Each year, Nurse.com calls upon our readers to nominate exceptional nurse colleagues for our Nursing Excellence program. For more than a decade, we have received thousands of entries that contain stories of phenomenal nurse leaders, mentors and clinicians. This year has proven no different. The nurses nominated for our 2013 Nursing Excellence program have proven true nursing excellence is alive and well.
ADVANCING AND LEADING THE PROFESSION
Pamela L. Dunley, RN, MS, MBA, CENP, CNO/vice president of hospital operations, Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Healthcare
Responsible and accountable for nursing practice across the system, including inpatient, outpatient, perioperative service areas, ambulatory clinics and the home health hospice division, Dunley is a mentor and is personally committed to the success of every nurse. She holds certification as a nurse executive, advanced through the American Organization of Nurse Executives. She has provided unprecedented leadership in the development of an effective patient-centered care model. Dunley led the clinical initiatives to build a new state-of-the-art hospital facility that opened in June of 2011. Under Dunleys leadership, EMHC was able to meet a rigorous set of criteria indicating achievement of the highest standard in patient-centered care. Her transformational leadership style encourages the best in nurses. She has led the development of a relationship-based care model of nursing, based on Jean Watsons theory of caring.
Patti Ludwig-Beymer, RN, PhD, CTN, NEA-BC, FAAN, vice president and CNO, Edward Hospital and Health Services, Naperville, Ill.
Ludwig-Beymer has overall accountability for the nursing functions of more than 1,100 nurses and 275 ancillary staff in the department of nursing. She is responsible for nursing practice, nursing education and professional development and for the ethical conduct of research. She shares her love of culture, her expertise in a diverse healthcare workforce, and her desire for a culturally competent organization through her work in the Transcultural Nursing Society. Ludwig-Beymer has made measurable differences in the areas of education, research, quality care and professional mentorship, and she is an active board member at three local universities. She is a well-respected, dynamic and innovative leader who is continuously striving for better patient care and outcomes. Ludwig-Beymer has actively supported continuing education for nurses. In fiscal year 2012, 152 continuing education programs were made available to the nursing staff.
Maureen Slade, RN, MS, PMHCNS-BC, NE-BC, director of psychiatry and medicine nursing, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
In her role, Slade works collaboratively with medical leadership partners to advance quality strategies, ensure a professional work environment for the care delivery team, facilitate timeliness of services and enhance patient satisfaction. She partners in the development and implementation of capacity expansion plans. Most recently, she spearheaded the opening of a new 29-bed state-of-the-art psychiatric inpatient care unit. Slade worked in collaboration with another to create a world-class, innovative care model for the delivery of inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care. She also developed and implemented an education coordinator role, which advanced staff educators to a higher level of learning and professionalism. Slade is recognized throughout the organization and the industry as having the ability to achieve patient care and financial goals in a highly competitive healthcare industry through strategic analysis, process improvement and organizational development.
Karen M. Stratton, RN, NE-BC, PhD, executive director of nursing, womens and childrens services, The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Childrens Hospital
Stratton directs about 600 employees and is responsible for all activities in her patient care areas. She is a volunteer board member of the Court Appointed Special Advocate program of Will County, which serves abused and neglected children. With the board, Stratton helps to raise funds and was instrumental in helping CASA form bylaws that include standards and processes for recruiting new board members and volunteers. She mentors all levels of staff including interprofessional colleagues, and she demonstrates respect and kindness. As an active nurse researcher, Stratton bridges practice, education and research. She was the team leader on the Health Resources Services Administration Provena Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital nurse retention grant. Stratton also spends one-on-one time mentoring managers, staff and physicians in their communication and speaking-up skills, giving them the confidence to have difficult conversations such as employee discipline or addressing interprofessional conflicts.
Marilyn Wideman, RN-BC, DNP, FAAN, associate provost for professional education and community engagement, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
An ideal teacher practitioner, with a scope that covers the medical center and crosses all disciplines, Wideman oversees continuing education for all disciplines and provides operational oversight of community faculty practice sites. She develops and oversees community-based practice programs that address the health needs of Rushs underserved populations, complement the medical home initiatives, build upon resources across the organization and yield economic benefit. Her DNP project at Rush, “A Strategic Initiative to Establish Long-Term Viability of a Faculty Practice Program,” provided the foundation for her to develop an outcome-driven, sustainable and replicable program that affects underserved individuals and communities. Wideman also consults around the world as government entities, corporate organizations and international entities seek her knowledge and assistance to develop innovative care models.
