If adventure truly does begin where plans end, then our 2022 legends have brought a planner’s foresight to the adventure that has been their careers. Each had nursing as a goal from the time she was a little girl, seeking more education to further her opportunities. And all three have impacted thousands with that decision.
Vice President of Patient Care Services, Riddle Hospital
Liz Menschner’s namesake maternal grandmother was diabetic, and 8-year-old Liz was profoundly impacted by the experience of helping with her insulin. As she got older and learned more about diabetes, she took it upon herself to educate her grandmother on her condition.
Years later, when Menschner was quickly promoted to a nurse manager position at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Medical Center, she hesitated. “It was hard to take the assignment because I didn’t want another unit,” she recalls. “But the best mentor I ever had told me, ‘I took a risk on you, so don’t pass this up.’ I didn’t, and it changed the course of my career.”
Back in Philly, Menschner didn’t hesitate to step into the new director of nursing position at Einstein Medical Center. By 2015, she was the associate nursing officer at Temple University Hospital. She was on the job that year when victims of the Amtrak 188 commuter train crash started arriving. Inspired by the phenomenal teamwork she witnessed on that day, Menschner continues to work harder in her efforts to bring “the joy back” to healthcare for her pandemic-addled staff at Riddle. “It’s such an honor to be named for this award,” she says.
Growing up in the projects in Chester, Gwen Smith thought about becoming a teacher. “But when I worked at ChesPenn Health Services in 10th grade, I saw how they handled the underserved and uninsured,” she says. “I knew I had to be in healthcare—I wanted to help.”
Smith saw the lack of health knowledge in her own family, and she wanted to change that. “I’m a nurse—and nurses are teachers,” says Smith, who attended the University of Delaware’s nursing program. “While I was a diabetic educator, I realized the key is prevention. People needed better education.”
Smith was mentored by Joan Richards, former vice president of patient care at Crozer Keystone Health System. “She saw more in me than I saw in myself,” says Smith.
As Smith moved up the ranks, she started mentoring other nurses as she continued her efforts to educate the community, particularly through local parishes. “People who won’t go to a hospital will go to a church for help,” she says.
Though she retired as Crozer’s VP of Community Health in July of last year, Smith was called back this past September to oversee COVID testing seven days a week. Her nurses also administered some 100,000 flu vaccines throughout the community. Now that she’s down to five days a week, Smith has finally found time for a cruise with her husband of 43 years. “Whatever it takes,” she says.
Vice President for Patient Care Services, Lankenau Medical Center
Fran Cusick has a lot to be proud of these days—in particular, the new ER care wing at Lankenau Hospital, which opened in March 2020. As VP of Patient Care Services, she collaborated with every clinical department to come up with a plan that provided maximum privacy for patients in a more efficient and calming environment. “From the minute we put pen to paper, we were able to provide the best environment for the patient and the staff,” she says.
A South Philadelphia native, Cusick spent 15 years at Methodist Hospital and was briefly a nurse manager at what’s now Jefferson Hospital before she took over as director of nursing at Lankenau Medical Center. In her current role, she oversees all nursing departments. “I’m not providing direct patient care, but I have the opportunity to improve care, improve the culture of the staff units and really drive improvement of clinical care,” says Cusick, who’s finishing her doctoral degree from the University of Alabama. “We put the patient in the center of every decision we make.”