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Distinguished Alumni Recipients

tuttas2016 - Carol Tuttas, Ph.D., MS ’02, R.N.

There was a time when Dr. Carol Tuttas’ entire world revolved around horses.  While fully engaged in her career as a Standardbred race horse trainer, a serious accident on the racetrack left the then 23-year-old pinned underneath horses and sulkies.  Having sustained multiple bone fractures, Dr. Tuttas was hospitalized for two months.  While recuperating as an inpatient, Dr. Tuttas became keenly aware of the quality care she was receiving from the nursing staff. When she was discharged from the hospital, Dr. Tuttas resumed her career as a horse trainer, but she found herself shifting her professional goals and priorities, all the while gravitating toward the field of nursing.

“I never grew up with aims to become a nurse,” said Dr. Tuttas. “There were no nurses in my family.  Yet, because of my own experience as a patient, I got to see the important role nurses play in the healing process.  I wanted be a part of this process, and so I trained and then worked as a nursing assistant for six years in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.   Later, in 1990, I earned an associate’s degree in Nursing from Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Hamilton, and for the next two years, I was a staff R.N. at Hamilton General Hospital.”

Relocating with her husband to South Florida in 1992, Dr. Tuttas joined the staff of Boca Raton Community Hospital.  Over the course of the next 10 years she served the hospital as a charge nurse, clinical coordinator and nurse manager.  Dr. Tuttas also used this time to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Lynn University, and a Master’s Degree in Nursing Administration and Financial Leadership from FAU’s College of Nursing.  While she was a graduate student, Dr. Tuttas had her first article published in a peer-reviewed journal.

From 2002 to 2006, Dr. Tuttas directed Critical Care Services at Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach.  In 2006, Dr. Tuttas was hired by Dr. Franklin Shaffer at Cross Country Staffing in Boca Raton, where she was the Director for Standards and Certification. It was an administrative position that allowed her to draw from her wealth of clinical experiences in both acute care and long-term skilled nursing.  Her passion for her profession led her to the University of Miami, where in 2013, she earned a Ph.D. in Nursing.

Since 2013 Dr. Tuttas has worked at CGFNS International, Inc. (Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools), where she is the Chief Programs Officer.  For nearly 40 years, CGFNS, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia, has remained a leading resource for evaluating the credentials and licenses of foreign-educated nurses and allied health professionals seeking to become eligible to practice in the United States and Canada.

Reflecting on her nursing career thus far, Dr. Tuttas is grateful for the many opportunities and experiences she has gained at local, national and international levels.  “As a nurse I have come to better understand health as a status of the human condition,” she said.  “More than a job or vocation, nursing is a calling.”  

2015 - Angela Starr Prestia, RN, NE-BC, PhD '14

PrestiaDr. Angela Prestia is known as a leader in the nursing community. She has served as chief nursing officer of Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. since November 2009. With 37 years of nursing and healthcare administration experience, she provides a high level of support, feedback, training and leadership to enhance the quality of nursing care at the hospital. Prestia has been a driving force in developing a caring culture that respects and honors both patients and nurses. She championed the novice nurse leadership institute, a program for new nurses that helped assimilate them into the profession and engage them with colleagues and the community.

Previously, Prestia served as administrative director of clinical quality improvement at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. She was responsible for hospital-wide clinical quality measures, infection control, Institute for Healthcare Improvement initiatives and the 100,000 Lives Campaign, an initiative to implement changes to improve patient care and prevent avoidable deaths. Prior to that, Prestia was a nurse consultant at Indian River Memorial Hospital and chief nursing officer at Jupiter Medical Center.

Prestia received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, a master’s in nursing from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and a certificate in health care administration from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She is the proud mother of two amazing children, Richard and Chelsea, both FAU alumni.

2013 - Laurie Grissman MSN '02, DNP '10

Laurie Grissman, FNP, ARNP, DNP, is a nursing entrepreneur who opened Mobile Medical Associates, an independent house call practice, in 2010. Today the company’s 14 employees serve hundreds of patients on the Treasure Coast through house calls, office visits, and in nursing facilities and hospitals.

Mobile Medical Associates was born from Grissman’s concern for chronically ill patients who had a difficult time travelling to their primary care provider when they were experiencing troubling symptoms, and ultimately delayed treatment until they needed emergency care. She recognized that these patients were at greater risk for experiencing poor outcomes, and that by assessing and treating patients more quickly in their homes, higher quality and more cost-effective care could be provided. The company is one of 17 primary care home visit practices in the United States chosen as demonstration models in the Independence at Home Project sponsored by the Commission for Medicare Services (CMS). It is the only nurse-owned and advanced-nursing-based group included in this important project.

Grissman’s previous experience includes working in the intensive care unit at Martin Memorial Medical Center and with Pulmonary & Internal Medicine Associates in Stuart, Florida. She received a BSN from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was a member of the first class to receive a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.

Grissman was born and raised in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and has lived in Stuart since 1996. She has two daughters, ages 8 and 11, and enjoys coaching their soccer and lacrosse teams.

