UA Nursing Student Who Wants to Help Children with Cancer Wins National Award

  • September 30th, 2004
Jessica Gillilan, (left) a senior UA nursing student from Boaz, receives the Top National Prize for student nurses from Cherokee Uniforms. Dr. Angela Collins, right, associate professor in UA's Capstone College of Nursing, nominated Gillilan for the award.
Jessica Gillilan, (left) a senior UA nursing student from Boaz, receives the Top National Prize for student nurses from Cherokee Uniforms. Dr. Angela Collins, right, associate professor in UA’s Capstone College of Nursing, nominated Gillilan for the award.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A senior nursing student at The University of Alabama who has successfully juggled preparations for a career in pediatric oncology with three years of volunteer work at a free clinic, today received the Top National Prize for student nurses from Cherokee Uniforms.

In a surprise presentation, Jessica Gillilan, of Boaz, was awarded the 2004 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award in the Student Nurse category. She was selected from more than 1,600 people from across the country nominated for the eight awards presented in four categories.

For the past three years, Gillilan has volunteered for 14 to 20 hours per week at the Good Samaritan Clinic in Tuscaloosa, said Dr. Angela Collins, associate professor in UA’s Capstone College of Nursing and one of two people who nominated Gillilan for the award. The Good Samaritan Clinic is a free clinic that serves patients without insurance who have limited income.

“Jessica has a motto that she has lived by for several years – JOY – Jesus, others and then yourself,” Gillilan’s mom, Stella, wrote in support of the nomination. “She talks freely of her love for Jesus and how she knows he has placed her in the clinic and allowed her to help the sick.”

In the summer of 2000, Gillilan, then a high school student, participated in UA’s Rural Health Scholars Program, designed to expose small-town high school students to the possibilities of rural medical careers. Students also live on campus and take college classes. Through this program Gillilan became aware of the Good Samaritan Clinic.

During recent months Gillilan has witnessed the devastating impact of cancer. An 18-year-old cousin died after battling a rare form of muscular cancer and, in January, Gillilan’s dad was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, the student’s mom said.

Collins said Gillilan became even more convinced that her career should focus on helping cancer patients after her family was impacted by the disease. The student’s attitude has been an inspiration to others, Collins said.

“She has created a circle of friends at the College of Nursing who see her passion and caring as she grows into a professional caring nurse,” the UA nursing professor said.

Both of Gillilan’s parents attended the ceremony.

In addition to a glass 2004 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award and recognition in the 2005 Inspired Comfort Award calendar, Gillilan will receive the following:

  • An all expense paid trip to the 2005 U.S. medical conference of her choice
  • A $1,000 contribution to the nonprofit organization of her choice
  • Annual membership in her selected clinical association
  • A wardrobe featuring more than $1,000 of Cherokee nursing uniforms and Rockers Footwear
  • A custom-engraved Ultrascope stethoscope and
  • A commemorative pin

Cherokee Uniforms also honored, nationally, two people in each of the following categories: Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses/Licensed Vocational Nurses, and Non-Physician Healthcare Professionals.

A leading designer and manufacturer of healthcare apparel, Cherokee developed the award to express admiration for healthcare professionals’ skill, kindness and devotion, according to the company’s news release. A panel of judges consisting of Cherokee Uniforms’ professionals, national nursing leaders and previous recipients selected this year’s winners based on the program’s key requirements: exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation.

The Capstone College of Nursing, founded in 1976, graduates approximately 100 nurses a year from its baccalaureate program. Its graduate program for nurse case managers is one of the most innovative in the country. Partnerships with many of Alabama’s community colleges make obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing a realistic goal for registered nurses. With nearly 800 students and 28 faculty, the College supplies RNs and nurse case managers to many Alabama health care facilities and others throughout the United States. The College also runs a primary care clinic in rural Alabama to provide care for rural patients and rural learning experiences for students.


Dr. Angela Collins, 205/348-2707,


Chris Bryant, Assistant Director of Media Relations, 205/348-8323Jennifer Kamienski, Keating & Co., 973/400-5403

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.