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Connell School of Nursing's Donna Cullinan Wins 2011 Boston College Community Service Award

Boston College President William P. Leahy, S.J., and 2011 Community Service Award winner Donna Cullinan of the Connell School of Nursing. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (6-9-2011) -- Connell School of Nursing Clinical Assistant Professor Donna Cullinan has been named winner of the University’s 2011 Community Service Award, given each year to an employee whose actions exemplify the Jesuit spirit of service to others. The award, sponsored by the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, was presented to Cullinan by University President William P. Leahy, S.J., at a special recognition event last week.

Cullinan, a family nurse practitioner who earned a master of science in nursing from BC in 1999, was honored for her longstanding commitment to bringing sustainable health care to Haiti, as well as other volunteer endeavors. Through the organization Circle of Hope, Cullinan has traveled to Haiti annually for the past 10 years where she and other medical professionals provide care for hundreds of children and adults living in rural parts of Haiti who have limited or no access to health care. She uses vacation time and her own funds to finance her travel.

During the years of volunteering in Haiti, Cullinan has grown close to many of the Haitian people. She has served as a mentor/sponsor for a translator who is now attending medical school, a student who graduated top of her class from the local nursing school and a family for whom she delivered their baby.

This school year, she organized a Community Health clinical experience in Haiti for undergraduate and graduate students who spent a week in the island nation providing health care to more than a 1,000 adults and children in make-shift clinics. They also visited two orphanages in Port-au-Prince.

Read more about the CSON trip to Haiti in the Boston College Chronicle.

"Donna Cullinan's commitment to the Haitian people over the past 10 years is truly inspiring, and her love and compassion for her patients is something we, as new nurses, should strive to emulate," said Lauren Szabo, who graduated from BC last month and was one of the participants on the CSON-Haiti trip. "I don't think Donna will ever fully realize how much of an impact she has made on my time at Boston College. My week in mobile clinics in Leogane, Haiti enriched me clinically, culturally, and spiritually. The all-nursing team I worked with, led by Donna, and the Haitians I met throughout our work have forever changed the way I will practice as a nurse and practice my daily life."

Donna Cullinan at one of the orphanages in Haiti earlier this year.

Cullinan insists she gets more than she gives through her volunteer work in Haiti. "I’ve fallen in love with the place. My heart is there."

"Donna is an amazing person. There's nothing you can ask her that she can't do, won't do, or try to do,” said Connell School Assistant Professor Susan Kelly-Weeder, a longtime colleague and friend. “She is all about the care of people and that is the epitome of a nurse. Her students adore her and she makes me want to do better at what I do because of the example she leads.

“She’s also an incredibly thoughtful person and I feel very blessed to know her,” Kelly-Weeder added.

Cullinan says she was raised in a home that encouraged giving back. “My great uncles were Jesuits and my family really took to heart the ideal of being men and women for others.”

Cullinan also is on the board of trustees at Nativity Prep, a Jesuit middle school for boys in Boston. She serves on its education policy committee and started a nursing program there with volunteer nurses that has expanded to include BC grad nursing students. She has replicated this program at Mother Caroline Academy & Education Center in Dorchester.

“I’ve been blessed in my life with wonderful parents and brothers and sisters, a supportive husband and great kids. I really believe in ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’” she added.

One of Cullinan’s favorite quotes is Ghandi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“I try to live by this and instill this in my community health nursing students,” said Cullinan.

--Kathleen Sullivan, Office of News & Public Affairs,