“Part of the richness of my experience with CEW+ Scholars was encountering professional women who were really very inspirational. The money was so appreciated, but the program’s life value is also certainly the connections I made and exposure to ways of thinking differently.”
CEW+ Scholar Dr. Joanne Disch’s rich and impactful career in nursing has spanned over 50 years. Named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing in 2018, Dr. Disch has held the roles of professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, chief nurse executive at two medical centers, Director of a Leadership Center for a School of Nursing, interim dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, a board member and chair of AARP and has testified to the U.S. Senate advocating for the Prescription Drug Act and on how to improve the safety of the healthcare system. Since earning her PhD from the University of Michigan School of Nursing in 1985, Dr. Disch has continued to make her mark on nursing, leadership, and healthcare.
While earning her doctorate at U-M School of Nursing, Dr. Disch pursued three ways to fund her PhD—she was a sorority house mother, received federal funding, and applied for and received a CEW+ Scholarship. While Dr. Disch acknowledges how financially impactful her CEW+ Scholarship was, her scholarship did more than alleviate her financial burdens. “CEW+ Scholars introduced me to a lot of impressive, inspirational women. I met a number of very interesting women through my cohort. I really appreciated that when I studied at the Center or when I talked to some of the faculty and people associated with it, I was introduced to professional women in fields other than nursing,” Dr. Disch said. “That helped me be more eclectic in my thinking and problem-solving.”
For future CEW+ Scholars embarking on their career paths, Dr. Disch has three key pieces of advice: find a mentor to learn from, become a part of a community where you can find opportunities to challenge yourself and grow, and learn from different ways of thinking. Dr. Disch reflected on her career in nursing and in leadership roles, remembering moments when people had adamantly told her something cannot be done. “Through going out of my way to challenge myself and grow from different ways of thinking, I learned so much—I learned how to do things five different ways,” Dr. Disch explained. “When someone told me something couldn’t be done, I’d say, ‘I can appreciate that you don’t know how to do it, but I can assure you it can be done because I’ve seen it work three other places.’ So it really gave me confidence that I do have ideas that can be helpful.”
Dr. Disch sees CEW+ and the CEW+ Scholar community as a place to challenge and promote innovation in different ways of thinking. “At the University of Michigan, we learn from people all across campus and I think CEW+ is a microcosm of that at the University. There are people with different backgrounds and different experiences,” Dr. Disch elaborated. “Part of the richness of my experience with CEW+ Scholars was encountering professional women who were really very inspirational. The money was so appreciated, but the program’s life value is also certainly the connections I made and exposure to ways of thinking differently.”
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