faculty Advisor, Mu Epsilon Chapter, Sigma Theta Tau International.

What Teresa likes best about MSMC and the School of Nursing is the culture and supportive environment. She finds students eager to learn, faculty engaged in collegiality and excellence, and the environment to be enjoyable and nurturing. Teresa likes the challenges of conducting her current research on teenage boys vaping and using e-cigarettes with a faculty colleague, of injecting service-learning into MSN research projects, and of designing a Nursing Master's in Education degree program for the future.

Emerita Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Priscilla Sagar
Priscilla Sagar photographed in a library.Dr. Priscilla Sagar is a Professor Emerita (retired) at MSMC and a highly acclaimed expert in transcultural nursing, who was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) in 2019. Priscilla is known for her service to the profession, having received the Presidential Award for Dedicated Leadership and Service as a Board Member, Philippine Nurses Association (PNA, NY) in 2020; the McManus Medal for Excellence and Distinguished Service to Nursing by the Nursing Education Alumni Association of Teachers College, Columbia University in 2017; the Leininger Award for Exemplary Leadership and Contribution to Transcultural Nursing in 2016; and as a Transcultural Nursing Scholar by the Transcultural Nursing Society (TCNS) in 2011. Priscilla was inducted into the New York Academy of Medicine in 2014. She served as the Chairperson, MSMC Nursing Programs 2001-2004 and 2015-2016. 

When Priscilla is away from the classroom and her computer, she can be found playing with her three rescue cats, Sally, Osiris, and Tomas, or taking nature walks, reading, watching competitive tennis, or kayaking with her husband, Drew. They have a grown daughter, Alexa, who is also an RN and received her BS in Nursing from MSMC in 2010 and a 10-year-old grandson, Andrew Michael. Priscilla's husband, Drew, received his MSN from MSMC in the Family Nurse Practitioner track.

Priscilla is a prolific author of nursing and research publications. Her first book, Transcultural Nursing Theory and Models: Application in Nursing Education, Practice, and Administration, was published in 2012 by Springer Publications. Her second book, Transcultural Nursing Education Strategies, was published in 2014 by Springer. Priscilla jokes that if she ever writes a third book it will be a fiction novel.

She has also published numerous articles and chapters in books about transcultural nursing models and theories. Some of these topics have included The Mentoring Role of the Transcultural Nursing Scholar, Nurses Leading the Fight against the Ebola Virus Disease, and Enhancing the Representation of Transcultural Nurses in the Media and a Global Perspective on Baccalaureate Nursing Education. Her podium presentations at nursing conferences and education forums have included Sigma Theta Tau International, the Philippine Nurses Association of New York, Hunter College, Molloy College, Vassar Brothers Medical Center, White Plains Medical Center, and annual conferences of the Transcultural Nursing Society. She serves as a peer reviewer for the Journal of Transcultural Nursing, the Journal of Professional Nursing and Nursing Outlook. She is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Nursing Practice Applications & Reviews of Research and has served as a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) site evaluator for 20 years.

Priscilla holds current certifications as a Transcultural Nurse and as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Nursing. She has served with Health Volunteer Overseas in Vietnam in providing "train- the-trainer" workshops and in developing the first Master's in Nursing curriculum at Hue University Medicine and Pharmacy. Priscilla is passionate about mentoring students and junior faculty to achieve their goal of paying-it-forward in mentoring others. She is currently mentoring nursing faculty in developing the first Nursing Master's program in Central Vietnam and served as a volunteer faculty member at Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy. She and her husband, who is also a seasoned nursing faculty member and FNP, have served as "Balik-Turo" visiting PNA-NY faculty and taught at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Philippines in January 2020.

MSMC is extremely fortunate to have such a talented scholar, published author, and Emerita Professor as an exemplary resource, mentor, and role model for our students and faculty.

