Nov 17, 2015

News Release: Ten Nurse Innovators Recognized for Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities

2015 Culture of Health: Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing Award Winners
Will Help Shape the Future of Nursing and Transform Care in America

News Release: November 17, 2015
Contact: Melissa Blair; 609-627-5937

Princeton, N.J. – Ten nurses who have developed innovative approaches to improve health and health care have been honored with the Culture of Health: Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing award from the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The Culture of Health: Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing award is part of a concerted effort to celebrate nurse leaders and position nurses for leadership and executive roles to help people live healthier lives and create healthier communities.

The work of this year’s award recipients represents bold efforts to give everyone in America their greatest opportunity to live the healthiest lives possible. Their work aims to: prevent and reduce child abuse; develop wellness programs for the uninsured; pioneer the use of avatars to help adolescents cope with mental health issues; improve access to healthy food and healthy living opportunities; prevent suicide and substance abuse among veterans; improve care for older adults; and increase diversity in the nursing workforce and the number of nurses serving on boards.

The recipients of the 2015 Culture of Health: Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing award are:

  • Lucia Alfano, RN, MA, Faculty, Concordia College, NY. BREAKTHROUGH: In her efforts to help promote a more diverse nursing workforce, Ms. Alfano founded the Westchester County, New York chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. She is also involved in improving nursing workforce diversity through the New York State Action Coalition.
  • Katie Eilers, MPH, MSN, RN, Assistant Nursing Director, Community Health, Kitsap County, WA. BREAKTHROUGH: Ms. Eilers is a board member of Kitsap Community Resources and an executive member of Kitsap Strong, which focuses on helping children thrive despite traumatic events. Ms. Eilers also works to increase the number of nurses on boards through the Washington Action Coalition.
  • Erica Joseph, PMHNP-BC, APRN, NP-C, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Mental Health Intensive Case Management Program, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Healthcare System. BREAKTHROUGH: Ms. Joseph is a member of the Addictions Council of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Ms. Joseph develops care strategies to treat and reduce depression among African American males, and drafts policies for the Louisiana Action Coalition.
  • Leanne L. Lefler, PhD, ACNS-BC, APRN, FAHA, Associate Professor, University of Arkansas College of Nursing; Education Leader, Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. BREAKTHROUGH: Dr. Lefler served as Principal Investigator on an NIH-funded, three-year clinical trial and led an interdisciplinary team to test a home-based exercise intervention for older women. Dr. Lefler garnered national honors for her work and serves on the boards of the American Heart Association and the Southern Nursing Research Society. She is a member of the Arkansas Action Coalition.
  • Laure Marino, MSN, FNP-BC, GNP-BC, Family/Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, Director of the Primary Care Center at Process Strategies. BREAKTHROUGH: Ms. Marino launched an integrated primary care center within a behavioral health center in Charleston, West Virginia, which is the only practice of its kind in the southern part of the state. Ms. Marino serves as Leadership Team co-lead, West Virginia Action Coalition.
  • Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN, Assistant Professor, Family Health Care Nursing Department, University of California, San Francisco. BREAKTHROUGH: Dr. McLemore helped develop the California Action Coalition’s diversity plan and has been involved in a multistate initiative to improve diversity in the nursing workforce.
  • Renee’ Menkens, MS, RNC, Clinical Assistant Professor, Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing. BREAKTHROUGH. Ms. Menkens serves on numerous boards, including as chair of the Bay Area Hospital Unit-Based Practice Committee, as a member of the Coos County Medical Reserve Corps, and the Community Health Improvement Steering Committee. Ms. Menkens has also served on the Oregon Action Coalition’s steering committee since its inception, where she works to position more nurses for roles on boards.
  • Gina Miranda-Diaz, DNP, MS/MPH, RN, Director and Health Officer of the West New York (NJ) Health Department. BREAKTHROUGH: Dr. Miranda-Diaz is the first Latina in New Jersey to hold both the position of Registered Professional Nurse and Health Officer. A bilingual volunteer with American Red Cross, she has worked the front lines of disasters including helping survivors of Hurricane Katrina and US Airways Flight 1549 (which landed in the Hudson River).
  • Melissa Pinto, PhD, RN, FAAN, Assistant Professor, Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. BREAKTHROUGH: Dr. Pinto pioneered the use of avatars and mobile technologies to improve adolescent mental health outcomes. Dr. Pinto also mentors doctoral students for the Georgia Action Coalition.
  • Andrea Tanner, MSN, RN, NCSN, Coordinator of Health Services and School Nurse, New Albany-Floyd County Schools, IN. BREAKTHROUGH: Ms. Tanner served as national trainer for allergy and anaphylaxis to prepare schools to care for students at risk; launched free in-school vaccination clinics, which improved vaccination rates for uninsured students; and developed an epinephrine training program for school nurses in the wake of heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemics. She is a member of the Indiana Action Coalition.

“These nurses embody the best of nursing,” said Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing at RWJF and director of the Campaign for Action. “This award will help them continue their leadership efforts to improve our health care system and build a Culture of Health—a culture in which everyone in America has access to quality care and supports in their community that help them lead healthy lives.”



For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at


The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action is a joint initiative of AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), working to implement the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based recommendations on the future of nursing. The Campaign includes Action Coalitions in 50 states and the District of Columbia and a wide range of health care professionals, consumer advocates, policymakers, and the business, academic, and philanthropic communities. The Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and RWJF, serves as the coordinating entity for the Campaign, as well as the national program office for the Future of Nursing State Implementation Program. Learn more at Follow the Campaign for Action on Twitter at @Campaign4Action and on Facebook at


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