Nurse, Student, Role Model

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gwyn Parris-Atwell knows all too well the cost of freedom.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gwyn Parris-Atwell in Iraq.

The military nurse deployed to Iraq on New Year’s Day in 2010 and also in 2013, on Mother’s Day. Now, as a student in WilmU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, she is applying the same tenacity and commitment.

Parris-Atwell is responsible for overseeing 50 nursing service personnel at the McGuire Air Force Base squadron as well as 2,400 airmen. She also works as a full-time nurse practitioner, managing the Occupational Medicine/Urgent Care and Combatant Sports department at Kennedy Health in New Jersey.

It’s not that Parris-Atwell needs more accolades to add to her list of civilian and military titles and awards, which include induction into the Emergency Nurses Association Academy as a fellow, four Meritorious Service Awards, and a recent induction to the Cumberland Community College Distinguished Alumni Gallery. Rather, she wants to ensure the delivery of effective and quality nursing care and to teach the next generation of nurses.

While in Iraq, Parris-Atwell recognized the need for trauma education and then implemented a joint services college program on her base to assist combat-ready nurses and medics before their deployments.

“She is an exceptional student and lifelong learner, always seeking new knowledge that she can apply to her practice,” says DNP Program Chair Dr. Aaron Sebach. “She is a WilmU ambassador, referring colleagues to pursue graduate education.”

Stories of Parris-Atwell’s WilmU pride go back decades. Former University Provost Dr. Betty Caffo, who was also a dean of the Nursing program, surprised Parris-Atwell with a gold watch for recommending many students to WilmU while earning earned her BSN and MSN.

“WilmU has always been geared to professionals working full-time,” says Parris-Atwell. “And it’s palpable that the faculty and administration cared about the students. We are not just a number.” WU