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FAU's Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

2024 - Hall of Fame Awardee:
Angela S. Prestia, Ph.D. ’14, MSN, RN NE-BC

PrestiaCurrent College of Nursing Adjunct Professor for Florida Atlantic, Dr. Angela Prestia teaches courses on leadership, finance, health care policy, research and informatics for both master’s and Doctor of Nursing (D.N.P.) students. Her first book titled “Becoming the Chief Nurse: The Science, The Stories, The Truth,” released in January, has been ranked on Amazon as the “No. 1 New Release in Nursing Administration and Management.”

“I truly marvel and am humbled by this designation,” expressed Dr. Prestia. “I believe it speaks to the necessity of the information. Often, there are no true mentors to help assist a novice chief nurse in understanding the critical elements of the role. I believe the information in my book can assist with what is missing to be successful in this role.”

In the book, Dr. Prestia synthesizes research evidence into understandable concepts, shares practical tools and candidly recounts stories, that together create useful applications for nurse executives. She guides the reader on a journey of self-discovery and the competencies needed as a nurse executive.

“There are high expectations for nurse leaders due to the chaotic and complex nature of health care,” said Dr. Prestia. “Surprisingly, there was no guidebook — no ‘road map’ — for those interested in the top nurse leadership role within health care organizations. I had a strong desire to create a comprehensive, easy-to-read, honest account of what it takes to become, sustain and thrive as a nurse executive.”

Although this is her first book, she has contributed to a chapter on “Leading During Challenging Times,” to the textbook, “Nurse Leadership and Management” (eds. Fitzpatrick & Alfes, 2023). In addition, she has published over 50 articles of interest to nurse leaders.

Dr. Prestia began teaching at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing in 2015, shortly after she received her Ph.D. in Nursing in 2014 from Florida Atlantic. She joined the faculty because she feels strongly that nursing education at FAU prepares students to be caring nurse leaders.

2024 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Jean Seaver, MSN '97

Jean Seaver As Associate Vice President of Learning and Development, Jean Seaver has led the Learning and Development function at Broward Health since 2006. Prior to joining Broward Health, she had served as the ACNO/Director of Nursing & Support Services and the Director of Education and Resources for Tenet Health South Florida Delray Beach Campus. Seaver has been actively involved in education and nursing administration in South Florida since 1984. As a Registered Nurse, Seaver went on to achieve her MSN degree at Florida Atlantic. Additionally, she has earned her Six Sigma Green Belt and a certificate in Managing Quality Healthcare Systems.

Additionally, she has served on many local boards, including Broward College Foundation, and is the current President of the Nursing Consortium of Florida. She has received numerous awards including, the Student Partner of Choice 2020 for Nova Southeastern University, the Community Ambassador Award for Keiser University, and the E-Learning Award for Innovation in Education.


2023 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Herard LaFrance, DNP-FNP '19, MS, BS 

Herard LaFrance

Dr. Herard LaFrance, joined Broward Health formally known as North Broward Hospital District in Fort-Lauderdale, Florida in July 2013, and is a board-certified nurse practitioner. He specializes in Pediatrics, Adults, Women’s Health,  prevention medicine, and chronic illness.

Since 2018, Dr. LaFrance has been precepting nurse practitioner students at the Broward Health-Cora E. Braynon Family Health Center.

Furthermore, Dr. LaFrance is the founder of St. Croix Health Care Inc. This is a non-profit corporation. He sees many underserved children, youth and adults who are threatened by lack of adequate public health programs and resources. He believes one thing they need most is a chance to be healthy and well. For over five years, SCHC has been providing healthcare and wellness services to thousands of disadvantaged residents in the regions of Haiti.


2022 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Taren, J. O'Brien, MSN '07, RN

Taren OBrien As Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Holy Cross Health, Taren O’Brien is responsible for administering all aspects of nursing operations in accordance with the vision, mission and values of Holy Cross Health. In addition to nursing administration, she oversees pharmacy, respiratory, critical care, emergency services, inpatient services, perioperative services, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Taren is passionate about Zero Harm and the journey to becoming a highly reliable organization. She is committed to cultivating an environment where quality care, as well as colleague and patient safety prevail, thus contributing to Holy Cross Health earning three consecutive as in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade.  

Taren began her career at Holy Cross as a graduate nurse, and this year will be recognized for 30 years of service. She is a supporter of lifelong learning, committed to providing professional growth opportunities within the organization and enjoys career coaching. Taren received a master’s degree in nursing administration and financial leadership from Florida Atlantic University, where she also received her baccalaureate degree in nursing. She remains an advocate for continuous process improvement.

2021 Hall of Fame Awardee:
Melissa Durbin, NEA-BC, MSN, RN

Melissa Durbin

Melissa Durbin is the Chief Nursing Officer/Vice President at Boca Regional Hospital since 2013. In her role, she has been instrumental in supporting excellence in nursing practice, with a focus on operations, leadership, team building, and program design. Durbin joined Boca Raton Regional Hospital in 2006 as Executive Director of Lynn Heart and Vascular Institute. She is a seasoned professional with more than 30 years in nursing practice and leadership.

COVID-19 has proven to be the greatest challenge of Durbin’s career. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were many unknowns and information changed rapidly. Durbin and her team established protocols on how to care for patients with COVID, isolate them, and protect staff and other patients from possible exposure, manage the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), train staff and more. They steadily worked to establish clear and concise procedures. “In the face of uncertainty, it has never been more important to healthcare systems and healthcare professional professionals to continually adapt to change and modify practices,”
said Durbin.

