BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Virginia Adams, October 18, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Virginia Adams, October 18, 2006
October 18, 2006
Interview with Virginia Adams, dean of UNCW's School of Nursing (1994-2008), in which she discusses her personal and professional history as well as her role in the establishment of UNCW's MSN program.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Adams, Virginia Interviewer:  Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview:  10/18/2006 Series:  SENC Health Services Length:  59 minutes


Mims: Today is October the 18th, 2006. I'm LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell for UNCW's Special Collections and Archives. We are continuing our interviews with the medical community of Wilmington, specifically the nursing schools. Today we are speaking with Dean Virginia Adams of the UNCW School of Nursing. Good morning.

Adams: Good morning.

Mims: If we could begin by finding out a little bit more about who you are, where you were born and raised, and your family, what that was like?

Adams: Oh that would be my pleasure. I was born-- I'm a North Carolinian. I was born in Durham, a tobacco town as it was, and probably continues to be sometimes. And I was born one of six children, so I'm a middle child. And my parents were poor. They were strong advocates of education and thought that their children should be educated. So I was a first generation college student, and I left Durham and went to Winston-Salem State University for a baccalaureate degree. Had a wonderful experience in Winston-Salem. I was there during an era of segregation, and Winston-Salem State University certainly though was accepting students from all over the place, and I was fortunate. I had mentors in high school and elementary school that told me about Winston-Salem State University, because I didn't know anything about it. And ended up there which was wonderful. My mom said to me "You know, you really ought to be a nurse." And at that time the options available to me were either being in education, being a teacher, or being a nurse. So that was my choice, and her choice, and my dad said "Yeah, we, that's what you need to do." And I did. Found out that I really loved it. Found great mentors there. People who just supported me from the time I entered until the time I left, and didn't know it at the time, but I learned a lot of skills in leadership during that time, and looking back I can see it. I just didn't see it at the time. It was just hard work, but that's when I was there.

Mims: This was a baccalaureate program?

Adams: This was a baccalaureate program and it was the only baccalaureate program in Winston-Salem for nursing students. There was another program in the same community but it was a diploma program, and we had lots of diploma programs during that era. We don't any left-- we have two left in North Carolina today, but we had lots of diploma programs at that time. But the students who were at Kate Bitton and that's what it was called. That's what it was called. They called it Katy B., KB Reynolds, and they came to Winston-Salem, Winston-Salem State to take their science courses. So that was the connection with me with those students at that time. So I stared with the baccalaureate degree. And when I left Winston-Salem State University I went in the military. I was an Air Force nurse and that was kind of fun, so what I didn't know was that I was on a journey of leadership. So all in retrospect I had great skill-building when I was in the military and I was an OB nurse at that time. That was great, and left there, and the military supported my graduate school education. I went to Chapel Hill and got a master's degree in Maternal Child Nursing, and after that lots of things in my career, and ended up with a doctorate from UNC, Greensboro.

Mims: Wow! Where were you stationed when you were in the Air Force?

Adams: My first duty station was in a place called Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Kansas Now who would think. Small place, and left there and went to San Antonio. Everybody goes to Texas for some kind of training, and then my permanent duty station was at Castle Air Force Base in a little place called Merced, California which was great. Learned a lot about the West Coast. That was actually the second time I had ever been to the West Coast which was kind of nice. And then after that my military career, I was in the military in the air force, active duty a couple of years. And then I was reserve army and so my total military time is 15 years, so when I left I was a Lieutenant Colonel.

Mims: When you graduated from Winston-Salem State, were you wanting to do military or did they have incentive that brought you in? Why choose that route?

Adams: I had a couple of choices and I was trying to figure out what I really wanted to do, and one of the things I was absolutely convinced, I probably needed to move away from home a little. I went to Winston-Salem because I didn't want it to be very far from home. And my parents didn't want me to be so far away from home, and I needed a way to get away from home without them being so upset about my being away from home, so if I followed something that would take me away and it wasn't a choice I made, because I didn't want to be with my parents, that kind of thing, it would be okay. So the Peace Corps was one of my options and I thought about that. But the military recruiters came around, and we visited Goldsboro, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and I thought this might work. And at the same time I had a brother who was in the Air Force, so I thought this might be a way to do this. So that's what I did. I just chose the military and chose the Air Force, because it was offered, I knew I could get benefits from it; I knew I could continue my education with it. And it was a viable choice for me. In fact at that time it was probably a very viable choice for black people, and when we looked at the choices available during this whole period of segregation, that was what it was. One of the other things that was interesting that happened to me at Winston-Salem. A lot happened to me there. We were talking about what we could and could not do. Well, I spent my entire junior year off campus, because our students couldn't get the clinical experiences in Winston-Salem that we needed to get. And one of them was OB Nursing and the other was Pediatrics so even though we had facilities, we had hospitals there. They were segregated so we couldn't go. We were not allowed.

