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Outstanding Young Owl


Commissioner Darlene Riggs, MSN-EDU, BSN


Nursing is often practiced beyond the walls of the hospitals in the community. Commissioner Darline Riggs was elected to the Miramar City Commission, Seat 4 on March 10, 2015.  As a wife, a mother, a teacher, a nurse and a 29-year resident of the city of Miramar, Commissioner Riggs understands and cares about the issues her constituents face each day, and she is passionate about making a difference toward a better future. Whether it is assuring that government is more responsive to the community, attracting and keeping businesses in the city, creating local jobs for the people in the community, advocating for activities to keep our youth off the streets and programs to keep our seniors active and providing the necessary resources for our first responders, Commissioner Riggs is well aware of how these issues respond to the call for caring from her community. Darline’s practice of nursing is lived in the community through this life of politics, policy development and public service. Nurses know about health, they know about listening to what matters most to people, they know how to facilitate well-being in communities.  Darline Riggs brings this knowledge to her role of Commissioner, advocating for the well-being of her constituents in Miramar. Commissioner Riggs is married to retired police officer Michael Riggs, a 30-year veteran of the Miramar Police Department and they have four children; sons Michael Jr., Gabriel, Daniel and daughter Michaela.  Commissioner Darline Riggs obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Nursing Education from Florida Atlantic University. 


Daphne Hanson, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, LHRM, '13, '15


In her seven years of practice, in addition to her current role, she has held major leadership roles in the workplace, including Chest Pain Coordinator at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach and Manager of Quality and Performance Improvement at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. She has also authored two peer-reviewed, Caring-related journal articles for the Journal of Infusion Nursing and the International Journal of Human Caring.

Hanson uses knowledge and experience gained at the College of Nursing every day. The organizational skills she developed while obtaining her master’s and doctoral degree have been key to her success. “My faculty at FAU also taught me how to assess the validity of research, comprehend statistics and analyze data for veracity to implement new studies into practice,” she said.

Her cousin, Michelle, a nurse, inspired her to join the nursing profession at a young age. “She would tell me stories about how she changed her patients’ lives with her caring, compassionate and expert knowledge base,” she said. She says she enjoys impacting patient quality of care on a hospital-wide scale and mentoring other nurses. “I know there were so many people who helped me in my career, and I love to pass that along.” Inspired by Daphne, Michelle is now going back to school to be a nurse practitioner.

Daphne credits her mentor and FAU professor, Dr. Rose Sherman, with helping her understand how to communicate effectively across generations, a skill she uses every day in her practice. Hanson stays in touch with Sherman and strongly recommends that young nurses seek out mentoring relationships with senior professionals who are willing to provide counsel based on their expert experience in the field. “As a bedside nurse, a nurse practitioner, or an administrator, you are faced with many decisions and stressors, and you need an outside person to weigh in and help you understand how to make the best choices. I believe that to be successful, a mentor is mandatory.”


Sarah Siebert, RN, MSN CRRN, ’10, ‘13


Admiring her grandfather’s work as a physician and the nursing careers of her grandmother and aunt, Sarah Siebert sensed that one day she would carry on her family’s legacy of caring. There was no question that she found joy in helping others, so when as a high school student she was presented with the opportunity to take part, through her local church in a one-week youth mission to Honduras, Sarah signed up without a moment’s hesitation. In Honduras, she witnessed widespread suffering due to poverty-related diseases and malnutrition. She reached out to those around her with kindness and expected nothing in return.

Back from the mission, Sarah dived into a high school anatomy course and excelled.  With her affinity toward the sciences and her passion for bettering the world, she saw nursing as a field that would offer her tremendous personal satisfaction and professional growth.

“While the highly selective admission process at FAU’s College of Nursing was a bit intimidating, I was accepted into the program and began my undergraduate studies in the fall of 2006,” said Sarah “I embraced the College of Nursing’s caring culture – a culture that extended to the way students were treated. I never felt like a number in a classroom.”

While earning a BSN degree in 2010, Sarah was hired as a nurse extern at Delray Medical Center. Continuing to work at Delray Medical Center Sarah enrolled in the inaugural class of FAU’s Master of Science in Nursing Administration and Financial Leadership program at the College of Nursing. With grant support that provided an opportunity to have workshops with renowned “nurse futurist” Dr. Tim Porter-O’Grady, the program was designed to prepare a new generation of nurses for emerging leadership roles at hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and clinics. This graduate program ensures that nurse leaders of tomorrow are well prepared to handle the complexities of healthcare today. 

Earning a master’s degree in 2013, Sarah, took the position of Director of Nursing at Pinecrest Rehabilitation at Delray Medical Center in 2014. She is in charge of staff recruitment, development, training and retention; facility accreditation in stroke and spinal cord injury services; policies and procedures; and budgeting.  

“I am so grateful to have been a part of FAU’s innovative graduate program, “says Sarah. “By learning the managerial skills in advance of starting my leadership job, I had the inner confidence needed to succeed.” 


Damian Eker, DNP, ’02, ’06


Dr. Damian Eker was the first alumnae from the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing to receive the distinction of Outstanding Young Owl (OYO) at the inaugural OYO event sponsored by FAU’s National Alumni Association.

Dr. Eker is a certified geriatric nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist in geriatrics at the Adult and Geriatric Health Center in Fort Lauderdale. He has taught the primary care practicum as an adjunct professor in the College of Nursing since the Fall semester of 2014, and mentors nursing students from FAU and FIU.

Born in Jamaica, Dr. Eker’s family moved to Florida when he was five years old.  His inspiration for a career in nursing came as a result of an accident-prone childhood, as he was often treated for broken bones. “I chose nursing because of experiences I had with nurses. They were great care providers. They were always going above and beyond, and you could tell that they genuinely cared.”

In addition, Dr. Eker’s father encouraged him to become a nurse. He enrolled at FAU for his BSN in 1999, and he knew he had made the right decision when he met his professors. “A college is just a building – what makes a college great is its professors. Good professors are priceless,” he said.

Dr. Eker earned his BSN and dual MSN degrees from FAU, and his DNP degree from the University of Florida. While at FAU, he was honored as the 2002 Florida Board of Nursing student of the year. He was also inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International in 2002 and Golden Key National Honor Society in 2001.

Dr. Eker loves his work as a nurse practitioner, including talking with patients, educating them and impacting outcomes. He is passionate about geriatric nursing and working with the elderly. “The most important thing to me is the patient and how that patient feels.”

Outside of work, he enjoys being a dad to his three children, including nine-year-old twins Alexander and Samantha, and 16-year-old Gabriel. He has also volunteered as a soccer coach for his children, and for another local soccer team for children with Down Syndrome and autism.

Dr. Eker’s wife, Amy, is also a nurse, working at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit.