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French to Receive Distinguished Alumna Award from UW School of Nursing

September 18, 2017
head portrait of a woman
Johnna French

Johnna T. French has been named the 2017 Distinguished Alumna for the University of Wyoming’s Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. She will receive her award Friday, Oct. 27, at the College of Health Sciences’ Distinguished Alumni Reception.

French graduated from UW’s online RN-BSN Completion Program in 2011. She is currently a maternal child home visiting nurse with Albany County Public Health in Laramie.

Her nominators recommended her for the award based on her work in and passion for public health nursing, and her outstanding involvement and contributions to the community.

After earning her associate degree in nursing from the University of South Dakota in 1993, French worked as an office nurse at Laramie’s Spring Creek Family Medicine. Ann Marie Hart, a UW nursing faculty member, was a family nurse practitioner student during that time when she first met French.

“I was extremely impressed with Johnna as a primary care nurse,” Hart says. “She functioned very autonomously and was respected by patients and physicians as an innovative nurse in a primary care practice -- ahead of her time, as the profession now promotes an expanded role for the registered nurse (RN) in primary care.”

French then took on a variety of nurse positions, from head office nurse to a fertility center in vitro fertilization coordinator, across three states -- Idaho, Tennessee and Wyoming -- while enrolled in UW’s online RN-BSN Completion Program. She graduated in 2011 with her bachelor’s degree in nursing while working for Family Physicians of Laramie.

After completing her degree, French found her nursing niche as a maternal child home visiting nurse with Albany County Public Health. Her exuberance and love for public health nursing help recruit young nurses into the field.

“French’s passion for public health nursing permeates those around her,” says School of Nursing Associate Dean Susan Steiner. “She shares that passion with UW nursing students, both as preceptor and in mentoring sessions.”

In 2012, the School of Nursing began “speed mentoring” sessions, in which alumni shared information about careers with students in rotational, timed formats. French, who is one of the first alumni volunteers, helped populate every mentoring panel, recruiting many students into the public health profession.

“French’s passion for community is evident in both practice and personal life,” Steiner says. “As a member of Zonta (a global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy), she continually works to better the community.”

French also served as the Laramie Breastfeeding Coalition director, Head Start Advisory Board member and lactation counselor.

French serves as a UW School of Nursing capstone preceptor. She also took on the vice presidency for the inaugural board of the UW Alumni Association Nursing Chapter (UWAANC); staffed nursing alumni tables at the Homecoming open house and UW Nursing Career Fair events; and spoke to graduating students to encourage membership in UWAANC.

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