By Milenko Martinovich
Barbara Resnik’s five-decade-long bond with the UCSF School of Nursing is so strong, she says she has “two families.”
That deep connection motivated Resnik, a professor emerita who founded the School’s program for adult nurse practitioners and the specialty for occupational and environmental health nursing, to establish a new scholarship this year that she hopes will ease some of the financial burden on nursing students.
The Barbara and Anthony Resnik Nursing Scholarship will be awarded annually to nursing students in the Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner or Occupational and Environmental Health specialties who demonstrate financial need.
The scholarship, funded from Resnik’s Individual Retirement Account, bears the name of Resnik and her late husband, who passed away in November 2018 at age 94. The couple were married 55 years.
Resnik, 91, had planned to make a financial gift to the School upon her death. But the more conversations she had with friends and colleagues, she wondered, “Why wait?”
“This way, I can see what happens to those students and support them,” Resnik said.
That includes students like Janelle Charles, who is the first recipient of the new scholarship. Charles, a master’s student in the Occupational and Environmental Health specialty, relies on three jobs and student loans to finance her education.
“Barbara’s gift is not only providing support for me; it’s about paying things forward and being a steward of the work,” Charles said. “Barbara’s gift is not going to stop with me. It will go on with the work I do with patients and supporting equity in education. I’m going to continue to pay it forward to support low-income students.”
Resnik began her long tenure at UCSF when she was recruited to the university in 1969, primarily because of her work with Charles Lewis, past director of Preventive Medicine at the University of Kansas. Lewis earned a grant to teach nurses advanced skills to care for patients with chronic conditions – the advent of the nurse practitioner role. Resnik co-authored two articles with Lewis based on that study that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1967 and 1969, an impressive feat for a young nurse educator.
“That was a ‘wow.’ It still is a ‘wow’ for a nurse to be published in The New England Journal of Medicine,”said Barbara Burgel, PhD, RN, FAAN, a professor emerita at the School of Nursing who worked closely with Resnik. “Those papers demonstrated that nurses can treat patients in an outpatient setting and manage these folks over time.”
Resnik was tasked with developing a nurse practitioner program at UCSF. She secured dual appointments in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing, which she said was important so she could have a voice in both places. She said the administrations of both schools were supportive, and the program was jointly sponsored by both Schools, but she still encountered skepticism from others.
“Some people didn’t like the idea at all, as if it was nurses becoming doctors,” Resnik said.
She first launched a pilot continuing-education, adult nurse practitioner program in 1974, which expanded to the Core Pathway Program – an academic program offering a Master of Science degree in 1978. The Core Pathway Program set the foundation for the development of further specialties, notably the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing specialties, which are still in existence.
“For me, the Core Pathway Program is what she will be remembered for,” said Carole Deitrich, MS, RN, GNP, a professor emerita who directed the School’s then-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner specialty from 1985 to 2008. “Developing that program was a significant step for primary care nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners have come a long way, and we got a big boost by Barbara’s work and collaboration with medicine. She was very forward-thinking.”
“The faculty should get all the credit,” Resnik said. “I started it, but they put in the work.”
Resnik retired in 1988, but maintained close ties with the School. She attended meetings involving the Occupational and Environmental Health specialty, and has been a constant at commencement celebrations.
“I have a good time watching them [students] grow,” Resnik said. “It’s fun for me.”
Resnik had fun in August when she visited with Charles. The feeling was mutual.
“It was extraordinary to sit and talk with a pioneer in nursing at UCSF,” Charles said. “I hope I’m able to achieve half of what Barbara Resnik achieved in her lifetime.”
Said Resnik: “I’m happy with what I did. I hope the students will appreciate it. I know my husband would agree, too.”