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Phaedra Thomas, RN, BSN
January 8, Children's honored Phaedra Thomas,
RN, BSN, nurse coordinator in the Center
for Young Women's Health, as the winner of this year's David
S. Weiner Award. With the award, Thomas also receives a $20,000
grant for a Children's program of her choice.
Thomas was recognized for her central role in the development of
the center, from its inception in 1998 to its life today as a unique
health resource for teenage girls. Thomas' dedication to the center
has "contributed greatly to our urban community and to the hospital's
national reputation as the leader in girls' health," wrote nominators
Emans, MD, chief of Adolescent Medicine, and Marc
Laufer, MD, chief of Gynecology.
"I feel strongly that young women can make healthy choices when
they are empowered with information that is easy to understand,"
says Thomas. "My job is exciting because I get to develop creative
ways to educate young women." Examples include computer learning
modules on abnormal pap smears, videos about chronic diseases such
as endometriosis, and Internet chats that offer a unique cyberspace
support network to teens with reproductive problems.
Thomas began working for Children's in 1974 as a co-op student
while attending Northeastern University School of Nursing. When
she graduated, she became a pediatric nurse at a hospital in Dorchester.
"Back then, nurses barely received an orientation to the units.
At 20 years old, I graduated on a Sunday, and Monday I was the evening
charge nurse of a 28 bed pediatric unit. It was baptism by fire."
Since that time she returned to school to earn her Bachelor of Science
in Nursing (BSN) degree, worked as a visiting nurse teaching teen
moms how to care for their children, and served as clinical research
coordinator in fertility and reproductive endocrinology at Brigham
and Women's Hospital.
Thomas will use the grant to fund the Center's Youth Advisory Program,
high school-age girls as peer leaders who help inform and educate
other teens about health topics. She plans to continue the program
through this new grant, reaching out to even younger girls, ages
13 to 16.
The program seeks to develop the peer leaders' self-esteem, resilience
and leadership skills, expose them to health careers, and empower
them to make a difference in the community. Peer leaders also hold
monthly discussion groups open to the community, write a health
newsletter for teens and pilot test educational materials for groups
that work with young girls. Most crucially, they reach out to their
peers to talk about issues from nutrition to sexuality; Thomas says
she's always amazed by how well the girls connect with their audiences.
"Sometimes the kids are so engaged you could hear a pin drop. The
peer leaders present important information in a way that is non-threatening.
When they talk to other kids, it's not a lecture, it's fun. "Working
as the coordinator and educator at the Center is the best job I
could have, because I can be both an educator and a nurse," Thomas
says. "It's a nice balance, because I see teens who come for clinical
appointments as well as teens in the community."—RP
Who received last
year's David S. Weiner Award?
show they can 'Be the Difference'