Shenandoah University Professor of Nursing Pamela Webber, Ph.D., RN, FNP, received the 2018-2019 Friend of Education Award from the Winchester Education Association at the Winchester Public School Convocation on Aug. 2.
Dr. Webber received the award (the Winchester Education Association is a local association of the Virginia Education Association/VEA) for her work with Special Olympics student-athletes at John Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia. She assisted the student-athletes with their physicals, medical care and follow-up.
“The prestigious VEA Friend of Education Award is intended to honor an individual or organization whose leadership, acts, or support has significantly benefited education, education employees or students in Virginia. The award is presented by the Board of Directors and is the highest award presented by VEA [Virginia Education Association]” according to information on the VEA website.
The award was a meaningful surprise, Webber said. “Especially since those involved with the process nominated me. They are special people in their own right, and I share in this award with them. None of the work with Special Olympics would happen without them.”
Webber is one of several people who have helped with physical examinations for Handley’s Special Olympians. “These physicals are an successful effort because of the work of Handley educator, Tina Hall, and school nurses, Joyce Ray (in the past) and Mary Reese (the current Handley Health clinic nurse),” Webber said.
Webber has worked with Special Olympics student-athletes at Handley for at least 15 years. “Kids with special needs are often an overlooked population,” she said. “Some of these kids have primary care providers and receive routine health care, but some do not. For the latter, these physicals may be the only time they are with a primary care provider all year. Sometimes I find health issues that need to be addressed, such as high blood pressure, heart murmurs and obesity. Once diagnosed, I notify the nurse in the Handley Health Clinic, who works with the parents to get them help. Once I found a child with bilateral perforated eardrums due to an undiagnosed infection. The child had an expressive dysphasia and couldn’t tell anyone. We were able to get the child to a clinic that day for treatment. Another time, we had a student, who used a wheelchair, and had bed bug bites everywhere. The school nurse had been trying to get the guardian’s attention about this for a while. I was able to support her in these efforts.”
The Special Olympics provides inclusion for student-athletes, she added. “These students are as entitled to be involved in group physical activities as much as any other student, including mainstream athletes. Once I started working with them, I never looked at sports – bowling, track, basketball, etc. – the same way. It’s also nice to help those who help these kids day in and day out, and want to make something special happen for them.”