Mims: What was your affiliation?

Adams: I went to Nashville, Tennessee to Meharry Medical College. And it was one of the best experiences I've had in my life. We were there for an entire semester. We went to school with the medical students, and that was an experience just all by itself. So we had physicians teaching us, we were in school with the medical students, and we had nursing instructors too, but we-- it was almost a combination: we worked and we went to school, and that was what we did all time. And I found myself one night, which scared me to death, being in charge of the pediatric unit. I am a student, okay? And I thought okay, this is different. But it was almost like throwing you in there. But I also fell in love with pediatrics, and I learned a lot. So when I came back to Winston-Salem the following year, my senior year, I tell you, I was-- talk about focus and confident. I had those things. I had those things. So even though the circumstances took us out of Winston-Salem, it was a very, very positive experience. So when I came back it was the first year that integrated the facilities in Winston-Salem, and that was a challenge. That was truly a challenge, because we met people who really didn't want us there. So we were having this challenge of trying to study my senior year in school, and then to graduate and not really get caught up and distracted. One of the things that saved us I think that was helpful to us, we had a winning basketball season, and I had a classmate by the name of Earl the Pearl Monroe. And if anybody knows anything about Earl the Pearl Monroe, it was just magic. So it was my senior year. They brought a national championship to the institution. It was fun. It was just fun. I owe everything to Winston-Salem. I really do. I really do.

Mims: What year did you graduate?

Adams: Sixty-seven. It was perfect. And we graduated at the same time so Earl was my classmate. It was wonderful. And the guys there were great. We all hung out together. It was a small place, you know, 2,000 students on the campus. We knew everybody. Everybody knew everybody. It was fun. It was fun.

Mims: But you didn't have mixers, or did stuff with the Reynolds diploma nurses?

Adams: We did not simply because we didn't have the time. We knew some of the students because they were on our campus sometimes but not really. We didn't really hang out together.

Mims: In the clinical environment?

Adams: In the clinical environment we had available to us KB Reynolds Hospital, and so that's where they were. So we started our nursing program when we were freshmen, so we had clinical experiences with the students then at KB Reynolds because that was the only hospital which we could practice. So we did that with them, but we also had medical students. That's probably how we got hooked up with Meharry because some of the medical students and the interns were coming to KB Reynolds at that time so we were all practicing together in this one facility.

Mims: Wow.

Adams: Yeah, it was interesting, and you made me remember that because I had forgotten some of those things.

Mims: We always try to find out background of stuff, so it's very interesting. So then your time in the military you starting forming this leadership potential. Why did you choose Chapel Hill to go to graduate school there?

Adams: A matter of convenience. I went back, I was living in Durham, and it was 30 minutes away and I could be there all day and be home at night so that's what I did. I did that too because the world was changing, and as the world was changing Chapel Hill had assumed a leadership position sort of in that change, especially with students. So that era in which some of the first black students were on the campus so it was a graduate program for me. And new for them, but you know, Chapel Hill is a liberal place, so that was a part of the reason too, and I felt as if I could fit into that particular community.

Mims: They were also very big in developing the public health programs that sounded so--

Adams: Very big public health program.

Mims: I didn't know whether that was why you were interested in that, but you said specifically you wanted to do maternal and child.

Adams: Maternal-Child nursing which was a new program for them, so there was a nursing program, and there was a public health program. So the School of Public Health today is literally across the street from the school of nursing, and at that time the School of Nursing was there. In fact there was a new facility and the School of Public Health. It was old. It was established, all of that, and some of the courses that we took were in the School of Public Health. And you talk about leadership; a lot of what we do today came out of that School of Public Health. In fact I could remember one of the faculty there. I wish I could remember his name because his daughter is here in Wilmington, and I met her here and I thought I see your dad, because he taught us. Everybody was getting into this whole community health education at that time, and the clinics and all of those things. And he had started some of those, and this thing called "sex education" in the high schools. He was a leader. And I told her that-- she already knew that about him. And I said "Your dad was such a forward-thinking leader." And he was. And we would be in the community with him, with patients, and doing things that people just didn't do at that time. One of those things was we worked with patients who were having abortions. Oh my word, we were in the South and you were talking about people having abortions, and that's not what you do. And it was a time of legalized abortions, and he was one of those champions that women had the right to choose, and that he was an advocate so he sort of led us into some of those paths. And one of those journeys brought me here to Southeastern North Carolina. I didn't know anything about Wilmington-- that was before 40 ended here in Wilmington, because it took us forever to get here. And we ended up in Robertson County. Some community health initiatives at that time, so you're right, these things that were happening to me that I didn't plan, they just sort of were put in front of me and they just sort of were put in front of me and I was just taking advantage of them so he was one of those people that brought us here in Southeastern North Carolina and we were with the Health Department and clinics and all of those things, setting up God knows what at that time. So I think it taught me a lot, that I could really fly. That I could sort of branch out and I could actually make choices. I actually had choices at that time. Before that, my choices were limited and I knew that. I knew that. And so my frame was limited choices, but Chapel Hill said no, you have lots of choices. And even if there are limitations, you not going to let those things stop you, you know, stop thinking about them and then forge your way. I've done a lot of forging ways. So it's second nature now.