Faculty Highlights

  • Professor Jennifer Dillon and colleagues published "Operation PCOR: A Community Engagement Project Preparing Veterans as Full Partners in PTSD-Related Research" in Journal of Veterans Studies.
  • Professor Kathleen Pecoraro published "How Social Determinants of Health Affect COVID-19-Related Morbidity and Mortality" in Nursing 2021.
  • Dr. Susan LaRocco, with a colleague, published "An International Collaboration: Linguistic Editing of Scholarly Work" in Journal of Professional Nursing.
  • Professor Lynette DeBellis was selected as one of the Top 20 Nurses in the Excellence in Nursing Salute sponsored by Hudson Valley Magazine.
  • Dr. Marilyn Lashlee has been awarded a sabbatical for fall 2021. She will be conducting research on the mental health literacy of parents with children ages 11 to 19, and she will then design an educational intervention designed to increase this essential literacy.
  • Dr. Linda Kelly has been accepted into the Sigma Virtual Academy – Writing for Publication.
  • Kerryann Gough, Lab Manager, is the recipient of the 2021 Anthony Battaglia Scholarship, which provides financial support to attend the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INASCL) conference. Last year Stacia Donaldson, Director of Simulation, received this scholarship.
  • Stacia Donaldson is presenting a poster entitled "An economic approach to building an all-in-one nursing skills task trainer to encourage social distancing in undergraduate nursing laboratories" at the SimGhost USA 2021 conference in August. She also received a 'Pay it Forward' Scholarship to attend the conference.
  • Stacia Donaldson also had her entry entitled "Cardboard Skills Task Trainer for NG Tube Insertion, Female Foley Cauterization and Basic Tracheostomy Care" accepted for inclusion on the National League for Nursing-Simulation Innovation Resource Center HomeGrown Solutions website.

Alumni News

Alumni Spotlight

Headshot of Peter LasherPeter Lasher is MSMC's first male BS in Nursing graduate. Peter was already an RN, having received a nursing diploma from Harlem Valley Psychiatric Hospital School of Nursing in 1962.  Peter started his employment in health care right out of high school when he became a temporary psychiatric attendant and recreational counselor at the Wassaic State School in Armenia, NY, in the summer of 1956. This school housed and provided services for patients with developmental disabilities. Peter enjoyed his work and was encouraged by two male RNs he worked with to enter nursing school and further his education and employability. He says that this was some of the best advice he ever received, and it put him on the road to a very rewarding nursing career. 

To make a long story short, Peter returned to Wassaic State School in 1962 as an RN. He rose through the ranks as staff nurse, head nurse, supervising nurse, and Chief Supervising Nurse.  Along the way, he completed a Master's Degree in Education from SUNY New Paltz with certification to teach. In 1978 Peter was promoted to Director of Treatment Services. With his nursing and education credentials and experience, it is not surprising that his innovative leadership approach included infusing 6 hours of education and occupational services per day into every patient's treatment plan. Later, Peter became Director of the school. He was a mentor, a leader, an innovator, a teacher, and now a Director. He added much to the milieu and curriculum for patients in NY state schools for the developmentally disabled and served as a role model for many RNs in this field. He retired in 1993 after serving the school and the developmentally disabled for 37 years.

When you ask Peter about MSMC and the Nursing program, he would describe his classmates as friendly and the program as rigorous. He admits to not having time for extracurricular activities because he had a wife and four children at home. Most of his classes were late in the day or in the evening. He humorously remembers being a public health nursing student out on his own making home visits in the cities of Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. Most residents had never met a male nurse, let alone welcomed one into their homes for well-baby check-ups.  

Peter is now retired in Florida, but remains busy. When not reading, putting together a jigsaw puzzle, working out, or playing golf, you can find him traveling. He has traveled to several European countries and all around the USA, but his favorite destination is in the Caribbean. He is enjoying life and remains active and engaged.  Peter has had a role model career in an area of nursing that needed his leadership and excellence. Well done, Peter!

Alumni Highlights

  • Danielle Nunziato DeGonge '17 is working at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She completed her MSN in Nursing Informatics and has recently been accepted into UMass Dartmouth's Ph.D. program.
  • Maegen Reed '16 has been accepted into the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program at Pace University.
  • Samantha Killmer Culligan '14 has been accepted into the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program at University of Connecticut.

Student News

Student Spotlight

Ngozi Welle, RN, BSN
Ngozi Welle photographed outside.Ngozi Welle is an accomplished critical care nurse and service-oriented student in the MSN program at MSMC. Ngozi was born in Nigeria and emigrated to the US when she was 20 years old. She hails from Igbo in Eastern Nigeria, a predominately Catholic area. She received her BS in Nursing from the Herbert H. Lehman College, Bronx, NY, in 1992. Since 1998, she has been employed in the Cardiac Catherization Laboratory at Montefiore Medical Center, Weiler Division, caring for patients undergoing cardiac catheterization, structural heart procedures, electrophysiology studies, ablations, and pacemaker implantations. Before working in coronary care, she was employed at Montefiore Medical Center, Moses Division, as a Pediatric Critical Care Nurse in a 14-bed multidisciplinary unit managing patients with multi-trauma, acute respiratory failure, and complex surgical procedures.

