Investing In A Legacy Of Nutrition

An award to honor a revolutionary nurse and her legacy in health care has inspired award recipients— and her family.

left to right Charlene Compher, PhD, RD, LDN, FASPEN; JoAnn Nallinger Grant, RN; and Charis Louis, BSN, RN, CPN, BMT... left to right Charlene Compher, PhD, RD, LDN, FASPEN; JoAnn Nallinger Grant, RN; and Charis Louis, BSN, RN, CPN, BMTCN, in 2018

Establishing the JoAnn Nallinger Grant Award was an act of love and an act of hope for Igor Grant, MD, as much as it was an act of generosity.

The award—which goes to a graduating Penn Nursing undergraduate student who is also a Nutrition minor or second major—honors the late JoAnn Nallinger Grant, RN, HUP’62, Nu’72, who became the first nurse in the field of parenteral nutrition (PN) and wrote a definitive guide on the subject used by nurses for decades. JoAnn and Igor, a professor of psychiatry, had been married for 52 years when she passed away in 2019— and Igor saw the award as an opportunity to provide something of value to Penn while honoring JoAnn during her lifetime. He says, “JoAnn deserved recognition for the groundbreaking work she did as a nurse, and I wanted to do it in a way she could enjoy.”

Sidebar: The Gift of Education

This special fellowship provides financial support to students in Penn Nursing’s accelerated BSN and MSN programs who have an interest in the nutrition field, as well as the School’s new Masters of Science in Nutrition Science program.

Read more

JoAnn and Igor—along with their two daughters, Jenna and Leslie, both educators—flew to Penn campus in Philadelphia for the 2018 award ceremony to meet the award recipient, Charis (Anderson) Louis, BSN, RN, CPN, BMTCN, Nu’18. JoAnn passed six months later, but Igor continues to meet each award recipient—virtually or in-person. Charis, now a Clinical Nurse IV in Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplant at Stanford Children’s Health, says receiving the award continues to have an impact:

“Nutritional management plays a huge part in the day-to-day of my job—I work hard with our Child Life department and our sedation team to maximize coping and minimize trauma associated with placing feeding tubes when needed, and I advocate for early intervention when we see kids beginning to struggle with intake in order to avoid weight loss and so they can maintain and sustain their growth and development. I am inspired by JoAnn Nallinger Grant and her legacy as I show up every day and put on the critical thinking cap I developed at Penn.”

This year Igor had the opportunity to meet Hayley J. Siegle, BSN, RN, Nu’23, and her proud family. Like Charis, Hayley is energized by receiving an award named for such a pioneering nurse. She says, “It’s a reminder of the power we have as health care workers to continue to learn and innovate in order to improve the quality of life and well-being of our patients.”

“I am inspired by JoAnn Nallinger Grant and her legacy as I show up every day and put on the critical thinking cap I developed at Penn.”

Charis Louis, BSN, RN, CPN, BMTCN

To date, six exceptional Penn Nursing students have received the JoAnn Nallinger Grant Award. Igor shares the report he receives about each new awardee with his daughters. “The award has very much become a family celebration,” he says. “I’m one of those people who values documenting history, and it is meaningful to me and to my daughters—JoAnn did work that changed health care, and the awardees will be carrying on that tradition.”

Both JoAnn and Igor have ties to the University of Pennsylvania—JoAnn as a graduate of the Hospital of Pennsylvania (HUP) Training School for Nurses and Penn Nursing, and Igor as a HUP resident. They met in the emergency room, when Igor, a young intern, made a complaint to the nurse in charge of the ER that evening—JoAnn. “She was fairly quick to put me in my place,” Igor says. “I built up the strength to ask her out eventually, and she agreed, but it was her strength that hooked me. She had a reputation as a feisty child, and as an adult was known for speaking her mind, professionally and personally.

Because of her honesty, Igor has always thought of JoAnn as a stabilizing force—especially as a nurse. Beyond the more technical aspects of implementing and perfecting treatments during her work as part of the multi-disciplinary team that developed PN, she was the person that visited patients receiving treatment to monitor progress—and in doing so, provide moral and emotional support. It is JoAnn’s competence, dedication, seriousness, and honesty that earned her respect—and helped evolve a medical procedure that has become a routine yet critical part of health care today. That is the legacy Igor sees in the JoAnn Nallinger Grant Award.

“Nurses are on the front lines of health care,” he says, “Moral and emotional support are critical. We know depressed and despairing patients don’t do as well—so having a competent, supportive, and honest person in your care makes all the difference. It goes beyond that, though. It is imperative to have nurses on care teams—they have unique abilities to develop techniques that move the field of nutrition forward, just as JoAnn did. And I hope the JoAnn Nallinger Grant Award influences new graduates to innovate and succeed in the same way.”

Charlene Compher, PhD, RD, LDN, FASPEN, Professor of Nutrition Science and Director of Nutrition Programs at Penn Nursing, says, “As a dietitian who has worked for many years side-by-side with nurses and physicians to manage nutritional aspects of PN care for patients with severe gastrointestinal disease, I echo Igor’s value for the importance of highly skilled nurses on care teams. We can anticipate stellar future progress in nursing and nutrition care from the awardees.”

Back to Fall 2023 Issue

More From This Issue