CLINICAL NURSING, INPATIENT
Misty M. Kirby-Nolan, RN, MSN, APN-CNP, nurse practitioner, anesthesia pain management, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Kirby-Nolan is an expert clinician, educator, leader, researcher and volunteer who seamlessly blends these roles together for the benefit of her patients, co-workers and professional colleagues. Data she collected on pain control in total knee replacement patients led to treatment changes that have decreased length of stay for total knee patients. Kirby-Nolan provides leadership to APNs through her roles as coordinator of a monthly APN networking meeting, co-chair of the APN Leadership Committee and nurse practitioner representative for Northwestern Memorials Mid-Level Provider Committee, which serves as the peer review committee for mid-level providers. She regularly serves as a clinical instructor for her BSN alma mater, working with undergraduate students in their final nursing leadership practicum. In this capacity, she is able to be a role model for clinical excellence and educate and mentor the next generation of nurses.
Dana Murphy, RN-BC, MSN, clinical nurse educator, Advocate South Suburban Hospital, Hazel Crest, Ill.
A wonderful teammate, Murphy is reliable, approachable and produces excellent work. She has played a pivotal role in three recent patient-centered projects. The first was the implementation of basal-bolus insulin dosing, which replaced the sliding scale. The second was to maintain the near perfect core measures. And the third was the proliferation of certified telemetry nurses. The units consistent work on the core measures and the number of nurses now certified is a tribute to her tenacious, steadfast work. A project to maintain the core measures of heart failure, influenza and pneumonia vaccine, and stroke is a tribute to her consistency. For several years, she has checked documentation daily to ensure the patients have received the right care at the right time, and she has coached the staff to near perfection. Many months the success rate is at 100%, placing her hospital first in the 10-hospital system.
Marcia Pinnow, RN, BSN, CCM, inpatient care manager, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, Zion, Ill.
Successful at anticipating needs and preparing patients and families for discharge because she takes the time to listen and identify individual needs, Pinnow has established the relationships necessary with local resources and services in every state to provide continuity of care. She remains calm and professional in the most stressful situations. She is the person everyone turns to for discharges that require a greater degree of planning and execution. Pinnow puts the patient first and she can consistently be caught staying until all hours of the night, coming in early, or calling the floor on the weekend to ensure all arrangements were finalized so the patient could go home. Pinnow is well known for her amazing Rolodex of patient resources, vendors and providers that she uses for patient referrals to ensure safe transition to home or next level of care. She is continually finding creative ways to assist patients to meet their own goals for going home to be with their loved ones.
Pamela Reetz, RN, MSN, PCCN, clinical coordinator PCU, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, Hinsdale, Ill.
A natural leader who is always part of the solution, Reetz rolls up her sleeves to help her colleagues. She has expert clinical skills and negotiating skills, never asking anyone to do something in her charge nurse role that she wouldnt be able or willing to do herself. Doctors respect her and intervene based on her assessments. She is a calm force who uses evidence and research to build her case and draws out diverse opinions in the process. She serves on a number of committees, including a prep committee that is an ongoing effort with Northwestern University. The pilot program is designed to better educate patients on the goals of care. Whether by serving on a committee in-house or assisting in medical emergencies outside of the hospital facility, Reetz is always at hand and always ready to offer her skills and knowledge, no matter who is in need. She also has developed charge sheets for her colleagues to ensure their shifts run smoothly.
Katherine Tilleman, RNC-MNN, BSN, nurse clinician 3, Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.
Working in a unit composed of 38 medical, post-surgical, gynecological and obstetrical patients, Tillemans proficiency in caring for all of these patients affords her a very broad scope of nursing. On a daily basis, she provides direct patient care in all of the above categories. Tilleman functions as a charge nurse and as a preceptor to new staff and nursing students. She has assisted in organizing a yearly food drive in which canned goods and perishable foods are collected and distributed to families. She also was instrumental in organizing Dear Santa letters for Chicago Public School children who might not have had Christmas gifts. When her unit began caring for mother and baby couplets, Tilleman was one of the first to become certified as a maternal-newborn nurse. Her achievement created a ripple effect as she encouraged other nurses to become certified. She also is an active member of her units staffing committee.
