November 19, 2010

Hereford Society to help ease debt burden of nursing students

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Robert McNeilly Jr., left, Mike Briley, D.N.P., M.S.N., and Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., C.N.M., gather at the recent annual meeting of the Julia Hereford Society. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Hereford Society to help ease debt burden of nursing students

Helping nursing students reduce their debt load was the top priority at the Julia Hereford Society committee meeting last week.

With the average debt of a nursing student exceeding $80,000, the group wants to provide scholarships to reduce the burden of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing students.

The society is named for Julia Hereford, a 1936 graduate and dean of VUSN from 1949-1965 who was a beloved figure and was responsible for expanding the curriculum, increasing enrollment and making VUSN a national leader.

Julia Hereford Society members include donors who give $1,000 or more annually to the School of Nursing.

“We have to do something about the debt load of nurses,” said VUSN dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D, C.N.M. “Ninety-five percent of our students receive financial assistance of some sort, so the funding we receive from the Julia Hereford Society is absolutely crucial.”

At the Nov. 3 Julia Hereford Society committee meeting, president John Michael Briley, D.N.P., M.S.N., announced that the group is gaining momentum and saw a 15 percent increase in membership over the past year.

Much of that growth is due to a match program, where Briley personally gave an additional $1,000 for each of the first 25 new donors.

“I have an allegiance to the black and gold and want to make sure that incoming students have the same or greater opportunity to pursue their nursing education here,” said Briley.

“We have an enthusiastic group of members who are committed to making 2011 the most successful year ever.”

Briley is a 1994 master's graduate and founder and president of Primary Care Specialists-South in Jackson, Tenn.

“Vanderbilt must play a decisive role in training the next generation of nursing leaders,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“We want our graduates to pursue their full potential without having to curtail their dreams because of tuition debt.”

Both Balser and Conway-Welch had academic scholarships and said they would not be in their positions today without that financial assistance.

Many of the society members, made up of community members, professors and former VUSN students, also emphasized the importance of scholarships for nursing students.

Amy Wimmer Cox, who was awarded a full scholarship by the Julia Hereford Society and graduated with her M.S.N. in 1994, said, “Having financial support freed me to do more and to focus on studying and learning. It was a vote of confidence and made me feel like I had a family of people who wanted me to succeed.”

For more information about joining the Julia Hereford Society, contact Sydney Haffkine at 322-8851 or