Mims: It seems like you were in the right place.

Adams: Right place, right time, pioneering time. That's really what it was. When I was a freshman student, Kennedy was killed and everybody knows exactly what they were doing and that kind of stuff. That had a big impact on us, on my campus, on the students. I mean everybody is literally stopped. You know, frozen in time because we believed in this President, and we believed that changes were going to occur because of this President. And you know, that was, it was a shock. And it was hurtful. It was painful and so we were all caught up in to some movements too at that time too which was good, because the students were mobilizing at that time so we were a part of the change in the world. Isn't that something to say? "We were a part of the change in the world."

Mims: Because campus activism, we hear a lot of negativity--

Adams: The heart of it.

Mims: About it, but it wasn't. It was positive.

Adams: It was positive. It was positive. It was all positive. I mean people were not trying to hurt people. People were trying to make progress occur in North Carolina and in this world. And that's what it was about. So we had a lot of people who were activists. A lot of marches took place there on the campus, external to the campus. You know, that was the era in which the Kent students were killed. It was that era of change. The '60s truly were good times, and the best music came from--

Mims: Oh yeah. We still listen to that music. So following your time in Chapel Hill, did you do anything in the interim before pursuing your doctorate?

Adams: I did. I did some interesting things. When I was a student at Chapel Hill I also worked at what is now University Hospitals. So I worked on a pediatric unit, worked with some fabulous people. In fact, Howard Lee was there at that time, and his wife was one of the educators with the kids on the unit, so we had a school on the pediatric unit so that was my first time understanding that when kids were chronically ill, they were missing an educational opportunity, and so Orange County and Mrs. Lee at that time brought the school to the pediatric unit which was fabulous. I learned a lot about kids and families at that time which really peaked my interest when I was in graduate school to do some other things that I did. So I worked in pediatrics. I worked in service education while I was there, so that was something different. I also worked for a period of time at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Durham. So to get some of that experience which was great, but those were adults, and even though I liked adult health, I really liked kids and I liked working with women and families, so when I went to school I just spent my time with OB and post-partum and labor and delivery and those kinds of things. And I was trying to carve out a combination of pediatrics and OB and they said you can't really do that. You have to do one or the other. But I ended up actually doing a little of both.

Mims: Like you said maternal and child health.

Adams: Right. So when you work with maternity, you're working with mothers and newborns. When you talk about pediatrics, these kids are at least one month old up through 18 years old. So that was different, and one of my best experiences was working with Leukemic patients, so I learned to work with kids who had chronic illnesses, and that was a great experience. So I did work, and when I finished-- actually, before I finished my master's degree, I moved back to Winston-Salem, because my mentor there said to me "I need you to come back and teach." Now at that time I was not thinking about education as a career. I wanted to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist. I was going to work for these mothers and these babies and that was going to be it. She said "But you know? We need-- we were trying to get nationally accredited, and you're getting your degree in maternal-child, and that's the deficit that we have." And she was my mentor. I was in love with that woman. She was the one who told me what nursing was all about. She was with me from the beginning to the end, and I felt like I owed her. She was then the Dean of-- and I went back. And so I said "I'll do this for a year." Fifteen years later, okay, I actually stayed for 15 years, and it was there that she said "You know, you really have to have your doctorate." So there I was, back in school and I got my doctorate. And she said "If you stay in education you have to have it," so I did it. So that's how I got here.

Mims: What was the program like at Greensboro? Was that a new program?

Adams: That was not a new program.

Mims: PhDs for nursing.

