Alison Marshall ’00, M.S.N., RN, FNP-C, came to nursing in a roundabout way. Initially a pre-med student as an undergraduate at Boston College, she switched her major to sociology and took a course in the medicalization of childbirth. That summer, she got an internship at a Veterans Administration hospital in her hometown of Denver, and when she watched the nurse practitioners at work, she was hooked. “I knew that was what I wanted to do,” she says.

Marshall, who holds a master’s degree from Yale University’s School of Nursing, has worked as a family nurse practitioner at the South Boston Community Health Center since 2005. “I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege,” she says. Many of her patients at the clinic presented with sexually transmitted infections, and she took a course with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to learn more about prevention. She went on to become an instructor at the Sylvie Ratelle STD/HIV Prevention Training Center of New England and lectures widely on prevention and contraception.

For the past year and a half, she has been associate professor of practice and director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Simmons College. Teaching, she says, rejuvenates her. As a clinical instructor at Boston College, she wants to instill in her students a love of the profession. “I want my students to understand that we are coming from this gorgeous, long tradition of nursing, and we are going to do this tough thing and do it our way.

“I want them to understand the beauty of the human body and how it works and how it can fail us, but that those failures can be recognized and fixed. I want them to be secure that the best medicine is prevention,” she says. 

—Patti Hartigan, photograph by Lee Pellegrini