AnnMarie Lee Walton (CRS ’92-’94,’99)

AnnMarie is a Camp Rising Sun alumna and award-winning nurse for her commitment to leadership and advocacy. After being a camper for 3 seasons, she went back to Camp as a counselor and continued her commitment to CRS through her service on the Program and Scholarship Committees. She then served on the Board of Directors for 5 years. After a short hiatus, she committed to contributing her time to CRS through her work on the Health and Safety and now the Committee on Governance. AnnMarie was recently featured on the website of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, for her nursing work.

How has CRS impacted your career?

I have had a variety of roles throughout my career and I am getting ready to launch into the next as I search for my first tenure-track faculty position.  A common theme that connects all of these has been the approach I have taken towards leadership. Camp Rising Sun helped me to see myself as a leader early and to look for ways to develop those skills and to take the risks of ego involved in leadership. It also helped me to have a true respect and value for every person I have encountered and to try to take some time to get to know some of their story, their values, their hopes.

Whether it is taking care of 4 patients, or managing 100 nurses, I have approached them in the same way. I seek to understand what they need and want. In every patient I have cared for, or staff member I have managed, or student or research participant I have worked with, I have tried to demonstrate some of that same sense of value, of worth, of respect in who they are as a person and have tried to make an investment of my own, time, talent and treasure in not only getting where I think we need/should or ought to go for the mission we are trying to accomplish, but to make sure that they have their highest priority needs met and that they feel valued.

This way of looking at people is what came in part from my experience at Camp Rising Sun.  I honestly don’t think I would be in the place I am today if it were not for feeling that strangers saw something of value within me, gave their time, talent and treasure to me while helping to motivate me to serve others and by virtue of that investment, expected me to do the same with others in the world.

What are some of the values learned at CRS that you use in your daily life?

The value of both our difference and our common humanity. The value of self-reliance. The belief that leadership and service can be exercised in tandem; that a leader could naturally see themselves as a servant. Persistence, curiosity, the value of reflection.  The power of mentorship. The willingness to work for what you believe is just

What would you tell to Camp Rising Sun alumni looking to reconnect?

I think serving on a committee is a great way to get involved. Later on, joining the Board can be a very powerful way to stay engaged and enriching for one’s career. But to start, serving on a committee is a great way to re-engage, meet alumni from different years and camps through service to our community.

I understand that sometimes life pulls you away. After being at camp for 3 years as a camper, I went back as a counselor, then joined the Program Committee, the Scholarship Committee and finally the Board. Then I got married, had kids, pursued a PhD, so I lost touch. However, when the conversation was started a couple of years ago around the future of the program, I could not stay absent, so I joined the Committee on Governance.  I felt that staying absent would have nullified all the hours I had put in before.

I would encourage all alumni interested in shaping the future and present of Camp Rising Sun to get involved at the Committee or Board level. Committee work only requires a couple of hours of work a month, so it is doable. Service at this level is a really good way to get involved in the process and the future of Camp.

<< The following originally appeared on the website of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. >>

AnnMarie Lee Walton, PhD, MPH, RN, OCN, CHES, is a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spent more than 13 years as an oncology nurse caring for patients with acute leukemia. This led to her doctoral dissertation on the behaviors migrant and seasonal farmworkers practice to protect themselves from pesticides, as well as to her current research on minimizing occupational exposures to carcinogens, with a focus on understanding the exposure of nursing assistants to antineoplastic drugs.

The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in 2014 named Walton a Breakthrough Leader in Nursing. Walton is co-chair of leadership for the North Carolina Action Coalition, the co-chair for the sustainability workgroup for the Nurses on Boards Coalition, and co-founder of the North Carolina Nurses Association Nurses on Boards 2020 Council.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?     

Being a nurse is a career choice I never dreamed I would make. My mother and grandmother were both nurses—my mother still is—and though they are inspirations to me (my mother holds and excels in two nursing jobs!), I wanted to do something different. I was earning my Master’s in Public Health when I took an assignment as a Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program–essentially, an internship—with the U.S. Public Health Service at Navajo Area Indian Health Service in Shiprock, New Mexico. There, I saw the impact that nurses could have in communities. Now, as a nurse, I see value, and appreciate the impact my mother and grandmother have had on their families and communities too.

Can you describe your evolution from making that decision to where you are today?

I worked for 13 years in inpatient hematology/oncology. I loved the opportunities that I had to make a difference in the lives of patients and families. This clinical work drove me to pursue my PhD with a focus on minimizing exposures to known carcinogens.

Of all that you have accomplished, what are you most proud of?

I co-created the first nurse manager job share in North Carolina, so from a leadership perspective, I’m proud of that: It has opened the door for other nurses who want to balance families, education, and careers. In research, I am proud that I haven’t and won’t give up on my commitment to working with groups that find themselves on the underside of equity in their employment. There are very real challenges to working with and for the rights of these individuals.

If you could change the profession in any one way, what would you change and why?

I would like nurses to have a better sense of the value of what they know and do each day. Much as I respect our profession, I’d also like to challenge some of the way we view, treat, and value our supportive colleagues such as nursing assistants.

What is the most important action that nurses can take to lead the way to improve health and health care in America?

Say yes, and look for opportunities to say yes. When presented with an opportunity to share skills, knowledge, and experiences as a nurse, say yes. Look for opportunities to improve health in your home and in the communities in which you live.

What role do you see for yourself in building a healthier America?

I believe that I have a responsibility to invest in my own health and to be a role model for others. Part of my scholarship means asking critical questions about why certain groups have not been included in research. Asking the questions and tackling the larger sociocultural challenges about their exclusion has an impact on health beyond research.