Adams: And the thing about it was there were very few nursing PhDs in the country, so at that time there were probably about six. So the PhD that I received was actually in Family Relations and Child Development. So the Child Development piece was augmenting my pediatric background, so I can tell you I know everything about kids from the time they're born until they're 18 years old. I can walk up to you know and tell you how old your children are. I can look into their mouth and tell you with their teeth how old they are, that kind of thing. I know kids. And the Family Relations piece was another dimension that I had picked up actually from Chapel Hill with the clinics and working with the public. I learned a lot about families, so now there's this combination of children are not just kids all by themselves. They're connected to people. Whether that family is a family of one person in addition to that child, or somebody who's not related to them that they consider their family, or large numbers of people and how they do things differently. That was quite an experience so that was how I did that, and so my PhD then was in Child Development and Family Relations.

Mims: Again, the right place at the right time.

Adams: Right place at the right time. Without actually planning it, you know, it was like things were happening for me that that was good. So all of our education then was in North Carolina, and I stayed in Winston-Salem for 15 years, and I was recruited to East Tennessee State University which was kind of nice. It was in the mountains. It was just one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived.

Mims: Where is it located?

Adams: It's in a place called Johnson City, Tennessee, and 81 will take you there: North Carolina up into Virginia, down into Tennessee. We lived in a tri-city area. It was Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City. And East Tennessee State University actually reminds me of UNC Willington. And at that time it had about 12,000 students. And it was a college of nursing, so I went there as a faculty member, and they were getting a new Dean. So before I made my decision to actually accept that position, I wanted to meet that new Dean who was coming from Clemson. And I went to meet her and thought this is a visionary individual. I really want to work with her. So glad I did. Now that was a conscious choice. Very deliberate, very decisive. Worked with her for four years before she left. But she was a leader, and she provided so many opportunities for me, and it was like "Virginia, do you want to do this?" Sure! Do you want to do this? Sure! And we would get together sometimes and talk because she was one of those people who couldn't say no either, I want to do this, I want to do that. And we would say "How are we going to do this?" But we would figure it out. So when I left East Tennessee State University, I had been a Chair of the Department, I was Chair of the Family Community Nursing Department, and I was the Interim Dean when I left. So that was my first Deanship, and I met lots of people there, and when I was coming to Wilmington which was not a part of my plan, there was a friend in Tennessee, who was a Chief at the VA Hospital there, and we had a partnership together, who had since moved to North Carolina called me and said "Virginia, there's a job here with your name written all over it." I said "Uh-huh, yeah, yeah, yeah sure. I'm living in Tennessee. I'm not leaving Tennessee. I kind of like it here." "Well just go on the interview." I said "First you have to apply for the position." So I didn't do it initially. But he called me back and I thought he's a friend. Why not? So I did apply and when I applied it was truly just after the search was closing, but I had been in North Carolina a long time, and I actually knew the Chair of the Search Committee, so I called him and I said-- I don't know if you know Ray Dawson, but Ray Dawson, when I met Ray Dawson I was at Winston-Salem and he was in General Administration in Chapel Hill in Academic Affairs. He was actually a Vice President there. So I knew him from years past. I didn't know he was here, but I called and I said "Ray, you may not remember me, but I'm Virginia Adams and I was at Winston-Salem" and I was at Winston-Salem." He said "Yes, yes, yes." I said "Well, I understand you're Chairing the Search Committee for the Dean at UNC Wilmington. And I know that it's over but I want to apply." He said "Send your application to me." I said "Okay." And I got a response back and he said "We want to bring you in for an interview." I said "Okay." And I'm still thinking I'm just doing this because a friend wants me to do it. I came on the interview and the thing that sort of frightened me I was in the airport and I met my President, because I hadn't told him I was doing any of this. And-- but he didn't ask me any questions because we travel all the time. It's not a big deal, so I thought hmm. But I came on the interview, met some wonderful people, and it was the first time I really felt this was quite serious. Some things happened. It was home. This was North Carolina and it was home, and it was closer to my parents than I had been in a long time. And they were getting older and I thought you know it may be an opportunity. And I started talking with people and talked with the faculty and the search committee and the more I did that, the more it felt like a fit for me, and I really was not expecting that. So when I returned to Tennessee I had to think about it, and the first thing that occurred to me was I think they're going to offer this position to me. And nobody had made any commitments you know the time I was there. It was just a couple of days of meeting everybody and seeing what was going on and trying to see if I'd like the place or if they liked me. And one of the faculty had even asked me at that time "Why would you want to leave Tennessee and come here?" And I said "You know, to be perfectly honest with you, I'm not sure if that's what I want to do." And I said because a person wants to do something and that is my philosophy about it, it doesn't mean that that's something for them to do. It has to be a fit for both of them for the place and for the person. I said "So you know, right now, I'm just not sure about that. And I can promise you, I'm happy at East Tennessee State University, and from all indications, people are happy with me too. So I'm not out looking for a place to be. I have a place." It was relaxing after that, and I did feel as if they were interested when I left, and that was scary. So, and when I say that I really mean scary. It was big. And so I have a girlfriend that lives in Washington, D.C. and I called her and I said "Let me tell you what has happened here. I need your help." And she laughed. And she said "Well, I can't help you with the decision. That's completely up to you, but you have to do what feels right for you too." So as all good Christians do, I went to church, and my family believes that you just lay it on the altar and leave it there. And that's exactly what I did. I took it, and I left it, and I was done with it, and I said whatever is going to happen then is going to happen, and I felt comfortable. I said so if they offer the position and you think it's what needs to happen then just say yes and go. And I did. And it's been wonderful.

