Clinical Assistant Professor Michelle Palmer and Professor Mary Sullivan of the University of Rhode Island have received Excellence in Nursing awards.

According to the article from URI Today, Palmer has specifically been recognized as Certified Nurse Midwife of the Year while Sullivan has been named Nurse Scientist of the Year. Both received their respective awards on Sept. 27 at the Harbor Lights club in Warwick.

Palmer explained that Excellence in Nursing awards are given to nurses every year throughout Rhode Island. There are many more categories in the award as well, including Nurse Educator of the Year, Nurse Leader and Nurse in a Non-Traditional Setting.

The URI Today report also briefly mentioned how recipients are determined, “Excellence in Nursing honorees are nominated by peers and judged by an independent panel of nursing leaders from around the region.”

Sullivan first came to URI in 1998, 20 years ago. She had previously received her master’s degree at the University of Nebraska, but at URI, she became involved in an interdisciplinary research study group at a Women and Infants Hospital studying the growth of infants born prematurely. “It opened up a whole new world of research for me,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, this research study began in the late 1980s, making it the longest ongoing study about this topic. The primary goal is to get the full picture of how or if being born prematurely can affect a person’s life later on. Sullivan and other researchers are still examining the same people who are now 23-year-old adults.

Meanwhile, Palmer earned her first degree from URI in 1989 in art history, but later on, witnessed a friend give birth at home. It changed her life, and she realized that midwifery was what she wanted to practice. The URI Today report says she then went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing while also receiving a certificate of midwifery from Frontier Nursing University. She has been a midwife for the past 20 years.

Palmer has also attended conferences and generally been involved with advocating for women’s rights to give birth at home ever since she witnessed it herself. “It wasn’t an option back then,” Palmer said. This has helped home birth become a legal option since 2007.

Both professors seemed very grateful to be given the Excellence in Nursing award. “It was really sweet to be recognized by other nurses and colleagues in the community,” Palmer said. Sullivan responded similarly, explaining that while she has been recognized nationally for her work, she was “flattered” that her own community appreciates her, as well. “We’re a silent workforce,” Sullivan said.