2012 - Janet D. Moreland MSN '98, PMC ' 05

Janet Moreland is the health center administrator for the Department of Health/Palm Beach County Health Department, C.L. Brumback and Pahokee-Glades Health Centers in Belle Glade and Pahokee, and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the health center as well as the implementation of clinical indicators for the HRSA Migrant and Community Health Center Grant. She has more than 30 years of nursing and supervisory experience and has held the positions of senior community health nurse, community health nursing supervisor, senior community health nursing supervisor and ARNP coordinator.

2011 - Elizabeth Tsarnas BSN '93, MSN '97

Elizabeth Tsarnas is clinical director for Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), a non-profit clinic that she helped open in 1995. She has saved millions in healthcare dollars by motivating local nurses and physicians to volunteer at the VIM clinic and treat patients needing specialty care.

Prior to launching VIM, Tsarnas was a critical care nurse at Martin Memorial Health Systems, among other hospitals. She received her associate’s degree in nursing from State University of New York at Farmingdale, and her Bachelor and Masters of Science in Nursing degrees were received from Florida Atlantic University. She received the American Cross Real Hero award in 2005 and is president of the Treasure Coast Breast Health Coalition.

“My experience at FAU changed my life forever,” said Tsarnas. “Dr. Boykin’s Caring Theory has been pivotal in both the development and sustainability of the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic. We continue to find opportunities for growth and learning in helping others make healthy lifestyle choices and empowering them to maintain their health through disease prevention. Thanks to FAU, this has been a core element of my personal and professional life for the past 15 years.”

2010- Mary Bishop MS '02, DNP '10

Mary Bishop (MS '02, DNP '10) was selected as the College's 2010 Distinguished Alumna.

Dr. Bishop is vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Jupiter Medical Center (JMC). At JMC, she has been instrumental in creating a work environment that embraces the principles of magnet and shared governance, as well as increasing professionalism in nursing. She led teams that received stroke accreditation and Nurses Improving Care for Health-System Elders (NICHE) certification.

An adjunct professor for FAU, Dr. Bishop teaches an online course in nursing leadership. She is a member of the board of directors of the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and is the recipient of the 2006 Women in Leadership Award for the private sector from Executive Women of the Palm Beaches; 2003 Volunteer of the Year Award from the American Heart Association; and the 2002 Valor Award for Community Leadership from the American Diabetes Association.

2009 - Christopher Saslo, DNS, ARNP, BC DNS '07

Dr. M. Christopher Saslo is an adult nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, FL., where he treats patients with chronic illnesses such as HIV and Hepatitis. Currently the president of the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network and co-chair of the Florida Coalition for Advanced Practice Nursing, Dr. Saslo is actively involved in campaigning for state health care improvements and the professional advancement of ARNPs (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners). Dr. Saslo is the recipient of the 2009 American Academy of Nurse Practitioner Florida State Advocacy Award, the 2007 U.S. Public Health Strategic Healthcare Recognition Award and the 2005 Florida Nurse Practitioner of the Year Award from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. After earning a bachelor's of nursing science in 1990 from Marywood University and a master's of nursing science from LaSalle University in 1995, Christopher obtained a doctorate of nursing science from FAU in 2007.

2008 - Gail Mitchell, Ph.D., RN BSN '84

Dr. Gail Mitchell is an associate professor in the School of Nursing, York University, Toronto, Canada and a visiting professor at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong where she teaches qualitative research methods to graduate students. Dr. Mitchell is dedicated to promoting nursing as a unique relationship-based discipline and is a strong proponent of the "human becoming" theory of nursing. She has authored numerous publications and book chapters on patient centered care, quality of life, the ethics of problem-based care, and the value and limitations of evidence-based healthcare. The theory, philosophical in its orientation, incorporates each patient's human experience in the practice of nursing. In her long professional career, Dr. Mitchell has served as a staff nurse, a nurse specialist in gerontology and a chief nursing officer.

2007 - Julie Hilsenbeck, DNS., RN DNS '06

Dr. Julie Hilsenbeck has more than 20 years of experience in hospital management. She holds the position of Vice President for Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer for Boca Raton Community Hospital. Before joining the hospital she was a national senior director for operations with responsibility for more than 70 facilities at Tenet HealthCare.

2006 Kelly H. Newlin, Ph.D., RN BSN '97

Dr. Kelly Newlin was awarded FAU's prestigious University Scholar award in her last year of study at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. She earned her Master of Science and Doctor of Science in Nursing at Yale University and is currently a postdoctoral fellow with the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing working with Drs. Marilyn Parker and Ruth Tappen.

2005 Kevin A. Huckshorn, Ph.D., RN

Dr. Kevin Huckshorn is director of the office of Technical Assistance at the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors where she manages the National Technical Assistance Center for State Mental Health Planning. She is a licensed and certified mental health and substance abuse clinician. Dr. Huckshorn is a renowned trainer and speaker on integrating trauma-informed approaches into various systems of care.

2004 Patricia Welch Dittman, DNS, RN DNS '07, MSN '95

Dr. Patricia Dittman, is the director of nursing research and quality at Holy Cross Hospital. She is responsible for planning and coordinating education programs for nursing staff, including staff development, continuing education and patient education. Through her leadership efforts, the hospital achieved American Nurses' Association Magnet Status in 2004.