Mims: Very lucky for us.

Adams: It's been-- it's great.

Parnell: When did you come to Wilmington?

Adams: I came to Wilmington in 1994, so I've been here 12 years now and the expectation was I would be here for five years as Dean. And it truly was an expectation because I had an agreement. I had a contract with Kay because that's what was happening with the administration at that time. It's a five year contract and it could be renewed for another five years. So I had my first five year contract, and then I had my second five year contract. And I'm still here, and I have this wonderful Chancellor who just dismissed all of that and I guess I'll be here, because I serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor so when she's ready I'll probably be ready before she's ready. I'll give it another few years then I'll be done.

Mims: What was one or two things that you can think of that keeps your interest about Wilmington? You said you're coming back in closer proximity to your parents.

Adams: It was more than that.

Mims: But specifically about the school of nursing, could you see the potential?

Adams: Yes, and let me tell you what that was. I was coming out of-- when I say "wonderful experience at East Tennessee" it was just that. We had a partnership model. It was the first time that I was introduced to that kind of model. Community partnerships, it was called. And I was working with the Kellogg Foundation when I was there. Another opportunity, that's that Dean I was talking about. And one of the things that we carved out was how to educate health professions students together. So I was in the College of Nursing. We had a College of Medicine and a College of Public Health. We had $6,000,000 from the Kellogg Foundation to begin carving out ways to bring these disciplines together, to be educated together, and we didn't call it that then, but it was all for patient safety. What we had discovered is that, and it's sort of an age-old issue that nurses and physicians don't get along, and other health providers don't get along with each other. Well what we knew academically was if that's the case what's going to happen is patients will pay. And somebody figured that thing out quite early, so the expectation was since we have the money as they used to tell us with the Kellogg Foundation it was "Oh, the cereal people." They say no. We make money. And that's what the Kellogg Foundation does, it was money. So they gave us $6,000,000 to carve out a curriculum that would include these three disciplines. We opened up clinics. In fact we had a nurse-managed clinic in Mountain City. Nursing program did that. We opened it up. Our nurse practitioners were running it. The hospital had closed in Johnson County. That was a part of it, and there was no health care. And so we opened up a clinic for primary care, and it was good. The physicians opened one beside us, but what we did that was novel was to take our students, and we put them in that community and they were educated in the community, and their practice took place in that community, and that was a new model. It was community partnerships. We did that with the people in the community. We used the companies that were there. They put resources into it. We chose the students from the communities because in those close-knit communities, the students don't leave home. They were going to stay. So I took that model and brought it to Wilmington. When I met the Chancellor at that time one of the things he said was because I wanted to know from him, what are your expectations? What do you want? Because I also knew that I was going to be working for that leadership, and he said "Well, we have-- nursing doesn't have a good reputation in our community, and I want you to help bridge the gap between the nursing program and the community." I didn't know a lot about what that meant at that time. I found out most of it after I moved here, but and you know how that goes. And the history was pretty deep. And I thought I can do that. That's what I do. And so we start carving it out. So the first thing I did when I got here was to start visiting all of the facilities and the people. And we didn't have the relationship that we really needed with New Hanover Regional Medical Center at that time, and I knew that that was probably going to be the greatest challenge, because our students were practicing there. And they were not getting along. And our faculty were not getting along. And it took us a little time, but now, talk about a partnership? They're our strongest partner. We use their staff for our faculty. We could not admit the students that we have. We didn't have that relationship. When I say to Mary Ellen "You know, I'm admitting these students and I have no clinical space for them. I have no faculty for them. Can you help me?" Yes. This year I have a cohort of staff from New Hanover getting a master's degree in nursing education, fully supported by New Hanover Regional Medical Center for the express purpose of teaching our students so we can continue to grow our programs. I have lots of their staff teaching our students. We are on curriculum committees together. They helped us with some planning for our building. They helped us to buy our first human patient simulator. We have a partnership. It's strong. It's very strong.

