In May 2017, the first graduating class of the 4 year BSN program at the University of Pennsylvania celebrated their 60th reunion.
They feel themselves fortunate to have arrived at Penn when the venerable Dean Theresa Lynch had finally been able to persuade the University that it was time to initiate an academic four year program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Since there was already an excellent three-year diploma program at the University Hospital, the class of ’57 and their instructors, by necessity, had to find their way back and forth, utilizing other unique and amazing hospitals throughout the city of Philadelphia, then returning to the University for their academic subjects. Their adventures and stories abound.
Of the members of the Class of 1957, three of them continue to work in the health care field, including Carolyn McGrory, Nu’57. For the past 23 years, she has served as a Research Coordinator for the Transplant Pregnancy Registry, recently adding International to its scope. Their mission is to follow the health of solid organ recipients who, after receiving their transplant, have then had a pregnancy. They look at outcomes for the recipients’ health, that of their transplanted organ, and as importantly, the health of their child. The registry was founded 25 years ago when a recipient who had become pregnant was required to have an abortion. She later questioned if that had been necessary. As there was no available literature to answer this question, her new transplant surgeon at Jefferson University founded the registry.
Long before her time at the registry, Carolyn was an achiever. Having lost her father at a young age and being the daughter of a nurse, she was conscious of entering a profession that would provide her with stability. She committed herself to working hard to obtain a Penn scholarship. As a member of the first 4 year BSN class, she graduated from Penn Nursing with the confidence that they had been prepared to handle almost anything.
Shortly after she graduated, Carolyn moved with her pilot husband to Air Force bases in Texas and then in Arkansas. After 5 years, they returned to Pennsylvania where she continued her career seeing patients in the doctor’s office where she had been raised. She later worked as a staff nurse at Chestnut Hill Hospital. When her husband’s job flying with Pan American World Airways took their family behind the Iron Curtain to Berlin, West Germany, she took advantage of an opportunity to obtain a Master’s Degree in Education and Counseling.
After returning to the U.S., Carolyn was asked to join the Board of the local Ambulance Association, where she served as a volunteer emergency crew member for the next 8 years.
With her new Master’s Degree she was encouraged to apply for a Med-Surg teaching position where she happily spent the next several years. When a board member of the Arthritis Foundation asked for her help in writing a job description, she then wrote the description and accepted that role, becoming both Director of Professional Education and of Patient and Community Services. Her responsibilities covered 20 counties in Eastern Pennsylvania.
A few years later, a volunteer for the Foundation asked for her help in writing another job description, this time for a research position at the newly minted Lupus Study Center at Hahnemann University. She was pleased to be offered this position and, a few years later, moved with the staff to Thomas Jefferson University. She received several $100,000 grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but a change was required when the grants were discontinued.
Jefferson encouraged her to join the new transplant pregnancy registry. Knowing little about organ transplants, but having worked with young, immuno-compromised women who had both a life threatening illness and pregnancy issues, and by this time having had lengthy research experience, Carolyn began her work at what was then known as the National Transplantation Pregnancy Registry. Now part-time, she continues to be delighted to hold this position.
Carolyn is also pleased to have been a founding member of the XI chapter of Sigma Theta Tau. Over the course of her career, she has been the coauthor of more than 40 journal articles, several chapters, and has presented at many national professional meetings, both in Rheumatology and Organ Transplantation.
Carolyn has also served on the Board of Trustees for Chestnut Hill Hospital for the past 20 years, most recently as the Board representative to the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Committee.
During all of this time, Carolyn has always been aware that her Penn degree set a positive foundation for her career. “We have the foresight of Dean Lynch and our amazing instructors to thank,” said Carolyn. “Over the years my classmates and I have realized that with our Penn degrees came a great deal of pride. The excellent education we received and the leadership of Dean Lynch has meant a great deal to our professions and in our lives. It has been a joy to attend our five year reunions, and with pleasure and continuing awe, greet each succeeding dean who followed.”
Penn Nursing remains grateful to Carolyn for her impact, her leadership, and her continued commitment to the School. We are pleased to report that she has donated her student uniform, cap and blazer, together with her graduate cap adorned with its red and blue velvet ribbons, to the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing.