Danielle Howa Pendergrass, nurse practitioner and instructor receives national leadership award

Posted Friday, December 5, 2014 - 12:59am

An innovative healthcare practitioner and Utah State University Eastern nursing instructor was awarded on Tuesday Nov. 18, the “Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing” by the “Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action,” a joint initiative of AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Danielle Howa Pendergrass is one of 10 recipients of the national leadership award recognizing her, in part, for work that led to changes in Utah’s Medicaid reimbursement policy and opened greater access to care for Utah women and girls.

“I could not be more honored,” Pendergrass says. “It’s a really exciting award that comes with a ton of responsibility.”

And great expectations.

“You are the future of nursing,” wrote Susan B. Hassmiller and Susan C. Reinhard in their letter of congratulations to Pendergrass.

Hassmiller is senior adviser for nursing with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and director of Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. Reinhard is senior vice president of AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America.

As a “breakthrough nurse leader,” Pendergrass says she will serve as an ambassador for her profession. In the same way she helped to change a policy that threw open doors once closed to nurse practitioners, she says she will continue her work to expand opportunities for this valuable arm of nursing professionals in Utah some 1,000-plus practitioners and across the nation.

Pendergrass continues to work with the Utah Action Coalition for Health (UACH) in removing practice barriers that prevent nurses from working to the full extent of their education and training. Her current focus with UACH is to involve more of the state’s 10,000 nurses on governing boards, councils, committees and in other positions of influence.

“As the most trusted profession and the largest workforce in America, nurses already possess the skillsets that make them invaluable members on any board,” Pendergrass says. “We are three million strong.”

Pendergrass, whose roots are in Carbon County, opened a women’s health clinic in Price two years ago. Today USU Eastern nursing students work in her clinic as well as nurse practitioner students from the University of Utah. Her clinic serves more than 20,000 women from teens to seniors, both insured and uninsured, in rural Utah.

The change in Medicaid policy that Pendergrass engineered makes it possible for her and other rural-serving nurse practitioners to see patients that would otherwise have to travel great distances for services such as Pap smears and mammograms.

In addition to this award, Pendergrass received the 2013 Utah Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence in Leadership, the same year she received a doctorate in nursing practice from the University of Utah. She is a 1997 graduate of the nursing program at the College of Eastern Utah (now USU Eastern). She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Weber State University and a master’s degree in nursing, women’s health nurse practitioner from the U of U.

The “Campaign for Action” created the 2014 “Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing” award to celebrate nurse leadership and the importance of efforts by nurses to improve health and health care. The award recipients have worked to help victims of sexual assault, medically fragile children, neurologically impaired individuals and low-income women in rural areas, among others.

“[Pendergrass] has worked tirelessly to improve access to care for women and girls,” said Joan Gallegos, project coordinator, HealthInsight and staff director, Utah Action Coalition. “This award recognizes the incredible progress Danielle’s leadership has made in Utah.

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