First Room Naming for the College of Health and Human Sciences

By Sonia Wright

This spring we celebrated with the Vlasoff family as the first named room in the College of Health and Human Sciences was dedicated: the Susan Vlasoff Memorial Pediatric Nursing Simulation Lab.  The lab is on the third floor of the Health Building, home to our donor-named department, The Valley Foundation School of Nursing.  This new name honors an endowment which will provide support for supplies and equipment to the simulation lab, a vital immersive tool used to train tomorrow’s nurses.

The Susan Vlasoff
Memorial Pediatric Nursing Simulation Lab.
© 2023 SJSU, photo by Robert C. Bain, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Susan Vlasoff Memorial Pediatric Nursing Simulation Lab is home to tools, interactive human-simulation mannequins, and hospital-like equipment which allow student nurses to hone the skills needed to caretake the health of our smallest and youngest community members.

​​Susan ‘Suzy’ Jacobs Vlasoff grew up in the Bay Area and attended SJSU for her undergraduate degree. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in 1970. Seven years after starting her nursing career, she married Dan, and they raised their daughter Elizabeth in Campbell. Suzy worked at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, first in oncology and then moved over to pediatrics and the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) where she spent the rest of her 30+ year career. She was a woman’s rights supporter and interested in helping other young nurses become successful.

The Susan Vlasoff
Memorial Pediatric Nursing Simulation Lab.
© 2023 SJSU, photo by Robert C. Bain, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

When asked to talk about her mother, Elizabeth described her as a “spitfire.”  Dan added that she was a very outspoken, opinionated person – perfect for a nurse advocating for her patients, as well as her fellow and future nurses.

Nursing Spartan Up, and Up, and Up

By Maya Carlyle

“Vanndy is somebody who is extraordinary, truly,” said Dr. Daryn Reicherter, MD, psychiatrist at AACI, a robust, multi-focus community health organization in San Jose, CA

He was being asked about Vanndy Loth, his employee, and a three time graduate from San José State University.

Dr. Vanndy Loth, DNP, MPH, MSN, RN, graduated from The Valley Foundation School of Nursing twice of those three SJSU graduations; first as she began her nursing career with her Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN), and after her MPH for her Masters she graduated again from the School of Nursing in 2021, completing her doctoral degree as a member of the first graduating cohort of SJSU’s stand-alone Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

This spring, Dr. Loth has continued to be a Spartan, supporting her alma mater in a new way; this time agreeing to be interviewed as part of a project by the College of Health and Human Sciences to showcase the departments and schools under its umbrella.

“I have a strong desire to improve community mental health services through my nursing role…” Dr. Loth shared when she first applied to the DNP program. “My hopes are to gain insight into applying evidence based practice and to improve patient outcomes through improved quality of care. I [also] want to improve my skills as a nurse leader…”

And become a leader she did. While originally aiming to teach, Dr. Loth pursued nursing at the encouragement of her mother and found the work, from the beginning, to be “very rewarding.” Her first job as a new grad nurse from SJSU was in public health, working in the rural and less populous areas of Monterey County, where the competency and skills of TVFSON allowed her to tackle the more challenging cases to come through the clinic doors.

Now as a Program Manager in the Integrated Behavioral Health program at AACI, Dr. Loth continues to care for the community in culturally sensitive, policy-active, and educationally-focused ways. On May 3rd of this year, she and her AACI team were awarded a “Behavioral Health Community Hero Award” by the County of Santa Clara’s Behavioral Health Board for their work in addressing mental health in San Jose and the whole county.

During the interview for the College of Health and Human Sciences spotlight, Dr. Loth was asked what she thought might be next for her, now that she has her doctorate and has achieved some of the levels of leadership she had been aiming for.

“Teaching,” she responded, laughing a little at the full circle of her career. As a psychiatric nurse and community caretaker, Dr. Loth has a lot of knowledge to pass on, and looks forward to training the nurses who may one day take over her role.

Watch the College of Health and Human Sciences YouTube channel for highlights from Dr. Loth’s interview, coming later this summer.

For more information about The Valley Foundation School of Nursing, please visit or call 408-924-3131.

Community Connections with The Valley Foundation School of Nursing

By: Maya Carlyle

Lily (pronouns she/her/hers) is a high school junior in San Jose, CA, with deep roots in the community.

