Dr. Ava Lewis, professor of nursing, was recognized for her contributions to the Saginaw community in the field of medicine and related sciences by the Saginaw County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Talk very long to Dr. Ava Lewis and you will discover she is focused and passionate about four things in her life: her work in nursing, both as a practitioner and a teacher; service learning; SVSU; and her work in her beloved community, Saginaw. Make that five things — and the Lewis family.
As most of the Lewis family likes to share (because they are particularly proud of the fact), Ava is quick to point out that there has been at least one Lewis as part of the SVSU community since 1971, starting with her dad. Throughout the years, Lewis’ have been students, employees, faculty and, in some cases like Ava, students again, and again. From SVSU, Ava has earned a degree in sociology, her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing. Ava remembers that it was a recruiting effort by Crystal Lange, first dean of the College of Nursing & Health Sciences, who led her to her B.S.N. and the discovery that she really enjoyed teaching. That led Ava to her M.S.N. and ultimately, her doctoral degree from MSU, which she completed in 1997.
Ava is most certainly satisfied with her academic credentials, as well she should be. Yet she seems to take the greatest pleasure in talking about her completion of her nurse practitioner certification in 2004, which led to her work with HIV patients. That, and her involvement in service learning projects with her SVSU students, and her participation in parish nursing, which began in 2001 under the leadership of former dean Cheryl Easley. Here, healthcare professionals teach health, healing and spirituality in faith-based nursing.
Since 2004, Ava has worked with area physician Dr. Del J. Dehart, in his infectious disease practice. Ava thinks that in this work, she has possibly found fulfillment of her greatest passion: “My passion and my mission is to care for those who are without a voice and who are underserved,” she said.
And so it is also no wonder that when school started in fall 2005, just days after Hurricane Katrina devastated Mississippi and Louisiana, Ava immediately responded to her students’ request to be involved. “This was exciting to me — it spoke to my heart,” recalls Ava. And the process to move things forwarded happened quickly as Ava received a “thumbs up” from then Dean Blecke and SVSU President Eric Gilbertson. In October 2005, Lewis led a group of 11 nursing students on a trip to the Gulf Coast, where the team engaged in community assessments and manned points-of-goods distribution.
This trip, and her prior service to the community, led her to receive the 2006 Faculty/Staff Community Service Learning Award from the Michigan Campus Compact. “It’s one of the most significant awards I’ve received. It recognizes one of my passions – service. We owe that to society, to each other. Service learning is so important to our students. When we educate them and put them out in the real world, they realize this is what they should be doing – helping others.”
Ava loves the fact that her University places its greatest emphasis on teaching, because that is what she is all about. In fact, her own learning continues everyday in a culture that she says encourages co-learning with a supportive network.
Proud alumni and healthcare advocate. Teacher who practices what she preaches: Give it your all, give back and then, give more. This is Ava Lewis. This is SVSU.