EDUCATION AND MENTORSHIP
Janice Unruh Davidson, RN-BC, PhD, FNP-BC, NEA-BC, CNE, ANEF, FAANP, professor of nursing, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Downers Grove, Ill.
An active national and international guest speaker with more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, Davidson serves on Chamberlains graduate programs affinity diagrams task force and is the principal author of all affinity diagrams for the institution. She is the schools principal DNP project advisor and serves on the DNP steering committee. Davidson also is on Chamberlains Institutional Review Board and is a subject matter expert for selected DNP courses. She has been sought for consultations as an academic leader by a variety of schools across the country in the areas of program development, self-study development, academic program review and curriculum development. In the area of collaborative community partnerships, she has made substantial contributions as a nurse educator to underserved communities that require health education, research grants, primary care and online educational support.
Cynthia LaFond, RN, BSN, CCRN, clinical nurse educator, University of Chicago Medicine
The clinical nurse educator in the PICU and CICU, LaFond serves as the lead nurse educator for nursing simulation. She is pursuing her PhD in nursing and is now in her dissertation data collection phase of her studies. Her focus is on pediatric pain, and she has created an innovative way of assessing nurses responses to avatar images in her study. She is a key member of the simulation team as a lead trainer for nursing and interdisciplinary focused simulations that include pediatrics, womens care, surgery and adult scenarios. She has developed a train-the-trainer course for the clinical nurse educators and clinical nurse specialists, which is resulting in an expansion of simulations being incorporated in staff education and training. LaFonds initial interest in simulation has influenced the hospitals approach to helping staff learn about the changing patient condition.
Marcia Murphy, RN, DNP, APRN, FAHA, assistant professor and adult nurse practitioner, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
The specialty coordinator for the ANP and ACNS program, Murphy is known as a favorite lecturer, effectively engaging students and conveying the latest research and best practices of nursing with enthusiasm and passion. As an ANP at a senior center in Chicago, she provides primary and preventive services for about 175 senior clubs and groups. Her coursework is taught based on her experiences in applying nursing concepts to her real-world challenges. Her leadership was crucial in sculpting and setting the foundation for the rich and successful shared governance history Rush enjoys today. She is an excellent teacher and mentor. Murphy has a way of explaining concepts in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. She is a great example of a professional that can balance working as an NP and an educator. Murphy remains busy as chairwoman of the Rush College of Nursing Task Force to develop the DNP Direct Care Capstone Project.
Harley Salinas, RN, MSN, APN, ANCS-BC, CMSRN, clinical nurse specialist, Presence Saint Francis Hospital, Evanston, Ill.
As a nurse educator for med/surg areas, Salinas is responsible for the ongoing nursing education for about 110 RNs and about 60 patient care technicians and unit secretaries. Even before he was promoted to nurse educator, his fellow staff nurses had always gone to him for help with difficult patients, clinical assessment confirmation and problem solving. Salinas has identified knowledge deficits in new nurses and worked with them to improve their knowledge base. He also identified a need for formal continuing education for the med/surg staff nurses. He contacted the dean of nursing at Resurrection University and arranged a conference with Saint Francis vice president of nursing that led to an onsite BSN completion course. Salinas has helped more than 30 nurses achieve national specialty certification. He also serves as nursing instructor for a school of nursing that has students on clinical rotations at Saint Francis on weekends.
Zepure Samawi, RN, PhD, associate professor of nursing, Fulbright fellow, Saint Xavier University, Chicago
An active member of the educational committee of the Society of Pediatric Nursing, Samawi presents faculty workshops on research and supports development of study abroad programming. She serves as an active member of the Educational Committee of the Society of Pediatric Nursing and has been recognized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education with a nurse educator fellowship. She was a recipient of the Fulbright Scholar Grant to teach and perform research during the 2012-2013 academic year at Bethlehem University. Countless student benefited and continue to benefit from her teachings and direction. Samawi is an expert in nursing pedagogy. She presents faculty workshops on research and supports development of study abroad programing at SXU and Bethlehem University. She has partnered with Bethlehem University nursing faculty members to introduce concept mapping a metacognitive teaching and learning methodology and evaluate its usefulness within the context of Palestinian culture.