“Well, both my parents studied at San José State University and graduated from there. It’s a really good school. Also, it’s, like, really close to my house…”

In the evening on February 21st, 2022, she reached out to The Valley Foundation School of Nursing’s general email address ( with a request; her email was polite, to the point, and a building block for her future.

I’m very interested in studying nursing in college, and I have been looking for opportunities to gain experience in the field. I was wondering if the school/office would allow me to shadow one of your nurses? If not, I was also wondering if you have any volunteering opportunities or filing/front desk jobs?

When asked why she reached out, Lily replied earnestly: “Well, I just really want to be a nurse, to study nursing in college. I’m not really looking at other paths because…. Well, my mom has had some heart problems, and I was a preemie baby, and I’ve just… I’ve grown up in medical settings, asking questions, helping out, and it just really interests me. I’ve always been interested in pediatrics (because of my own experience), and so I want to help people who are going through that, like the parents and everything.”

“So, I reached out to try to get some experience and see how everything went in a nursing program. I think I was looking up medical places near me and San José State came up and there was an email. So, I emailed them and they responded to me pretty fast, it was pretty easy.”

Between February 21st and March 18th, conversations were had and a date was set; Lily was invited to visit The Valley Foundation School of Nursing, on SJSU Campus.

“Lily was a pleasure to get to know and work with. It was inspiring to hear a young person be so excited about nursing,” commented Dr Lisa Rauch (DNP, PHNA-BC, RN; she/her), current School of Nursing Interim Director and Assistant Professor. “Though shadowing a nurse in a clinical setting wasn’t possible, I was happy to make space for her to visit the school, to talk with our faculty, and to see a nursing class in action.”

Of her visit, Lily said: “It was really fun. I had a tour of the simulation labs, I got to see the lecture part of Professor Edwards’ [Paula Edwards, MS, PHN, ADN, RN; she/her] class, I got to see a skills lab and to see the students using equipment… one was called a volumetric incentive spirometer; you breathe in and it measures lung function. I also saw students practicing a splinting method with a pillow, and practicing mock exams.

“Everyone was so nice, considerate, and welcoming. I was kind of nervous beforehand, but everyone was like ‘Do you want to come see what we’re practicing?’

“My favorite part was… I think just getting to see all the students practicing the skills, and seeing how they liked learning, and the variety of what they get to learn. It was really insightful, and nice to get experience with [what a nursing program is like] … it was really nice to see.”

Lily’s visit has been inspiring to the School of Nursing as well.

“We’re always busy – the faculty are all working nurses as well as teachers, researchers, and scholars. Our hundreds of students are dedicated to their studies and their hands-on work in the field. We are all very focused on educating tomorrow’s nurses. At the same time, we want to keep robust ties with our community,” Dr Rauch reflected. “Lily’s visit was a wonderful illustration of that. Community welcome visits are definitely something we’re thinking about for the future.”

CHHS DEI Profile – Bree Casas

Bree CasasBree Casas – The Valley Foundation School of Nursing 

What is your role in your department/school?

I currently am a Senior Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing student. I serve as the President of Public Health Nursing Club; the President of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Student Nurses of Color (BILSNOC); and I serve on the SJSU and State Board of California Nursing Students Association with a goal of promoting DEI and representation for nursing students of color.

What would you identify as one of the most significant actions you have taken to advance the cause for diversity either in the classroom, your community or your profession?

On a large scale, I was recently invited to speak at the National Student Nurses’ Association Convention in Utah (April 2022) on DEI and nursing recruitment for students of color, and I could not be prouder to represent our university and state! On a more local level, at SJSU, my nursing mentee (An Huynh) and I  decided to take a leap at the beginning of the school year with the guidance of Dr. Sheri Rickman-Patrick to start BILSNOC, although we are a small group, those of us that are committed continue to hold a community space for BIPOC Nursing students. I think I have had amazing peers that have been committed to advocating alongside me, which keeps me motivated.

How have you integrated topics of DEI into hiring new faculty and/or admitting students?

Something I have personally discussed and advocated for within our nursing program since my first semester in the program is utilizing a multicriteria selection process that evaluates student potential holistically rather than solely on academic achievement. I know there is a lot of work to be done, but this is a significant reason why I hope to remain involved in academia throughout my career, to ensure our underrepresented students have an equitable chance.

Tell us about how you and why you became attentive to DEI topics. What prompted this change in your department/school?  What did the process look like?

