By Joel Hall
When Clayton State University College of Health Dean Dr. Lisa Eichelberger, 57, graduated with a doctorate in nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing in the mid 1980s, UAB was one of only seven schools in the country to offer such a program, she said.
"It was unusual," said Eichelberger. "Most nurses didn't have doctorates in the 1980s. The closest other one [nursing school] was in Texas. Every other school was in the northeast or northwest."
As a consequence of UAB's nursing program being one of a kind in the southeast, Eichelberger said, many of the school's alumni went on to become leaders in the world of nursing.
At the age of 35, Eichelberger became the dean of the Mississippi College School of Nursing, making her one of the youngest nursing deans in the country. In 1996, the same year that she joined the Clayton State University College of Health, Eichelberger helped establish the school's undergraduate nursing program.
In 2004, she co-authored a textbook on nursing theory entitled, "Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists: A Creative Beginning," and in 2006, she helped established a nursing master's degree program at Clayton State.
Next month, in honor of the UAB School of Nursing's 60th anniversary, Eichelberger will be one of 60 persons honored during the school's Visionary Leaders Award Breakfast, and Leaders with a Vision Luncheon, both taking place in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, Oct. 22.
According to UAB officials, the awards will recognize visionary UAB nursing graduates for outstanding achievement in the nursing profession.
"Alumni from the UAB School of Nursing have been integral in distinguishing the school in state, national, and international circles and in shaping the nursing profession," said UAB School of Nursing Dean Doreen Harper, in a released press statement. "These awards were established to celebrate the school's renowned graduates and their mark on nursing."
According to Eichelberger, 10,000 people have graduated from the UAB School of Nursing since its founding in 1950.
She said that she was one of 300 graduates nominated for the award. An external review board of nurses from around the country chose the 60 UAB graduates to be recognized during the 60th anniversary celebration, according to Eichelberger.
"They have never done this before," said Eichelberger. "I didn't think I would be honored," she said. "Since UAB is one of the top nursing programs in the country, and it was one of the first doctoral nursing programs in the US...the people who have graduated from this program are really making a difference in the nursing field."
On Tuesday, a UAB spokesperson said that the list of honorees had not yet been made public.
Eichelberger said that several Clayton State University officials will accompany her to Birmingham, next month, to witness her accept the award. She said that all of the honorees will receive an individual plaque, and will have a permanent plaque displayed at the UAB School of Nursing.