HOME, COMMUNITY AND AMBULATORY CARE
Carin L. Bailey, RN, BSN, registered nurse, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, Zion, Ill.
A member of a patient empowered care team, Bailey establishes long-term relationships with patients and their family members while guiding them through the entire care process. She epitomizes the meaning of the word team player. Bailey always can be counted on to work with her fellow care managers to come up with creative solutions to care for the patient. Bailey not only provides excellent nursing care, but also manages to make time in her life to volunteer and give back to her community. She is an invaluable team player with her detailed documentations and communication skills. She always provides necessary information to clinicians to ensure patients have continuance of care. Her calm presence, warm personality and positive outlook bring comfort to the team and all the patients that she encounters. She was part of the successful patient portal pilot program facilitating patient to care provider communication through information technology.
Colleen Butler, RN, C-NPT, staff nurse neonatal/pediatric transport team, Advocate Childrens Hospital, Oak Lawn, Ill.
An informal leader of the transport team, helping others with professional growth, Butler takes the extra step to make her patients and their parents comfortable and gives them reassurance, even in the most critical situations. She is trained in many advanced procedures and is able to provide critical care interventions to her patient in a mobile outpatient environment. Butler has the outstanding skills of a professional nurse and a big heart to care for her patients and their families. On a daily basis, she puts her life at risk to care for her patients. She is exposed to many different environmental factors. Butler works in all weather conditions and does all that while caring for the most critical patients in a positive manner. She is known by her teammates as being a true patient advocate. Butler is leading her departments shared governance committee and assists her peers with their own professional growth.
Elizabeth Hostetler, RN, BSN, oncoplastic and reconstructive surgery nurse, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, Zion, Ill.
Hostetler was one of the first direct-care nurses to volunteer for the team charged with creating a new inpatient care delivery system that would facilitate comprehensive patient care while promoting teamwork and accountability. She displayed her passion for nursing and commitment to the Mother Standard whole-patient approach when it became clear a patient should go home to spend precious moments with family. Knowing her patient required a pain pump infusing high doses of Dilaudid in order to remain comfortable in a quiet hospital room and unable to find an ambulance team that could manage the pump at such high doses, Hostetler volunteered to manage the pain pump during the four-hour ambulance ride to the patients home. When another patient who loved to bowl had to stay on her birthday, Hostetler coordinated schedules so stakeholders who cared for the patient were able to take the patient bowling and out for dinner. Her passion to provide the highest quality care for each and every patient she treats is boundless.
Regina A. McClenton, RN, BSN, nurse practice administrator for pediatric primary care and medical home network at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
A natural leader and mentor, McClenton provides exceptional patient care while also modeling behaviors for all staff to observe. Frustrated with patient satisfaction scores, she hand-picked a team of two physicians, an RN, a certified medical assistant and another employee to discuss good and bad customer service and develop behavioral standards for physicians and nonphysicians. After implementation, patient satisfaction went from an overall score of 87.2 at the beginning of 2012 to 90.5 at the end of 2012. McClenton remains most passionate about her role as mentor. She sits on countless committees where her advice and knowledge are valued. She has spearheaded quality improvement projects within the practice including protocols for strep throat follow-up, early morning acute care scheduling and the introduction of the use of transcutaneous bilirubin monitoring in infants with hyperbilirubinemia. McClenton also is the point person at Rush for Joint Commission readiness.
Julianne G. Russell, RN, MSN, APN-CNP, family nurse practitioner, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston, Ill.
As a family nurse practitioner working in the Evanston Township High School Health Center, Russell provides comprehensive primary healthcare services to the 3,000 students enrolled at the high school. She is an expert nurse practitioner with exceptional expertise working with adolescents. Her physical assessment skills have identified life-threatening conditions. On a daily basis, her expert communication and counseling skills navigate teens through difficult situations, such as rape, abuse and teen pregnancy. For many years, Russell faithfully has served on the steering committee of the Illinois Coalition of School Health Centers. In that capacity, Julie has worked on political advocacy projects, planned conferences and provided expert advice and assistance to the other school health centers in Illinois. She also serves on the Evanston Health Departments Community Advisory Board, advising on initiatives to improve the health of all the communitys children.
PATIENT AND STAFF MANAGEMENT
Frederick M. Brown Jr., RN, DNP, ONC, unit director orthopedics, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
A natural leader and mentor to his nursing staff, Brown has dedicated his life to the advancement of the profession of nursing as evidenced by his continued hard work in improving staff development and patient safety. He developed a career progression map, which he uses with his staff nurses to lead them through their nursing careers. Brown demonstrates his continued commitment to patient-centered care, bedside nursing and quality care by making daily rounds. As unit director, he is involved intricately in improving patient and staff outcomes. He recently led his unit in a move to the new tower unit, collaborating with nursing staff, physicians and transporters in order to safely and efficiently relocate orthopedic patients and all necessary equipment to the tower in less than 30 minutes. Brown also developed new workflow strategies to complete a quality improvement project.
Lisa Flynn, RN, BSN, ENT/ophthalmology team leader, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Ill.
Flynns exceptional organizational skills have helped her to excel as the ears, nose and throat surgical team leader and the ophthalmology service team leader. Her quiet grace transcends throughout everything she does. She demonstrates excellent judgment in making staff assignments relevant to the patients and doctors needs and actively communicates with ancillary personnel to see that all surgical cases have the proper equipment and supplies. Flynn is an active member of multiple hospital committees. Each year, she dedicates her time outside of Loyola to participating in medical causes. She has served as an invaluable OR nurse during a Loyola University Medical Center medical mission to the Dominican Republic. She goes the extra mile by regularly updating preference cards, checking carts and cabinets and restocking supplies crucial to the surgeries her doctors perform. She is a resource person for laser safety as she is a CO2 Laser Certified Nurse.
Jennifer Marie Grenier, RN-BC, MSN, unit director, telemetry/innovation unit/resource team, Rush Oak Park (Ill.) Hospital
Committed and down to earth with patients and staff, Grenier carries momentum and naturally attracts people to follow her. She even picks up night shifts to assist in preceptoring staff who are struggling in the ICU. Grenier is committed to developing and communicating with her staff. She sees empowerment of them as a direct way to advocate for higher levels of patient care. Grenier has spearheaded many patient satisfaction initiatives. She led a team that created an in-room communication board for patients, which alerts them about pertinent schedule issues, precautions, diet and team information. She also spearheaded an initiative that had discharge cards signed by every nurse sent to the patients homes after discharge. She worked to create a collaborative relationship with a large area pharmacy so meds can be called in and delivered before patient discharge. She also proposed and organized a self-scheduling process for all med/surg staff.
Robin Oakley, RN, BSN, MS, practice manager, medical intensive care, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Oakley consistently earns the respect of staff, coworkers and senior leadership and has developed a professional reputation as the go-to person to deploy to units and teams in need of help. She has been called upon at various times to manage two of Northwesterns ICUs, an oncology unit, multiple med/surg units, and the Central Telemetry Monitoring Center. As the practice manager for the MICU, she is responsible for the creation of an APN-managed service. She focuses on recruitment and retention by implementing processes for successful on-boarding and personal and professional development, such as arranging educational opportunities and promoting nurse certification. She is responsible for leading Structured Interdisciplinary Rounds, and she partners with physician leaders in a co-leadership model focused on core measure compliance and quality performance for nurse sensitive quality indicators.
Darlene Trendl, RN, BSN, manager of clinical operations, Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.
A compassionate person who puts her heart and soul into all she does, Trendl strives to help associates find a work-life balance and always leads by example. She is professional and since her start on the unit, morale has improved through her open door and heart policy. Her timely follow through on concerns, complaints and compliments has paid off. She drastically has improved patient and staff satisfaction on her unit. She also has fostered a work environment that allows staff and patients to feel comfortable enough to voice concerns and receive feedback in a positive way. She always isupportive and has a built a great rapport throughout the facility. Trendl is the type of person one can be drawn to and simply want to follow. She is the type of manager who places herself into any given situation and truly empathizes and then acts for the greater good. She supports personal and professional growth.