Mims: Well that goes back to the original mission of the university or the college was to help the community, to educate the community, to serve the community.

Adams: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I believe in that very strongly.

Mims: Why don't we talk a little bit about the development of the master's education? I mean when you came here, was the master's program up and running very well?

Adams: No, we didn't have a master's program at all. We had a baccalaureate only. So that was the other thing that brought me here. I thought hmm because at East Tennessee we had already gone through all of that, had a graduate program, didn't have one when I got there either, so I'd already been through that so I said "Okay, this is great. We can have a master's program, and yes, we can have a master's program. But we have no resources for a master's program."

Mims: But we have a need.

Adams: But we have a need, and it was so interesting because we had 13 faculty and we had a baccalaureate program only. And the faculty were not necessarily interested in a graduate program at that time, but I knew very clearly if we were going to make any progress at all and to develop any credible reputation in this state, in this nation, we had to have a graduate program. So I said "We have to have a graduate program." And I will not describe the pain it took to produce that baby, but labor pains most certainly accompanied that one, and that's a story all by itself. But the way we ended up with the graduate program was to do what nurses do; we did it ourselves. I recruited some very good people, wrote a grant for $1,000,000 to the federal government. We got funded. And that started our graduate program.

Mims: Wow, and that was specifically for what?

Adams: Nurse practitioners. There was a need for nurse practitioners and especially in rural areas. So after that we made believers out of some people on the campus. Oh yes, we did. So that was when I was really starting then to feel that you know what? Nursing can have some power on this campus, but we had to carve it out. We had to prove that we could raise money. You know all those things that people do. And we did. That we did. But we didn't stop there. We expanded the whole notion of community partnerships. Working again with the federal government without congressmen we got funding to build a nurse-managed wellness center in Columbus County. Now that wasn't our first one. We had federal funds to build one in Navassa. That was our first one, and that was not one of those high class operations. But it was a modular unit that came from the Department of Agriculture. They gave us the money. We had some donors here in Wilmington who furnished some exam rooms for us, so that was our first try. We got grants to fund it and put a nurse practitioner there, working with the community. And you know politics play a part in everything we do and so when the politics started to fly in the small community we let them have that and we connected with Columbus County. In fact, they came to us and said this is what we need. People believe that because we are a nursing program we can just go into a community and provide care, and so we had to educate the community on what we really do. And I said "Actually, we have a program that educates nurses. So we provide nurses for places, but we don't really provide services, but we will help you do that." And that's what we did, again, federal dollars. And that facility is just beautiful. The Bolton Health and Wellness Center is just beautiful. We did that. UNCW School of Nursing did that, and we did that in partnership with the Bolton community. Small place. What we wanted was a mobile unit that we could go into the rural communities. We didn't get the funding for that, but for whatever reason we got funding to build a building. Couldn't have done that though, without UNCW and I do mean the university because we got to a place, and to this day Paul Hosier will be just my best friend in this whole world. We got to a place where we needed a few more dollars just to say yes to some things. And it was almost like you needed some matching funds or we were not going to get these federal dollars to get this building up, and we were in the last leg and we couldn't let that happen. So I went to my provost and I said "I really need your help. And I told him what it was and he looked at me like Virginia, how do we do this because that's not what the university does. You know, the pots of money it's just different money and it gets muddy. And you have to work within legal guidelines so we worked it out, we figured it out and I said "I promise you this. If you loan us this money today, I'll pay you back. I'll pay you back every penny of it." And he really loaned us the money on good faith. And you know, going back to putting things on the altar. "Okay, Lord, I got to pay this money back so help us out." The grants that we had applied for came through. So we could do that. That facility is beautiful. It's beautiful. So when we opened it and Chancellor DePaolo was there, our congressman was there. The whole community showed up and we provide care to this community, and communities surrounding communities. And we had hired a nurse practitioner to run it perfect, perfect model. So we did that: regional engagement, academic community partnerships. That's what the School of Nursing is all about. We epitomize both those concepts.

Mims: Now you have a second master's track.

