Marymount University trustee John Shooshan and his wife Marcia have committed over $1 million to establish the Dr. Mark Abbruzzese Bridge Scholars Program, a joint effort between Marymount and Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.
The pilot program’s namesake, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with Sibley, has a special connection to Shooshan. About 20 years ago, Shooshan became ill after a routine surgery and was admitted to Sibley with symptoms of septic shock – a life-threatening condition following an infection. Dr. James Barter, a lifetime friend of Shooshan, introduced him to Dr. Abbruzzese, who was called in and treated him over the course of several days.
“From what I could remember, he was in and out of my room for the next 72 hours. The first protocol didn’t work, the second protocol didn’t work. They called my wife, my priest, my friends…and for the third one, they said either this will work or we probably won’t see you again,” Shooshan recalled. “Luckily for me, looking back on it 20 years later, Dr. Abbruzzese was able to help me just as he has helped hundreds and hundreds of patients – especially through his work during this COVID situation.”
“I’m humbled by John and Marcia’s generosity to support such a critical part of our care team – our nurses,” Dr. Abbruzzese added.
In addition to Dr. Abbruzzese’s life-saving efforts and continued friendship since that fateful experience, Shooshan was also inspired to give back after watching the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This includes seeing the intense emotional toll inflicted on ICU nurses – according to a survey by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, 66 percent of surveyed nurses have considered leaving their jobs because of the pandemic.
“The pandemic placed enormous stresses on nurses, and it’s more important than ever that we support them as they transition from the academic setting to the professional clinic setting,” explained Dr. Laura Hendricks Jackson, Sibley’s Chief Nursing Officer. “They are one of our most important resources. Providing wrap-around support for our nurses is not only a way of ensuring that they have a great experience working in our organization, but that they are truly receiving support in the areas that matter the most to them.”
Shooshan also yearned to connect Marymount’s leading undergraduate Nursing program – ranked No. 1 among all Virginia private institutions – to a high-quality hospital that’s an integral part of the region.
“In the early days of COVID, as we were all going through this horrible period, it really gave me a greater appreciation for doctors, nurses and the entire health care industry as they all put their lives on the line to care for others,” Shooshan explained. “And for me personally, Dr. Abbruzzese saved my life and I have this second chance – what did I want to do with it? Unlike some large institutions in the region, Marymount doesn’t have a hospital connected to it – however, Sibley lies just a couple of miles away across the Chain Bridge. This is a great opportunity to create a pipeline between an exemplary Nursing program and an important hospital that’s in dire need of more nurses, and I hope others will be inspired by this model and be encouraged to adopt it at other institutions as well.”
Beginning this upcoming academic year, the Dr. Mark Abbruzzese Bridge Scholars Program will support need-based scholarships for 10 freshmen and five juniors and seniors in Marymount’s Nursing program as they prepare for eventual careers at Sibley Memorial Hospital. In collaboration, the two institutions will seek and screen qualified applications from students who are in their final semester of their pre-licensure program – with a focus on underrepresented populations in the field of nursing – to enter the innovative Bridge Scholars Program. During the final semester clinical course, students will be matched for a 96-hour internship with a preceptor at Sibley – ultimately helping future nurses successfully transition to independent practice through support, coaching and mentorship before gaining formal employment. The partnership is led on the Marymount side by Dr. Maureen Moriarty, Director of the Malek School of Nursing Professions.
“Our Nursing program is renowned and well known for success, and health care agencies continuously come back to us after recruiting our graduates to say how exceedingly prepared they were to make a difference,” said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University. “We’re so excited to expand on this reputation and partner with Sibley to fill this workplace need, and we’re grateful to them for how this agreement will expose our Nursing students to the clinical practice environment and organizational culture they will experience once they complete their degree.”
Once eligible, students in the Bridge Scholars Program will work as a staff RN full time after acquiring their licensure, and will participate in nurse residency at Sibley for the entire first year following their hire.