VOLUNTEERISM AND SERVICE
Teresa Mirabella, RN, MA, direct care nurse, Westlake Hospital, Melrose Park, Ill.
Mirabella works three days a week on her unit and devotes the rest of her time to the operation of a homeless shelter. Her life mission has been to respectfully and empathetically care for others with substance abuse. She is able to live out this mission both at our hospital and at the homeless shelter. Mirabella has helped a tremendous number of people throughout the years. Like so many people who give of themselves and ask for nothing in return, she is quiet about her great work. Recently, a man came to the shelter in a wheelchair. She quickly assessed that this man was at the end of his life and — if it was possible — she was going to reunite him with his family who couldnt be with him in the U.S. She purchased an airline ticket and made arrangements for him to fly home to Poland to be with them. Mirabella always has been drawn to help an extremely vulnerable population, the chronically homeless who have addictions.
Shelly Olesiak, RN, ADN, registered nurse, Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Healthcare
Olesiak is a clinical expert, mentor to new staff and students and an outspoken patient advocate. She has been a medical volunteer for the past 10 years in places including Bolivia, Ecuador, Kenya and the Philippines. She pays for her own transportation and uses her vacation time for the trips, once or twice each year. She facilitates basic care and treatment to the underserved under the direction of a volunteer physician as part of the medical mission team. Olesiak has become more conversant in medical Spanish in order to facilitate teaching of mothers, children and families. She feels that this is the most important and enduring aspect of the mission work because it carries on long after volunteers leave. Her example has prompted other nurses to volunteer in other ways, sometimes closer to home, but following in her footsteps to give back to their own communities, whether it is in a local blood drive, food pantry collection or blood pressure testing after church services.
Cora J. Palmer, RN-BC, BSN, CMSRN, staff nurse, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
As a pain expert nurse, Palmer is an exemplary clinician and mentor to new and experienced staff. Her real passion is her volunteer and service work with the Chicago-area chapter of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. She is a founding member of the chapter and has served as its president since the chapter was chartered by the national office in 2008. She is skilled at creating mutually beneficial partnerships, always with the goal of a win-win solution for all participants. Palmer has been an advocate for advancing med/surg certification among her colleagues at Northwestern Memorial. In 2012, 13 members of the chapter became newly certified in their specialty. She has been active in AMSN, chairing the AMSN Workplace Advocacy Task Force and serving as an AMSN Ambassador. Since its founding, the AMSN Chicago chapters membership has grown from 20 members to 110.
Benson Wright, RN, MSN, Magnet program coordinator, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
Wright serves as president of Rushs nursing shared governance organization, the Professional Nursing Staff. He represents more than 2,500 nurses, faculty and nursing students at Rush. Wright was selected to be an Albert Schweitzer Fellow. His yearlong project involved working with homeless youth at the Broadway Youth Center in Chicago. He always has given freely to the community. He is organizing a Rush food drive as part of the Greater Chicagoland Food Drive. Wright also volunteers on nursing projects. He is chairing a statewide consortium of nursing care committees with the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders. This effort allows nurses across Illinois to share best practices related to nurse staffing monthly. He also sits on Sigma Theta Tau Internationals Service Learning Task Force, a team charged with making recommendations for service learning around the world. He gives selflessly to nursing and the community and does so without seeking recognition.
Jill Zuleg, RN, BSN, clinical leader of mother and baby unit, Edward Hospital and Health Services, Naperville, Ill.
Zuleg has shown outstanding strength and selflessness while comforting grieving families during the organ donation process. In 2010 when her son was declared brain dead after being hit by a falling tree limb during a camping trip with his family, Zuleg and her husband chose to donate his organs, ultimately giving the gift of life to five recipients. During that time, she recognized the need to support families during the donation process and vowed to find a way to offer the simple comforts that would have helped her. A year later, she formed a foundation that partners with Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network. The network is a nonprofit organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana. Zuleg also created an annual scholarship, which is offered to a high school senior. The first scholarship was awarded in 2011. Zuleg is actively involved in Cradle Talk, a weekly support group for new parents and their babies.