Adams: The second one is in Nursing Education. And we started that one recently. Guess what? Out of a need to have more educators, you got it. I keep saying "We need faculty, faculty, faculty." So the obvious is if you can't find them nationwide-- and we've done a really good job. My faculty come from all across the country and in fact we are considering now we have an application from a woman now who is in Korea and a good prospect. We're probably going to hire her, and just recently hired Wan [ph?] who was born in Japan who is half Japanese and American which is nice. So my faculty began to look at the faculty we are growing. We are just going to be the best-looking faculty on this campus and beyond. You just wait. And they are exceptional, just exceptional people. So the Nurse Educator Program was born because we need more educators, but that was also out of a need for the state of North Carolina. I served on a task force. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine had a task force in 04, and we started with 50 people. They were people from across the state, all stake holders, everybody with something, some involvement in nursing who understood two things: there was a severe nursing shortage in North Carolina, but guess what? If we don't have faculty it's going to get worse. And the bottom line is we are going to endanger the lives of patients if we don't have these nurses. So we got together and made some decisions and recommendations about what to do. Out of that came recommendations that went to the general assembly, went to hospitals, especially the major ones, and to universities. We have a job to do and we have to get it done. One of those recommendations was we have to produce nurse faculty, not just for the university, but for the community college system in North Carolina. Now if a nurse has a master's degree they can work in any community college. That is not an issue. Now the university campus truly requires the doctorate for the tenure track, but nurses with their master's degree can precept our students in clinical facilities. So that's what we are doing right now. So our nurses, we got Department of Labor money to fully fund students who were going back to school, and the payback was that they had to teach in a community college or in a university. So that's one of the initiatives that came out of that task force and that's what we're doing and our program was born out of that.

Mims: When did that program start?

Adams: We graduated our first students just this year in 06, so we've had that program now for two years.

Mims: When did the other one start?

Adams: The first one, the NP program started in 1998, and we graduated our first students in 2000. So now I have two graduate programs, and we're going to have a third. We're going to have one in Forensic Nursing.

Mims: When will that begin?

Adams: Very good question. We started some preliminary steps and one of those was to form a partnership, you know that's my thing, partnerships. We have a partnership with law enforcement and so one of my very closest and nearest best friends today is our own DA, and so Ben and I sat down and talked about how we wanted to bring health and healthcare as a merger with law enforcement. His problem was we're not able to convict our victims, our criminals because we can't collect the evidence cleanly enough to take them to trial and get convictions on that first time, and one of the reasons we can't do that is because the evidence is destroyed at the scene, in emergency rooms, et cetera. Well, guess who these people are? They're nurses, they're first responders, and you can't wash away evidence so you have to understand what it is. So we've put together a couple of programs. The first one was something we call SANE, these are Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. And this is training that takes place over time. We provide the didactics and we put them in clinical areas, but they work with victims who have been abused, most often sexually abused: children up through the elderly and people are pretty much aghast when they see that the elderly are also abused, but that it's just underreported because you don't talk about it for the most part. So we are training nurses to examine not just the victims, but also perpetrators because when you start collecting evidence it has to be everywhere, and the best place to do that is right there at the scene, or in a clinical setting. So when they're your patient, you can't be judgmental about what's going on, your job is to make sure that you preserve all of the evidence. So that's what forensic nursing is about. In trauma-to-trial and that's something we're doing soon, next week actually, we're bringing in a criminal profiler. The DA is always there. We are bringing in emergency room physician to talk about who these victims are, the kinds of evidence you collect, and how we do it appropriately so that we can take it literally from trauma to trial. So that's what we are doing, so the next step, the logical step is to prepare our students for a graduate degree in Forensic Nursing.

Mims: That's really a foresight into what's expected in the nursing environment.

Adams: And it's good for the Wilmington community. Because what our DA wants is actually a state lab here in Wilmington. So we're also putting together the documentation to say this is what we've done. These are the results, so all of that leads to bringing a state lab here.

Mims: I know that we're looking at all of these plans on the wall of the projected nursing building. Can we talk a little bit about that?

Adams: That is just my pleasure, yes. Yes.

Mims: This has been going on, your request for this building?