I actually have a B.A. in Sociology from another university and feel that a large part of understanding myself and the many realms I exist within has been through the lens of intersectionality. I think during my time at SJSU it was really the uprising in the Summer of 2020 when George Floyd was murdered and many other BLM protests were arising, that a group of about five students and I collaborated on a list of changes we wanted the nursing administration to implement into curriculum. We discussed this over the span of a few meetings, but change sometimes can be a process when others in positions of leadership may not be ready to implement changes. And when the change didn’t occur at the pace we were comfortable with, a classmate (Lilian Anh) and I decided to implement informal surveys to ask students if they felt they were receiving culturally-informed education.

What support did you need to make it happen?  Did you draw on existing resources or examples that were helpful in guiding your change?

Truly it has been our faculty of color, specifically Black women, that support these causes the most deeply. I am endlessly grateful for the extra time and effort they put into making our university and nursing program a better place (specifically Dr. Michelle DeCoux Hampton, Dr. Sheri Rickman-Patrick, and Dr. Denise Dawkins). At the same time, we need more folks that are allies to engage in this work with us, because this work is taxing especially for BIPOC students and faculty.

Tell us one book, one article, one documentary, or once movie you’ve read or watched that you would like to suggest to others that helped shape your thinking about DEI work.

I would say Punished by Victor Rios and The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X

Community Collaborations and The Valley Foundation School of Nursing

By: Maya Carlyle

Memory Kits

Working nurse and faculty member of The Valley Foundation School of Nursing (TVFSON), Marilyn Reiss-Carradero (RN, MSN, CCRN)  is on the Rapid Response Team at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center as well as on the Palliative Care End of Life committee. In 2015, she was working with a SJSU nursing student who was learning under her guidance. This student experience was mostly focused on the technical aspects and critical thinking of nursing.  More though, this student learned about the caring that goes hand in hand with nursing.

Marilyn and a group of ICU nurses had previously piloted a program adapted from the 2014, 3 Wishes Project  at St. Joseph’s Healthcare ICU in Hamilton, ON, Canada, which set out a way for clinicians to connect empathetically with patients and patients’ families while working in the emotionally heavy environment of an ICU and caring for patients as they reach the end of their life. This connection was facilitated by a “memory kit”;  a small collection of items – ribbon to tie a lock of hair from the recently deceased, clay to impress a hand print, a small ‘forever’ candle (a battery powered votive), and a sympathy card for the healthcare team to give messages to the family. The kits are kept in the department, completed (with permission of the family), and then shared with the family.

This memory kit is one small way to help families in the sacred moments after the death of a loved one. It also  facilitates the beginning of the grieving process.

The student who was shadowing Marilyn that year moved quickly to help support this program, with the help of the Alpha Tau Delta (ATD), a professional fraternity/sorority for nursing professionals. Immediately upon hearing about the program, the ATD students began finding ways to support it, including creating a committee for the planning of long term fundraising. Since joining the program, ATD has helped fund and create up to 170 memory kits every year.

Since 2015, the SJSU Nursing students have been very faithful to this project, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. A meaningful and memorable bond forms when the bedside nurse is able to utilize the kit and present the items to the family. We are very grateful to the students for their time and generosity.” – Marilyn Reiss-Carradero

Sue’s Story

Sue's Story PosterAnother moving story of collaboration is that between The Valley Foundation School of Nursing and The Sue’s Story Project. The Sue’s Story Project was begun by Robin Shepherd, Chuck Berghoff, and Sue Berghoff, a “tough but fair” teacher who had spent seven years in the Department of Linguistics and Language Development at San José State University, after a dynamic career in tech. After being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a fatal neurodegenerative disease that is the second leading cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s, Sue decided to turn her diagnosis into a good for the world, educating healthcare professionals, advocating for research, and shining a light on Lewy Body Dementia to lessen the stigma and bring hope to families coping with the disease.

Having connected in 2019 with The Valley Foundation School of Nursing via Dr. Stefan Frazier of the Department of Linguistics and Language Development, The Sue’s Story Project now works with TVFSON faculty members Dr. Nancy Dudley and Dr. Daryl Canham to educate and empower nursing students and the wider community. Through interactive workshops including panel discussions with subject matter experts, healthcare and social services professionals, and connections to local medical facilities, this partnership seeks to continue Sue’s dream of education and hope.

Robin ShepherdTogether, we can #DisruptDementia, one beautiful mind at a time.

Ways to donate to the cause and steps for requesting a workshop presentation can be found on The Sue’s Story Project website.