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An unfaltering advocate for her patients
May 10, 2024
2024 VCU Staff Senate award recipients

    Alma Morgan honored for extraordinary career supporting education needs of kids with cancer

    Anyone who has received hematology/oncology care at CHoR knows Alma Morgan. For more than 40 years, most of which at CHoR, she’s ensured that patients with cancer, blood diseases and chronic illnesses are supported and continue learning during and after treatment. Recently, she was honored with the 2024 VCU Staff Senate Guiding Star Award for Career Achievement, one of six awards presented annually to VCU and VCU Health team members for their hard work and extraordinary achievements.

    A teacher from the start, kids with cancer and blood disorders captured Alma’s heart

    Alma came to VCU in 1998 and spent 9 years as a hospital teacher on the inpatient pediatric unit. Educators in our hospital work closely with local school divisions and classroom teachers to help kids keep up with their schoolwork. Alma developed a love for the pediatric hematology/oncology population and transitioned into a role as an educational consultant in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant in 1997. She continues as a part of the team today.

    Her role is varied and wide-reaching. She coordinates learning while children may have to miss school during treatment, helps with their transition back to the traditional school setting and advocates to make sure all their educational needs are met throughout their school career.

    “Alma certainly does not shy away from a challenge. She embraces it, runs toward it and doesn’t allow anyone or any obstacle to tell her ‘no,’” said Dr. India Sisler, interim division chief and clinical director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, and one of Alma’s co-nominators for the award. “In an Alma Morgan world, anything and everything is possible.”

    Connecting kids with the support they need – in the hospital, school and community

    You never know where you might find Alma. Her passion for helping kids extends beyond what she does for them within the hospital and school settings. She’s an unfaltering advocate for their academic and vocational needs at the state and national level. Every January, she makes her way to the General Assembly, educating others about the unique needs of pediatric patients with chronic illness and advocating for funding to ensure their success.

    Alma has also developed collaborative relationships with community-based organizations and spear-headed several uniquely tailored educational and vocational programs that ensure a future pathway for patients with visible or invisible disabilities. This has allowed many patients to pursue career goals that otherwise may not have been possible.

    “During her 40-year tenure, Alma has attended thousands of school meetings to advocate for pediatric patients’ academic and social-emotional needs and forged collaborative networks with community-based organizations like ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, school systems and colleges/universities,” said Dr. Jennifer Rohan, director of psychosocial clinical care and research in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, and the other award co-nominator.

    Continuing to find innovative ways to make patients’ lives better

    Helping thousands of children over several decades hasn’t slowed Alma down a bit. She has many more ideas for how the whole team can make patients’ lives better not only academically, but with innovative strategies to improve their quality of life, socialization and overall psychological well-being.

    “Alma Morgan is a fundamental and vital member of our psychosocial clinical care team and a legend not only at CHoR but across Virginia. She is an exemplar of an educator, mentor, colleague and leader,” Drs. Rohan and Sisler wrote in their nomination form. “Our leadership unanimously agreed that Alma is the epitome of outstanding service and character and is well-deserving of this award.”

    Congratulations, Alma!

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