Adams: Ten years. Ten years, and in fact my faculty didn't quite believe me. I have really the most amazing faculty but sometimes they think, and they've said that to me. "It's your language. What are you talking about?" And so there are things playing in my head all the time, and so when we were in Hoggard Hall when we were first there, next door to us was the Anatomy and Physiology lab, and as we were growing and had run out of space pretty fast I kept saying "We need some space." You know on this campus, space is just a premium. You mention the space word and people go berserk like everybody needs space! You know, right? I said okay. So as soon as Dobo came online and that was the first building I saw coming online after I arrived, and I was there, and I watched that building. I thought okay. So that's the science building which means this lab moves out of, I'm claiming the building now, my building. I could have this space. Well, it wasn't that easy, but I said "Wait a minute." Straight to the Provost I said "You know, we really need this space, and let me tell you why." Everybody needs space, okay make a case that's different from anybody else's. And of course I started thinking healthcare. Everybody needs healthcare, so you just change your argument to fit whatever it is you're trying to do, and then you make it personal. "Now you know you're going to need nurses," and et cetera. And then I started doing it every day, "On account of this woman." Said "Okay, you can have the room." I said "Okay, that's great! Now I need some money to renovate it." So I had to find out where the money was going to come from. Got that space. That was good. Now I can have these faculty. I still had faculty in other places. But now I have my classrooms. I can put my students here. Then we have the graduate program had to go somewhere else so I kept working. And then it sounded as if god, this is falling on deaf ears. I'm not getting what I need. So I started another strategy. People would come to see what are you doing in nursing? I started touring them in the building. I'm going to, I don't care what the question is, but the answer is I need space. And today everybody teases me about that. When I say it took ten years, I'm talking about literally ten years. And so the legislators would come. I'd take them around the building and I'd say "You know? As you're making your decisions in Raleigh, let me tell you what we are doing." And I'd give them the stats on our students, and they were all positive. "Let me tell you how great they are doing," and I said "But you know what? They're doing it under these conditions." And I don't care who came in. The first thing we did, and everybody knew it, we were going on a tour of the building. One of the legislators said to me a few years ago, now this is over time right and people got sick of talking to me, I know they did, "Run from her!", said to me "How do you do this?" I said "With great attitudes, with quality faculty, with exceptional students. And you know we deserve better than this." And the response was "Yes you do." That was a good step. It was wonderful. I thought okay. I mobilized my students. We got on buses. We went to Raleigh. Oh yeah. We ended up in everybody's office.

Mims: Student activism.

Adams: Oh yeah. I said "I can do this." I was an activist. Remember I came out of the '60s. Okay. I know how to do this. And it was fun. And they got into it, and the students would say "What do we say?" I said "I'll help you with that." We started working on talking points, and I said "You march into your legislator's office, you introduce yourself, you tell them where you're from, and you don't have a lot of time. So in your five minutes you have to tell them who you are, what you're going to do when you graduate, and you need that help right now because they are going to need you." They got it. And so that's what we did. It was fun. That piece of legislation that went across the general assembly said the school of nursing at UNC Wilmington and they were asking for $27,000,000. Because they asked me "How much do you need?" I said "Somewhere around $25,000,000." At that time I didn't have a clue about what we needed. It just sounded pretty good to me. And after that I had to go back and do a brief and the portfolio, but I could do that because I had resources across the country at that time. We had a national reputation at that time, because I wouldn't let it die there. I went on national committees. I promise you, I went everywhere and talked about UNC Wilmington School of Nursing and what we were doing. I took my students to Washington. I took them everywhere. Talk about activism? Yes, oh yes. So I want you to know with that kind of behavior we got legislation passed.

Mims: What was the date on that?

Adams: That was, what year is this? This is '06. That was '04.

Mims: 2004?

Adams: That was 04, and Thomas Wright my best friend to this day, was the one who introduced it. I had the SGA government president at that time, Zach. Zach called a meeting of the students on this campus. We were there that evening. It was really a surprise to me because he said "Dean, you need to be there. I want you to come to my State of the Union message." I said "Fine, Zach," because I supported Zach because I had taken him through the building too. But the first thing he said was "It is appalling for the school of nursing to educate students in that facility." He got the students on the campus saying it. I mean everybody was saying it. I don't care what meeting we were in. Whatever the question was, and my colleagues still tease me. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Got them to the point that I didn't even to say it. Whatever came up "Virginia needs a building," they all kept saying that and they all supported me. They really did. They did. And when Rosemary came, what did I do? I gave her the tour. And she said "Virginia, it just happens all over the place. It's the way we treat nursing." But talk about a champion, in fact when I had the students in Raleigh who did we run into? My Chancellor. Hey. She knew why we were there. She knew exactly why we were there because we always let her know what we were doing. But she was there for the same reason. And when they wanted to cut back on the funding for the building she stood up and said "No, we need full funding." And everybody got onboard. We had a total of 30.1 million dollars. We got $3,000,000 to plan the building, and $27,000,000 to build it.

Mims: And that will be built?

Adams: By spring, 2009. We are going to be moving in.

Mims: (laughs) I think we're at a point where we need to wrap. I want to thank you so much for telling us all of this.

Adams: Oh, it's been my pleasure. It really has.

Mims: We're going to cut.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign