Tommie Burton was given the Lifetime Achievement award by the Massachusetts chapter of the March of Dimes.

Tommie Burton '98 receiving the March of Dimes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alumna Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

More than 40 years as a bedside nurse is an achievement in itself.

There could be any number of reasons the Massachusetts chapter of the March of Dimes granted Tommie Burton ’98 R.N., the Lifetime Achievement Award. It could be her volunteer work with the Western Massachusetts Black Nurses Association where she helped award nursing scholarships and host educational events. It could be her involvement with Baystate Medical Center’s clinical practice community where she collected holiday gifts for children and worked in the food pantry.

Or it could be that she went back to school and earned her BSN at 53 years old.

Tommie was nominated for the award by her co-workers, who said of her: “What Tommie portrays can be described as how you feel when you hear the sound of rain gently falling on a roof, or the warmth of the sunshine upon your face. It is the feeling of gentle reassurance that comes from Tommie who if asked would deny she was in a category all by herself.”

On the night of the awards banquet, Tommie was just as surprised to win as she was to see a familiar name on the evening’s program. Cheryl Sheils, Ed.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing, was nominated for, and won, in the community public health category.

Dr. Sheils passes on to her students the importance of community involvement, something Tommie took to heart.

“Nurses have something that they can pass on to the community. Even the doctors seem to feel that people in the community listen to nurses even more; we have a special connection with people,” Tommie said.

Humbled by the award, Tommie said that her decades of assiduous patient care and community involvement are just a part of “doing my work as a nurse.”

“We don’t expect to be awarded but it’s always nice to know you are appreciated,” she said.

Tommie, who retired in August, is still volunteering with the Western Massachusetts Black Nurses Association and continues to go the extra mile–even when no one is watching.