On March 13, 2015, Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, RN, FAAN, took time out from her responsibilities at the University of Pennsylvania to speak with CSON students in a workshop hosted by the Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing program. Dr. Jemmott is the van Ameringen Professor in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing and Associate Director of the Center for Health Equity Research at the University of Pennsylvania. She and her colleagues have been awarded more than $74 million in federal funding to study HIV/AIDS prevention among African American adolescents. She is committed to her work with community-based organizations to design, implement, and evaluate HIV prevention programs in minority populations. A master teacher, Dr. Jemmott has taught courses in the areas of AIDS, human sexuality, and sexual health promotion.
In addition to a passionate discussion about her research, Dr. Jemmott shared personal stories that resonated with students. Her wisdom about making career and life choices and coping with barriers and struggles was encouraging and motivating. Dr. Jemmott kept everyone’s attention with her powerful words and her amazing sense of humor, especially in the question and answer session. The students left the event with new ideas about career paths and the courage to remain flexible and take unexpected opportunities. One of the attendees, Abiola Lawal (CSON ’17), shared her reflections on the event:
By Abiola Lawal
“Never say I don’t know. Think fast and always say something. You never know the power of the person you are talking to” were some of the wise words spoken by Dr. Jemmott. For a woman with many years of professional success, she was vibrant and spoke with the vigor of a 21-year-old! Dr. Jemmott talked about her life and discussed the many obstacles she had to overcome, including the challenge of being the first generation in her family to attend college. She mentioned the doubts she had when her dream of becoming a nurse seemed impossible and how she overcame those doubts. She shared professional advice about excelling in nursing and personal advice such as the importance of finding a good partner. She was captivating from the beginning to end and never lost my interest. She even made the break fun by having us sing and dance to one of the songs she uses in her teen pregnancy prevention programs. Sounds silly right? I know! But, I found myself sad at the end of the talk and was amazed by the fact that two hours had gone by so quickly. Not only did Dr. Jemmott speak on nursing and life partners, but also on how her faith in God was crucial to her success. She told us to “step out on faith because you are not going to fail.” Of the many words of wisdom Dr. Jemmott shared, one that resonated most with me was “Always remember the ‘AHA’ moment that made you pick nursing as a career.” This will be my reminder whenever I begin to doubt my nursing journey or find myself wondering why I even chose nursing. Preparing towards her new administrative position at Drexel University next fall, Dr. Jemmott served as an inspiration and a role model to all who attended. As I move forward in my nursing career, I will always remember to “Reach out, try new things, and be willing to keep going!”