There were two constants during Larry Nussdorf’s extensive inpatient stays in the Sheikh Zayed Tower last summer and fall — his unflagging spirit and the exceptional quality of care by The Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) nurses and technicians.
When Larry and Melanie, his wife of 48 years, arrived for stay number two following earlier surgery, they were greeted by technician Tikeya Pinkett. “I can’t begin to describe how chipper she was,” Melanie recalls. “We assumed she was a nurse, but she said, ‘Today I am in green, but, one day, I will be in blue.’ Larry was blown away by what she said.”
He asked Tikeya questions about how many clinical technicians become nurses (who wear blue scrubs). She described the JHH Ladders in Nursing Careers (LINC) program for current employees who wish to pursue a professional nursing career but cannot because of financial and/or educational constraints. Through LINC, participants attend school full-time and work part-time while maintaining full salary benefits.
“That was right up his alley,” Melanie says of her conversations with Larry, who passed on November 13, 2020, about making a gift to the JHH nursing program. “The nursing team was the difference between being able to cope and falling apart,” she adds. “With COVID-19, it is an extraordinarily stressful time, but everyone had a smile on their face and was patient and encouraging. We could see that it wasn’t just a job for them.”
Inspired by the nursing team on Zayed 12W, Melanie made a philanthropic gift in honor of them to support training, continuing education, and meals. After learning more about the overall JHH nursing program, she made an additional commitment to support the nursing department broadly.
These gifts will provide invaluable support for the LINC program and nursing expertise by funding nurses’ professional development. With increased opportunities to participate in conferences, continuing education, and professional associations, nurses can learn and share best evidenced-based practices.
“Larry always said that he was the luckiest man in the world, even when he got sick, because he had the chance to give back,” Melanie explains of their support of other nonprofits, including Jewish charities and the University of Pennsylvania where he served as a trustee and where Melanie, an attorney, serves on the board of Penn’s Urban Research Institute and on the Board of Penn’s School of Nursing. For nearly five decades, Larry helped to lead Clark Enterprises, the Washington, D.C.-based commercial real estate giant, first as CFO and COO before becoming CEO and chairman.
Their gift to the JHH nursing team, Melanie says, is just as Larry would’ve wanted it: simple and transformative. “He looked at education very broadly,” she explains. “He was interested in how you change a person’s life, how, as Jim Clark [Clark Enterprises founder] always said, you give people a hand up, not a handout. Larry always was imagining how to make something better, whether he was building a building or funding opportunities to change your career.”
“The Nussdorfs’ very generous gift allows us to expand on our mission of developing patient-centered clinicians within a magnet hospital and communicate how highly we value nursing contributions,” explains Deborah J. Baker, DNP, CRNP, senior vice president for nursing for JHH and vice president of nursing and patient care services. “The Nussdorfs’ gift augments our existing programs supporting unlicensed assistive personnel to start the career path in nursing. Additionally, current RNs can apply for professional development funds.”
Recently, the World Health Organization extended the Year of the Nurse from 2020 to 2021. “The pandemic highlights the importance of critical thinking, leadership, and novel care model development by nursing staff to expand access to safe and high quality care,” Dr. Baker emphasizes.
Melanie is sure that Larry’s ever-present smile would’ve grown to see the global recognition nurses are receiving, while witnessing the impact of their gift today and tomorrow on 12W and for nursing staff across JHH. “This is certainly not my last gift to Hopkins,” Melanie reflects. “The Hopkins nursing team gave us comfort, confidence, and took away a lot of fear. We wanted to do something to change their lives and help them advance their career.”
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