One of my earliest memories of my sister Mary is our dad taking us to the library when I was about four and she was about three. She checked out the same book about nurses over and over again. It was subtle, but she was giving us a hint about what she wanted to do with her life.
There was never any doubt that my sister was born to serve others. If anyone has ever had a “call” to a profession, it’s Mary. Her pursuit was single-minded; even in choosing where she would go to nursing school, she only pursued full-time bachelor’s programs, determined to fill her brain and her life only with knowledge that would help the people she felt so drawn to.
It was a visit to eastern Africa and seeing the ravages of HIV and AIDS up close that, I think, truly set Mary on the path of community healthcare, directly serving those who are the most vulnerable, the most in need, and the most cast-aside by society. She came home from that trip with an ever-stronger passion for healthcare, and like she always has, she blazed the trail and made it happen.
Mary has spent her entire career, and indeed adult life, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she now works as a Nurse Navigator for the Allegheny Health Network’s Center for Inclusion Health, which serves vulnerable patients of all stripes, including homeless and housing-insecure people, LGBTQ+ people, drug users, and immigrants. As a Nurse Practitioner and the Street Medicine Team Lead, Mary serves her patients directly through acute and preventive care, but also by guiding her team and their patients through the opaque, complicated, and often hostile American healthcare system. Her passion is for serving homeless people, and she specializes in addiction medicine, wound care, and women’s and LGBTQ+ healthcare. She is often called upon to present at street medicine conferences, guest lectures for nursing students, and give her important perspective on homeless healthcare in the press and in her community.
Mary chose Florence Nightingale as a personal hero early on. Her example of hard work, grit, and passionate, unstoppable compassion for others was an easy one for Mary to emulate, as they are qualities she has always possessed. It was no surprise to anyone when, one day, Mary showed off her new tattoo of a nightingale, permanently honoring that legacy.
My sister is my hero and one of my favorite people in the entire world, and it is my delight that she will now be forever commemorated in the Florence Nightingale Museum Book of Honor. I love you, Mary.
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” – Florence Nightingale