Martha Lavender, PhD, RN, FAAN

“Why did I join the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses?  That’s an easy question,” said Martha Lavender.  “When I started graduate school in the early 1980’s, a member of the faculty encouraged me to join.  She said I would learn so much.  AWHONN opened doors and helped me grow educationally and clinically. AWHONN gave me the opportunity to be with other leaders in nursing and helped me see the world,” she said.

Receiving her registered nursing degree from Gadsden State Community College, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Jacksonville State University, a Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing from the University of Alabama Birmingham, Martha’s career in nursing has spanned more than 40 years.  She has worked as a nurse manager of the newborn nursery at Gadsden Regional Medical Center and is a former dean and professor of nursing at Jacksonville State University.

In 2004, Martha served as Associate Director of Training and Education at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  She was named Director of the Gadsden State Cherokee Campus and later as Dean of Health Sciences at Gadsden State Community College, serving in that capacity from 2008 to 2011.  Since 2009, she has been a visiting professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In 2010, Martha was chosen as one of the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing’s 60 Visionary Leaders.  She was appointed to the Alabama Board of Nursing and also served on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s Advanced Practice Committee.  And in 2013, she was inducted into the Alabama Nursing Hall of Fame for her “distinctive service in nursing and health care on the local, state and national levels,” which has included serving as Treasurer and then President of AWHONN.  “I was excited to explore the decision-making process of the nursing profession,” said Martha.  Since 2004 Martha has been the owner and President of MGL Consulting, Inc., whose services include strategic planning and outcomes evaluation for nursing and health care organizations.  Named a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) in
2015, Martha today serves as President of Gadsden State Community College.

“There are so many opportunities for anyone who is interested in participating in AWHONN.  When I joined, I immediately got involved in the education committee of the Alabama section,” said Martha.  “As an active member, I got the chance to network with the most outstanding kind of faculty, the kind that I wanted to be. It provided me with access to the political world through advocacy, and that offered me a skill set that I hadn’t gotten in grad school.”

Martha continued, “I am removed from the clinical aspects of nursing now, but I still feel a very close connection to it because of what AWHONN does through advocacy and policy development, which is critical to our clinical work.  It’s important to understand all of the components of our field.  We’re all working together to bring AWHONN to fullness.”

Now, Martha chairs the AWHONN Development Committee, which helps to raise charitable dollars through the Every Woman, Every Baby program to support AWHONN programs and services.  “AWHONN has always invested in me. A lot of what I’ve achieved has been because of AWHONN, so I want to give back,” she said. “I was so pleased to be asked to serve in this way because it’s so easy to say ‘yes’ to giving to this organization.  AWHONN is very fiscally responsible, so focused on our mission and targeted to meet the needs of our community.  We have the most qualified staff and leadership team.  AWHONN is purpose driven and clearly focused on our mission and goals. That’s why I want to give whatever time, resources and energy I have. There is so much to give to AWHONN.”

The consummate educator, Martha sees the AWHONN Development Committee as “a place to learn more about the organization, to be more engaged and to help move the organization forward.”   “We can engage and excite,” said Martha, whose vision for the future includes establishing an endowment for AWHONN.  “We would be able to fund our own educational initiatives that result in guidelines, evidence based tools and innovation for care, and talk about the things that change in our own field and where there is a cutting edge need.  Then, we could leverage that to increase support from our outside partners.  We must have the ability to fund research.  AWHONN is a premier organization that brings evidence based resources to the forefront and with an endowment, it would be a homerun,” said Martha, who is also eager to encourage legacy giving as well as charitable support from grateful patients and the community in general.

“I’d like for us to grow our consumer education partnerships.  We can help the public know what AWHONN contributes to all maternal and newborn programs, and understand that we have all of these resources.  We can show that we are good stewards of their money and that their gifts are helping us make progress,” Martha said.

“As a professional, you need to look at your professional organization and see what you can give,” she continued.  “It’s an investment in the future.  It’s how we ensure a prepared workforce for the healthcare needs of the future.  What better place is there to invest in the future of our society than AWHONN?  We can do even more.  We can be even more creative and more innovative so that the next generation of nurses will be better equipped.”

“AWHONN has been such an important part of my professional career and in making me a better nurse.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow in every facet of my work; in clinical practice, in research, and in advocacy,” said Martha.  “AWHONN has given me more than I’ve given back, so I donate to AWHONN for the next generation of nurses.”