Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses continued to make extraordinary sacrifices and contributions daily. Independence Blue Cross (Independence) is proud to recognize outstanding nurses in our region for the fourth year through our Celebrate Caring campaign.
Independence has chosen three winners, two honorees, and seven finalists that truly embody what is means to be a nurse. They exhibit exceptional dedication, time, and love to their patients and their families and spread compassion and hope daily. As we look forward to a brighter future, we are excited to say, “Thank you,” to nurses for everything they do.
This year’s Celebrate Caring campaign includes a special designation to recognize extraordinary work by nurses who have helped fight COVID-19 in the community. The honorees are Markeya Johnson, MSN, and DaVeda Graham, MSN, APRN, CRNP, AG/PCNP, CME, PHN. Here are their stories.
Markeya Johnson, MSN
Markeya’s work as a nurse was inspired by an experience she had as a ninth grader. During a field trip to a neonatal intensive care unit at a regional hospital, Johnson witnessed uncompassionate care for a baby who had passed away from neonatal abstinence syndrome. She was inspired to do better.
Since then, she has earned her master’s degree in nursing from La Salle University, worked 15 years as an oncology nurse, and became an experienced and respected public health nurse.
In Johnson’s “day” job, she works with the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation. In her role as a public health nurse, she oversees health care for people in Philadelphia homeless shelters providing a range of services — from doing general health exams to administering vaccines, offering HIV/AIDS tests, and helping them set up dental appointments or gain access to health insurance.
“The work is fulfilling. It feels great when people I’ve worked with reach out to me later to thank me for all that I did for them,” said Johnson, who also serves as a part-time nursing supervisor at the Springfield Rehabilitation Center and Nursing Home in Delaware County.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Johnson recognized that education and vaccinations were not reaching all communities, particularly vulnerable residents of Delaware County and some areas of Philadelphia. Johnson’s nonprofit, Nurses United Against COVID, has worked to vaccinate hundreds of individuals in a variety of settings — nursing homes, fire stations, community recreation centers, schools, churches, and at events in people’s homes. Johnson looks at data to find out what zip codes need her organization’s services.
“I’m grateful and blessed to be in a position to help those who can’t help themselves. I’m proud that we have made a difference in many communities. And our work goes beyond simply providing vaccinations to addressing people’s hesitancies, giving education, and more,” Johnson said.
Johnson juggles all her efforts while also being a mother to four children.
“I honestly do not know how she does it, but she is a superwoman in my mind. She is an outstanding mother and somehow, some way manages to have family time with her children every single day,” said her Celebrate Caring nominator.
DaVeda Graham, MSN, APRN, CRNP, AG/PCNP, CME, PHN
DaVeda is a master’s-trained nurse practitioner, public health specialist, and educator. Throughout her multi-faceted career, she has advanced her passion for health equity and helped people in her community get the care they deserve.
She has worked throughout the Philadelphia region since becoming a nurse in 2008. In 2012 DaVeda completed her master’s degree in Public Health Nursing from La Salle University. She has worked in a range of settings — from homeless shelters to intensive care units — during her career. Currently, she serves as a nurse practitioner for myDoc Urgent Care and Vitable Health while also teaching nursing students on a part-time basis.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she recognized that not everyone in Delaware County, where she lives, had the same access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Until recently, the county did not have a formal health department. This gap in access to vaccines drove her to take action.
She started an organization called Nurses United for Change and Equity that works to bring health care services to vulnerable areas in Delaware County, while demonstrating the importance of nurse-led programs. The organization organizes evening and weekend vaccination clinics, provides vaccinations at community events, and offers home visits. She also helped lead another organization that has vaccinated hundreds of people in a variety of community settings.
“I’m devoted to building diversity in health care to create equity and better health outcomes for the underserved. We need more minority health care providers. For many people, receiving care from someone who looks like them, and who can explain things in ways that are understandable to them, can lead to better outcomes,” Graham said.
DaVeda’s work ethic and drive were recognized by several Celebrate Caring nominators.
“Whenever I contact DaVeda for assistance, she is always on board. Whether it’s speaking on a panel, administering vaccines at pop up clinics, or visiting the homes of homebound patients to give them the vaccine, she’s there!” said one nominator. “She does all of this while maintaining a full-time job, working part-time, being an amazing wife, caring for her five children, taking courses to specialize in her field, and handling other responsibilities. She is truly remarkable!”
For more information about Independence’s response to COVID-19, visit ibx.com/covid19. For more on Celebrate Caring, visit ibx.com/nurses or follow #CelebrateCaring on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.