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Student Earns Honorable Mention in Prestigious Essay Contest

Military sweraing in ceremony
By Sarah Marshall

“It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.” 

Inspired by this philosophical quote, and her own personal experience with a loved one battling cancer, an Army nurse at the Uniformed Services University (USU) penned an essay that recently earned her an Honorable Mention in an international essay contest.

Professional headshot of ThorpEarlier this year, Maj. Regina Thorp, a Doctor of Nursing Practice student in USU’s Graduate School of Nursing (GSN), submitted an essay to the Gold Foundation’s 2018 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare essay contest – an annual competition that calls for essays from nursing and medical students across the U.S. and Canada. Students are asked to engage in a reflective writing exercise, illustrating an experience where they ensured humanism – compassion and respect – was at the core of the care they were providing. The contest is named after an assistant professor of pediatrics, Hope Babette Tang-Goodwin, who cared for children and infants in New York City with HIV, and exemplified humanism in healthcare, according to the Gold Foundation’s website.

This year’s essay contest was based on a quote by poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.” In less than 1,000 words, students were encouraged to reflect on this quote and explain an experience that led them to develop a new, unexpected understanding or perspective.

For Thorp, the opportunity to write an essay for this contest held a deeper meaning. It gave her a chance to reflect, and to process, a recent personal experience that has impacted how she cares for her patients. About a year and a half ago, her father was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. He sadly lost his battle in October. Through this writing exercise, she said, she reflected on his treatment and his death. As she explained in her essay, through the experience with her father’s battle with cancer, her mindset began to shift, and she came to realize, on a new level, the importance of looking beyond the diagnosis.

Thorp with a man in the hospital
Army Maj. Regina Thorp recently received Honorable Mention in an international essay contest. (Image credit: courtesy of Army Maj. Regina Thorp)

“To best take care of my patients, both as a nurse and as a future nurse practitioner, I need to make the time and get to know my patients, and their families better,” said Thorp, who has been a nurse in the Military Health System for more than 10 years. “Given the intensely personal nature of this essay, it means a lot to me that I received an Honorable Mention.”

Essay submissions were reviewed by a panel of healthcare professionals, educators, writers and journalists, and more than 200 essays were submitted. Contest organizers said this large number of “outstanding” entries made for a challenging review process. On June 28, Thorp learned reviewers had chosen her essay for Honorable Mention. Her writing, along with the top three winners, will soon be highlighted on the organization’s website.