When Ngozi is not at work, you can find her devoting time to her hobbies of aerobic exercise, dance, and working at the children's center or organizing health fairs at her church. She and her husband have three children. The two oldest have already graduated from college and the youngest is a college freshman. Ngozi has served on the Rivers State Foundation, Inc. as Health Committee Chairperson and Vice-Chair on the Foundation's Board of Directors.

Ngozi is a nurse volunteer with Ogbakor Ikwerre USA/Canada, Inc. (OIUSA/Canada). She recently returned from a week-long medical mission in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. This was her third medical mission trip. OIUSA/Canada is a non-profit organization in the U.S. composed of people from Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality in Rivers State. Their medical missions are a way to give back to their community through free medical care to the underserved communities. They had a full complement of surgeons, pediatricians, internists, urologists, gynecologists, radiologists, dentists, eye surgeons, nurse practitioners, clinical nurses, and operating room nurses. The team performed simple surgeries such as tumor removal, hernia repair, glaucoma, cataract surgeries, and many physical assessments. They raise funds for their mission through Global Giving Foundation and other private donors and partnered with O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, a local non-profit organization in Rivers State, Nigeria, to deliver much-needed health care services. OIUSA objectives are to promote the economic, educational, and cultural development of Ikwerre people; provide expertise and other resources for the development of Ikwerre communities; and promote mutual understanding and friendship with Ikwerre indigenes and people of other nationalities.

When Ngozi completes her MSN as a family nurse practitioner at MSMC, she plans to practice and to enroll in a doctoral program. She is already looking for a program to specialize in Adult Oncology, emphasizing Breast Cancer. Ngozi has been victorious against breast cancer twice and wants to focus her practice on breast cancer awareness, diagnosis, education, assessment, treatment, and after-treatment care. She believes she has a lot to give to her patients and is passionate about helping those with breast cancer in addition to amplifying breast cancer awareness. Ngozi enjoys attending MSMC and finds the graduate faculty in the School of Nursing very encouraging and helpful. She is a stellar example of a highly motivated graduate student with a solid path of personal and professional goals that will lead her to future success as a person and professional.

Student Nurses' Association News

by Sydney Natkiel, President

This spring semester was different than most due to COVID-19 restrictions on campus, but Student Nurses' Association (SNA) and its members were more involved than ever. Many of our annual events were held as well as some new events were created for the Nursing students.

During the spring semester, there are typically two blood drives held. Unfortunately, due to weather, our February blood drive was canceled. Our blood drive held on April 27 left us hopeful that we would make up for the closure of our previous blood drive. We had a goal of 40 donations for the day, and we received 41 donations. Thanks to the New York Blood Center and the donors of the Mount Saint Mary College community, we were able to surpass our goal.

SNA hosted an event in collaboration with LiveOn NY, a non-profit organization that helps New York State live on through organ and tissue donation. This event included two guest speakers, one from the organization who informed us of the role they play, and an organ donor recipient, who is a 2006 Mount Nursing graduate. Professor Lynette DeBellis helped facilitate the event and was able to tell her experience of being a nurse on a transplant unit. This event allowed Nursing students to hear firsthand experiences as well as gain knowledge of the process of organ donation. We also gave members an opportunity to sign up to become an organ donor if they were not one already. 

Although COVID-19 changed the way we did things, the SNA still did their best to keep members involved in numerous events throughout the semester.

Student Highlights

  • Hannah MacInnis, a member of the Allies Club, created and presented LGBTQ+ Competency in Nursing to almost 100 Nursing students.
  • Nicholas Johnson was selected to be in the Veterans Administration Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) program.

A Prayer Shared by Father Greg "O eternal Trinity, my sweet love! You, light, give us light. You, wisdom, give us wisdom. You, supreme strength, strengthen us. Today, eternal God, let our cloud be dissipated so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth in truth, with a free and simple heart. God, come to our assistance! Lord, make haste to help us! Amen."

St Catherine of Sienna
St Catherine of Sienna

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