As the pandemic progressed, Durbin’s concern increased for her staff’s mental health, who had been isolating in the workplace, sitting with patients as they pass away, speaking to grieving families who could not be at their family members’ bedside, and worrying about their own families at home. Durbin established a team, including a psychiatrist, social worker, hospital leader and nurse, to be present and support the psychological and spiritual welfare of staff. They were available for any needs of the unit or staff to talk, pray, listen or laugh.

“Teamwork and clinical collaboration have never been more crucial to healthcare delivery,” said Durbin. “Today, we are a stronger team and are able to provide the best care possible to our community.”

Prior to joining the hospital, Durbin served as the Director of Trauma and Critical Care Services at Delray Medical Center. She was responsible for the administrative trauma service functions, as well as the clinical operations of Level II Trauma Service. Durbin actively participated in county and state initiatives for access to trauma care.

Durbin obtained her undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees from FAU’s College of Nursing with a focus on administrative finance and nursing leadership. She is the past-President of the Nursing Consortium of South Florida, past-President of the South Florida Organization of Nurse Executives and a member of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing Advisory Board.


2019 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Karen A. Grimley, PhD '15, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE

Karen Grimley

Karen Grimley is the Chief Nurse Executive for UCLA Health. She is a member of UCLA Health and School of Nursing senior leadership teams and is responsible for nursing practice and care delivery across UCLA Health’s four hospitals, and ambulatory care. With UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center and Orthopedic Hospital and Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital designated as Magnet® hospitals, she and her leadership team work to maintain the highest level of nursing excellence as a standard throughout UCLA Health. She has awesome responsibility for the overall delivery and management of nursing professional practice, education, professional development, research, administration and clinical services. She has staff accountability for enhancing a clinical practice environment that is patient-centered, with unsurpassed clinical quality and patient safety while also providing significant contributions to education and research. She also serves as assistant dean for the UCLA School of Nursing.

 Prior to joining UCLA, Dr. Grimley served as chief nursing officer and volunteer assistant clinical professor at University of California-Irvine where her areas of responsibility encompassed all aspects of nursing practice, inpatient nursing operations, and programmatic oversight of the burn, trauma, stroke and transplant programs. As a champion of the patient experience at UC Irvine, Dr. Grimley organized and co-led the Patient Experience Coordinating Council to improve the patient experience by heightening organizational awareness. Her strategic direction for nursing was essential in revitalizing both the shared governance structure and the Relationship-Based Care model, and incorporating the use of clinical and operational metrics to show nurses how their practice and delivery of safe, high-quality care directly contributed to the operational success of the hospital.

 Throughout her career, Dr. Grimley’s leadership and advocacy within the nursing profession has enhanced understanding of the major role that nurses play in the effective delivery of safe, high quality, patient and relationship-centered care. Dr. Grimley completed her PhD at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Nursing. She is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, a member of Sigma Theta Tau, International, the American Nurses Association, the California Association of Nurse Leaders, and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.


2018 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Eugenia Millender, PhD '13, MSN '06, BSN '99

Eugenia millender

Born in Panama, Eugenia's first language is Spanish. She immigrated with her family at the age of 12, first to New York and then to South Florida. After graduating from high school in West Palm Beach, she enlisted in the Army and spent the next six years stationed around the globe. While in the Army, she took classes wherever she was stationed and eventually earned an Associate of Arts degree from the College of Lake County in Illinois. After her enlistment, Eugenia returned to Florida and enrolled at FAU, completing two degrees in nine years. Eugenia's time in the military instilled the discipline and management skills needed to cope with a busy life as an employee, student, wife and mother.

Eugenia acknowledges that her achievements would not be possible without the unwavering support of her husband, Donald Millender, and their three sons. Over the years, Eugenia has taught undergraduate courses in the areas of critical care and community nursing for Palm Beach Atlantic University located in West Palm Beach, FL.


2017 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Rocky Hosie, U.S. Air Force, N.C., MSN-MBA ’07


Lt. Col. Rocky Hosie is a special needs coordinator for the 673d Medical Group, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Under his leadership, his team determines the resources that are available for both inbound and outbound military personnel for special medical, mental or teaching needs. Lt. Col. Hosie was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force in 2000 as an intensive care nurse after working in the civilian nursing field for nine years. He has worked in many care environments. Lt. Col. Hosie has deployed three times – in Oman, Pakistan and Afghanistan – for Operation Enduring Freedom. Prior to his current assignment, he served as the director of primary care for the 421st Air Base Squadron, RAF Menwith Hill, United Kingdom.

Lt. Col. Hosie has received the following awards: Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three oak leaf clusters and Valor Device, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Global Ward on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War of Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Longevity Service with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Training Ribbon and a NATO Medal. Lt. Col. Hosie enjoys mentoring the next generation. He is married and he and his wife, Gina, have two children in college.

2016 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee
Carol Tuttas, PhD, MSN ’02, RN


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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Angela Starr Prestia, PhD '14, NE-BC, RN

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Laurie Grissman, DNP '10, MSN '02


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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Janet D. Moreland, PMC '05, MSN '98 

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Elizabeth Tsarnas,  MSN '97, BSN '93

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee
Mary Bishop, DNP '10, MSN '02

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Christopher Saslo, DNS '07, ARNP, BC 

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Gail Mitchell, PhD, 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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Julie Hilsenbeck, DNS '06, RN

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Kelly H. Newlin, PhD, 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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Kevin A. Huckshorn, PhD, RN, BSN '83

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 - Distinguished Alumni Awardee:
Patricia Welch Dittman, DNS '07, MSN '95, RN

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.