March 18, 2012
12-68

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

Dr. MMR Receives College of Nursing Profiles in Caring Award

 

VALDOSTA -- Mary Margaret Richardson prefers to be called Dr. MMR, an acronym those who know her best find especially fitting. After all, she has dedicated nearly 40 years to the health care profession.

Valdosta State University’s College of Nursing recently honored Richardson with a Profiles in Caring Award, recognizing “her caring contributions to nursing, nursing education, and health care leadership,” wrote Sandie Delk, assistant professor of nursing, which “have influenced a multitude of students, faculty, and health care providers” throughout the South Georgia area, “promoting lifelong learning, outstanding care, and optimal patient outcomes.”

A professor emerita at VSU, Richardson was born and raised in Hopkinsville, Ky., the sixth largest city in the Bluegrass State. It was not until the end of her third year at a Missouri teachers college that she decided she wanted to be a nurse.

Richardson said that like a lot of young people she was heavily influenced by her parents and older siblings when she was growing up. Naturally, when it came time for her to go to college, she followed in a sister’s footsteps, destined for a career in education. She did not realize her mistake until she was standing in an elementary school classroom, observing her sister at work.

Rather than heed the advice of her family and academic advisors, Richardson chose not to finish her fourth year at the teachers college. She tossed around the idea of maybe studying physical education; she liked sports and played tennis, basketball, kickball, golf, and more. However, one of her sisters convinced the family that pursuing such a major would be dangerous. She then decided that she would enjoy a career in the field of nursing.

Richardson knew it was going to be difficult. Refusing to back down and give up on her new dream, she told her family that she would just get a job and pay for college herself.

“I was determined to do it anyway,” she said.

Believing that since she wanted to work as a nurse she could find work as a nurse immediately, Richardson sought employment with Dr. Phillip C. Brooks at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Hopkinsville, Ky. She started cleaning floors, not performing surgery, and worked her way up through the ranks. In the end, she learned that it takes everyone working together to ensure the best outcome for a patient, from the janitorial staff to the doctor.

“Dr. Brooks made sure I learned it all,” she said. “He made sure I had all the basics.”

Richardson went on to become a licensed practical nurse thanks to a scholarship she received from Western State Hospital, an adult psychiatric facility in Hopkinsville. In exchange for the education, she returned to the hospital to work for a year. Then she decided to pursue a four-year nursing degree, completing all of her core classes and graduating with an associate’s degree from the University of Kentucky Community College in 1970.

Continuing the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Richardson entered Murray State University where she met Dr. Virginia Harmeyer, who become the first dean of nursing at Valdosta State. She learned that she could finish her four-degree faster if she followed Harmeyer and transferred to Valdosta, which operated on the quarter system, as opposed to the semester system.

Richardson graduated from Valdosta State College, as it was known then, in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. A year later, she had earned a Master of Science in Nursing from the Medical College of Georgia, now known as the Georgia Health Sciences University, in Augusta. She remained there through the summer, working as an assistant professor of nursing. She then accepted a job as an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Alabama in Florence. One year later, she was on her way back to Valdosta State, where she remained until she finally retired in 2002.

“I never got away,” she said with a smile.

At Valdosta State, Richardson dedicated the early part of her career to helping high-risk students succeed in the nursing program. In 1981, she was named head of the department of nursing. Five years later, she was named assistant dean. When she graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, located in Hattiesburg, in 1992 with a doctoral degree, she began teaching gerontology courses to Valdosta students, never losing sight of her mission to help students develop as nursing professionals and as human beings.

In 2002, when she officially retired, Richardson was serving VSU as a professor of nursing, assistant dean, and continuing education department head. Through the summer of 2005, she agreed to continue serving the university on a part-time basis, assuming the role of interim dean until Dr. Anita Hufft was named dean and working to ensure a smooth transition in leadership.

When asked what she enjoyed most about teaching, Richardson said, “The students … the progress that they make … how they don’t believe in themselves … and having them believe in themselves. They believe in you first and then they learn to believe in themselves. You have to make them realize that they can do whatever they want to do; they just have to work at it. I love students and want them to be successful.”

Dr. Louis Levy, interim president of VSU, described Richardson as “a friend of the students” and as “bold and fearless when it comes to getting things done.”

Richardson added that she runs into former students all the time and receives cards and photos from others. She still tutors and mentors nursing students. When she is not doing that, she serves the community as a member of the Hospital Authority of Valdosta-Lowndes County, Lowndes County Partnership for Health Board, Lowndes County Board of Health, VSU Foundation, VSU College of Nursing Advisory Board, and others; she travels to such faraway places as Alaska, Spain, and Bermuda; and she prepares to attend the 2012 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Denver, Colo.

Hufft, dean of the College of Nursing, said that Richardson’s fingerprints are on everything in VSU’s nursing building, emotionally and physically.

“You helped teach me how to be a better dean,” she told Richardson during a special ceremony honoring area hospitals, preceptors, and others who play a role in helping the College of Nursing realize its mission. “You are the face of VSU nursing.”