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GSN class speaker Joanne Lewis follows mother’s example in helping others

Graduate School of Nursing virtual commencement is Sunday, May 31, at 10 a.m.

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

May 26, 2020

Joanne Lewis, ACNP-BC, PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Nursing Class of 2020, will serve as class speaker at the GSN Commencement, which will be held virtually on Sunday, May 31, at 10 a.m.

“I’m honored; it’s a big deal to be class speaker,” said Lewis. “It’s nice to be thought of and recognized by faculty who I’ve worked closely with over the years.”

Her interest in nursing started at a young age.

“My mother was a NICU nurse,” Lewis said. “I grew up learning about the field, and I realized that I wanted to work closely with patients and help people in my future.”

Lewis graduated from UMass Medical School’s first Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) class in 2007. Since then, she has worked as a nurse practitioner for about 12 years, and is currently working in the general surgery department at UMass Memorial Medical Center. She is also an instructor in nursing at UMMS.

“I want to bring more to the table in research, and to do that, I knew I had to go back to school,” she said. “This is when I decided that I wanted to go for my PhD.”

Thousands of graduating medical and nursing students nationwide are preparing to graduate amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Lewis said she has not been deployed to a coronavirus unit; however, she said the situation has opened her eyes.

“Things are different right now. Nursing professionals are working hard to take care of as many people as possible,” she said. “I think this is going to be a critical part of everyone’s careers going forward.”

She hopes that her classmates take away one important message as they get ready to head into the workforce.

“Be kind and be patient,” Lewis said. “This will pass; in the end you’re going to get to do what you want to do.”

The GSN is awarding 39 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees; five PhD in Nursing degrees; one master’s degree and two post-master’s certificates at its Commencement on Sunday. The virtual celebrations will be streamed live on the medical school’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. The ceremony can also be viewed via Zoom at or 646-876-9923, 312-626-6799 or 301-715-8592. The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Commencement will follow at noon.