If the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali was right, and service to others is the rent we pay for our rooms here on Earth, then Holly Gadd has paid up for the long haul.
Gadd is dean of, and a professor in, the nursing school at Southern Adventist University, where she joined the faculty in 2000. That's by far the longest stop in an academic and nursing career that's taken her to six states and the District of Columbia.
And since 2007, Gadd has been the lead volunteer nurse practitioner at Volunteers in Medicine Chattanooga, where, as the name implies, she's not paid for her service.
Gadd says she tries to give the organization five hours in a typical week – no small feat for one who holds down a full-time job at Southern Adventist and pulls the occasional emergency room shift just to keep her hand in clinical work.
She carves out that time for Volunteers in Medicine Chattanooga, she says, because "I love what I do, and I love the patients."
"I know enough about the real world, the productivity required," Gadd says. "You have to see 'X' patients per hour, and that's kind of how it is no matter where you are.
"But it's not about productivity [at Volunteers in Medicine Chattanooga], which was the brainchild of a number of church organizations. I like the ministry aspect. It's a beautiful thing to reach out to people who have needs. If you need to spend an hour with a patient, if you need to sit, pray and cry with someone, you can do that," she says.
Though Gadd is well-traveled, she says she's always sought to be consistent on a very specific point, no matter where she is.
"I'm a teacher at my core, but one thing that's always been important to me is to work clinically where I'm teaching," she says. "There's nothing like the real world to keep you grounded – to know what it's like out there and be able to talk to your students about what they'll confront when they get out there.
"Here, I have the best of every world," Gadd says. "Teaching and doing my thing in the ER, but I also have [Volunteers in Medicine Chattanooga], which is a whole different ballgame clinically."
* Role: Dean and Professor of Nursing, Southern Adventist University
* Career: Began in 1977, includes nursing/teaching stops in Michigan, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Maine and Texas. Gadd joined Southern Adventist University faculty in 2000. Professional affiliations include American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Chattanooga Area Nurses in Advanced Practice, National League for Nursing, Tennessee League for Nursing and Tennessee Nurses Association.
* Personal: Gadd enjoys hiking and gardening, plays piano, flute and violin/viola. She and her husband, Robert, have two sons and two grandchildren.
In nominating Gadd for a Champions of Health Care award, Volunteers in Medicine Chattanooga Executive Director Joel Henderson writes that she "has been instrumental in the development and organization of many medical protocols and practices, as well as successful chronic disease management programs, for the clinic."
"She's also our primary volunteer recruiter for her nurse practitioner peers and other medical professionals," he adds. "Through her efforts, and those of her colleagues, more than 70,000 patients have benefited from access to primary care without the strain of significant debt created with private treatment."
CHAMPIONS OF HEALTH CARE 2021