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SLU Nursing Professor Honored for Work with City's COVID-19 Vaccination Events

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

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Margaret Benz, MSN, an assistant professor in Saint Louis University’s Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing, was honored recently for her work assisting the City of St. Louis with its COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

Award for Margaret Benz

Pictured, from left, are Fredrick Echols, M.D., acting director of health for the City of St. Louis; Margaret Benz, MSN, assistant professor of nursing; Kris L'Ecuyer, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing and associate dean for undergraduate and pre-licensure nursing education; and Danny Willis, DNS, dean of the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing. Photo by Christina Rariden. 

The City of St. Louis Department of Health recognized Benz for her work in organizing volunteers associated with the Department’s vaccine clinics. SLU students have provided 2,393.5 volunteer hours, faculty have volunteered 829 hours and SLU families and staff have volunteered 551 hours.

“At this time, we have administered 35,154 doses,” Benz said.

Benz reached out to city officials when planning began for COVID-19 vaccine clinics and offered SLU’s nursing students and faculty as clinical service volunteers once vaccination efforts kicked off. 

Fredrick Echols, M.D., acting director of health for the City of St. Louis, said he saw the offer as a win-win for everyone.

“It was a win for the Department of Health because the nursing students could enhance the pool of clinical volunteers needed to sustain the Department’s vaccination efforts during the pandemic,”  Echols said. “Having the nursing students serve on the frontline of the pandemic also helps meet two of the 10 essential services of public health – building a diverse and skilled workforce and strengthen, support and mobilize communities and partnerships.”

Benz also called the experience a winning one for SLU. 

“Our nursing students from all programs and all levels - freshmen to Ph.D. - have worked side by side sharing, learning and educating each other performing as a true team,” Benz said. “They have been able to see and work with faculty in action as role models and mentors, but also have demonstrated leadership, knowledge, care and compassion to each person they encounter.”

Benz noted that SLU’s diversity and the opportunity for students to study at the University’s Madrid campus have been an asset in vaccination efforts.

“There is at least one student in each session that can work as a translator with the Spanish speaking population, as well as Thai, Arabic, Russian and Igbo, putting patients at ease as they fluently speak the patient’s language,” Benz said.  “I could not be more proud of how supportive the students have been with meeting this health care need.”

Benz’s role isn’t limited to coordinating volunteers. She also assists with other functions associated with the clinics.

“The City of St. Louis Department of Health is extremely grateful for the volunteer service Professor Benz has provided to the City’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics,” Echols said. “She’s truly been a servant leader while engaged with our clinics, serving the needs of her student volunteer nurses and the residents of the City of St. Louis seeking vaccinations.”

Danny Willis, DNS, dean of the Valentine School of Nursing, said Benz is a gem and the honor is well-deserved. 

“Throughout this pandemic, she has leveraged her long-standing deep connection with the City of St. Louis to help lead a massive public health prevention intervention effort,” Willis said. “With a smile on her face, she rolls up her sleeves, mobilizes other faculty and students, and gets to work making a difference. We could not be more proud of her and all she has done for our communities.”

In 2012, Benz was appointed by Governor Jay Nixon as the first nurse in the State of Missouri to the Missouri Health Net Oversight Committee. She served as the vice chair of the MO Health Net Oversight Committee from 2010-19 and continues to serve on the Rural Health subcommittee.

Benz was honored with St. Louis Magazine’s Excellence in Nursing Award in 2013 and was the March of Dimes Nurse Educator of the Year in 2014. 

Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing

Founded in 1928, the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University has achieved a national reputation for its innovative and pioneering programs. Offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs, its faculty members are nationally recognized for their teaching, research and clinical expertise.