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Peoria Nurse Leader Elaine Hardy selected for Zerwic Diversity Award

Alumna and clinical assistant professor Elaine Hardy, PhD ’11, RN, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the annual UIC College of Nursing Julie & Mark Zerwic Diversity Award.

The endowed award was established in 2019 to recognize a UIC College of Nursing faculty member, student or staff member who has made a significant contribution to support diversity and foster equity and inclusion within a department, the college, the university and/or the community.

Hardy, former director of the UIC College of Nursing-Peoria Campus, founded a central Illinois chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, with a mission to provide volunteer nursing support and education to the Black community. She is lauded for her ability to draw people of color into the nursing profession and for helping them succeed.

“Dr. Hardy was the first Black woman in a position of nursing leadership that I encountered in my first 14 years of nursing,” says Ebonie Zielinski, RN, a current student in the DNP program at UIC Nursing-Peoria. “I would not be in my doctoral program and working to make nursing a more welcoming and inclusive field without being inspired by her.

“Her reach could never be quantified, because she can change your world with a conversation and make you believe in a better future for nursing and our communities,” she adds.

In her letter nominating Hardy for the award, UIC Nursing-Peoria DNP student Meg Tomlins, RN, wrote: “Dr. Hardy looks for ways to bring people together, and to include people in opportunities. … She serves as a personal example of integrity, excellence, and compassion. She actively lifts others up.”

Hardy’s research is focused on addressing the health inequities faced by Black communities and improving their overall health and well-being.  She has been invited to speak about equity and inclusion at multiple venues, including the National Black Nurses Association and the National Hispanic Nurses Association.

The college’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, chaired by assistant professor Sarah Abboud, is responsible for selecting the recipient. They had multiple nominees to consider for this year’s Zerwic Award.

“Dr. Hardy is an outstanding example of someone who embodies equity and inclusion in all aspects of their work,” says Abboud. “Through her teaching, service, activism and scholarship, she has shown commitment to improving the lives and experiences of her students, nursing colleagues locally and nationally, and the diverse communities she works with.”

Hardy will be honored at the college via a virtual celebration on Dec. 14, when she will present a sampling of her work.

The award was endowed by Julie Zerwic, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, former UIC College of Nursing executive dean and now dean of the University of Iowa College of Nursing, and her husband. Charese A. Jackson, assistant director of the college’s Urban Health Program, was the inaugural recipient last year.