Spotlighting the Career of Susan Laird, MSN, RN
Biography Contributed by: CDR Nichole Vetter
This Nursing Spotlight is brought to you by CDR Amy Valderrama, LCDR Allison Gallen, and LT Alyssa Givens
Susan Laird’s love and passion for nursing developed when she decided to volunteer at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, GA during the summer of 1991. During this time, she took training to become a rape crisis counselor. She recalls, "This work took place within the Emergency Department and I was able to see firsthand what nurses really do, not what people think we do!" Shortly after her volunteer experience at Grady Hospital, when her younger daughter started kindergarten, she enrolled at Georgia State University. Ms. Laird earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1997 and a Master of Science in Adult Health Nursing in 2001. She did all this as a single mother, working full-time and caring for her children. When people asked how she did it, she commented "I’m not really sure; I just never looked down and never looked back."
During her time at Georgia State University, Ms. Laird received the Academic and Co-Curricular Excellence Award for starting a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School and the National Football League (NFL). This partnership involved providing after school education at the NFL Youth Education Town as well as providing nursing care for profoundly disabled children who were en-rolled in the public school system where school nurses were not present. The partnership still exists and serves as a clinical site for nursing students.
As a non-traditional student and older than most of her classmates, Ms. Laird thought it might take a few months to get her first nursing job. However, she was excited to get her first choice as a Grady Hospital ER nurse. After 3 years there, she took a charge nurse position and then a nurse manager position in the ER at Crawford Long Hospital – part of the Emory University Hospital System, where she remained for 5 years. She contin-ued her career in leadership roles as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, again in a large ER at DeKalb Medical Center. Eventually, she was recruited as a Certified Nurse Specialist at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. "That position wasn’t what I had hoped it would be," she said. "I think many of us have had that kind of experience at some point in our careers."
In 2007, Ms. Laird moved back to the Atlanta area and she started working as a contractor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2008, she became full-time as the Clinical Director for the CDC’s new National Contract Center. She served in this role for approximately three years as the liaison between the agency’s communica-tions work and subject matter experts. Since then her deter-mination, commitment, and desire for personal growth at the CDC has led her to serve in many different roles. She has served as a team lead, a branch chief for community relations, and director of public affairs. For the past four years, Ms. Laird has been in her current position as Project Director in the Office of Communication Science, which is part of the Office of the Associate Director for Communications. She wears several hats in her role and is responsible as the Communications Director for both CDC Public Health Grand Rounds and a new lecture series titled, "We Were There." This new series features historically important, CDC-led, epidemiologic and laboratory investigations, with presentations by the original investigators. She not only manages all components of live events, including promotion and audience building, but is also responsible for main-taining two websites: www.cdc/cdcgrandrounds and www.cdc.gov/wewerethere.
Ms. Laird is also working on a new project called, "The Lighthouse Program". This program will provide new Health Communications Specialists with ongoing training in order to advance their careers. The program is currently in development and is plannedto launch in the fall of 2017. Ms. Laird describes the program by stating, "It’s like career ladders in the hospital setting. New communications staff will participate with and learn from a variety of leadership teams across the agency, being part of a program that will then provide mentoring for others."
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