Holiday Giving Across the Ocean

By: Maya Carlyle, Recruitment and Events Associate, The Valley Foundation School of Nursing

In August of 2023, Linda Higgins (nurse and teacher in The Valley Foundation School of Nursing – and a “firebrand of a person”) watched the news and was heartbroken. Now she has 40 large, very full boxes in her garage, waiting to travel to Hawai’i in early December.

That night, on the news, Linda saw the reports of a series of wildfires on the Hawai’ian island of Maui, in and around the city of Lahaina. The fires, driven by dry, gusty winds prompted evacuations and caused widespread damage, destroying homes, businesses, and two of the elementary schools.

“I had a wild idea that came to me in the middle of the night,” Linda shared, “If I had thought it through, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I would have been overwhelmed.”

That wild idea? Help the children who would have attended some of those schools, and give them something joyful this holiday season.

Since August, Linda and “hundreds of family and friends and friends of friends” had put together 900 handmade stockings and 40 non-holiday themed gift bags, filling them with cloth backpacks, treats, play doh, crayons, toys, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hair brushes, and other things to bring some joy and comfort to impacted kids – all of them, ages 4 to 11 years old.

To make all of this happen, Linda has been working with other teachers – those in Lahaina, working to keep their kids learning and safe, and on the mainland, in the Bay Area. After hearing about the project, several instructors at West Valley College joined the project. The Fashion Design department made about 300 of the stockings which are heading over, and the Maker Space in the Interior Design department used their 3D printing lab to make bookmarks with banyan trees for the stockings.

The story of these gifts has made it pretty far. Linda was interviewed by Becky Worley for Good Morning America (the interview aired on December 8th), and Southwest Airlines donated the travel to get Linda and the 40 boxes of gifts over to Lahaina.

“That was the biggest, giant-est gift of all,” Linda said of the Southwest Airlines support. “And, I really just want to thank the people who have been so generous in helping out – at least 60 of my friends have been in my house for a week [in late November], stuffing stockings and bags.”

“This whole thing is so not the nursing method of ‘assess and make a plan first’ – I just implemented and then looked back, and I swear to all, I’m not sure how any of this happened. At one point I got 12 stockings in the mail from someone on the East Coast who I had never met or talked to.”

Linda shared that she intends to keep this project going – though, she hasn’t made a plan for that quite yet.

For more information about The Valley Foundation School of Nursing, please reach out to:
Phone: 408-924-3131

Interprofessional Nurse’s Shadows

By: Maya Carlyle, Recruitment and Events Associate, The Valley Foundation School of Nursing

In The Valley Foundation School of Nursing (TVFSON), nurses work every day to educate, mentor, and support the nurses of tomorrow. This is no simple task! Challenges abound; from those found in all classrooms, to unique challenges faced by the wider healthcare community.

One such challenge is that of numbers.  Every semester, TVFSON adds a cohort of 60 students to the roster, and those students all need to get into healthcare facilities twice a week in order to learn some of the vital hands-on skills which will make them life-saving nurses in the future.

Over many Saturdays this Fall semester, one nurse clinical instructor, Carolina Cacho, DNP, RN, NPD-BC, CRNP, CCRN—K, had to get creative ensuring her 11 students received “quality experiential learning opportunities…” as she brought her class into a facility experiencing several healthcare challenges: a small unit with an average of 24 to 26 patients; only 5 to 6 nurses on staff and up to three Hospital Services Assistants (HSAs); and ongoing renovations of the floor below the unit (causing a reduction in space, and sometimes a reduction in the number of hospital staff on duty) which meant that at times there were more students than hospital staff!

Neither Dr Cacho, nor the hospital staff let that stop them from providing students the best education possible. With an assist by another amazing TVFSON clinical instructor, Marilyn Reiss-Carradero RN, MSN, CCRN, some creative solutions were found as connections with nurse leaders in the Wound Care Department, Cardiac Monitor Room, Rapid Response Team, and the PICC/USGIV Team were established.

“The goal was to [have students] spend time with the nurses [and/or] cardiac monitor techs during their clinical time… they were able to learn and understand these other roles and how they impact the role of the nurses.  These shadowing experience opportunities made a big difference…”

On the purely logistical side, the 11 students were able to be rotated through, in both their primary unit and the other partnered units and teams, making sure the primary unit was not overwhelmed with learners.

The real winners, though, are the students.

“These shadowing experiences were well received by the students,” Dr Cacho reported, “And they all looked forward to their clinical times.  They loved sharing their experiences during our post-course conferences.”

For more information about The Valley Foundation School of Nursing, please reach out to:
Phone: 408-924-3131

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.”