Honorary Human Rights Award - 2012

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2012 Recipient

Mary Ann Christopher, MSN, RN, FAANMary Ann Christopher, MSN, RN, FAAN
New Jersey State Nurses Association

Mary Ann Christopher has dedicated her career to advancing the nation’s public health. The hallmark of her leadership has been a steadfast commitment to ensuring that the most vulnerable have access to health care services. Through collaboration with the academic, governmental, and private sectors, Christopher has helped to shape public policy such that the health care safety net is not only sustained, but strengthened.

Christopher’s greatest contribution has been to foster the concept of “community as client,” and advance her philosophy of care, “neighborhood nursing.” As president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Health Group, Christopher spearheaded the development of a unique continuum of services, including a Federally Qualified Health Center, community-based prevention programs, and clinics for the poor. Christopher’s dedication to building school-based nurse practitioner programs has supported the business case for nursing, a tenet promoted by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in its focus on the nursing workforce shortage.

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Christopher developed a system of nurse-centered, mobile-outreach clinics at homeless shelters, transitional housing, and other congregate living sites for the deinstitutionalized mentally ill, elderly, and at-risk families. The program has been replicated in other areas, influenced public policy, and serves as a model for federally funded supportive housing. In addition, as a fellow of the Public Health Leadership Institute, she developed systems of care for populations across the lifespan.

Christopher has also been a vigorous advocate for the role of nursing in the emergency response system. She formalized linkages with the American Red Cross and the emergency response system in New Jersey that were replicated by VNA staff in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
Christopher now serves as president and CEO of the nation’s largest not-for-profit home
and community-based health care organization, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.