Lora PeppardLora Peppard, PhD, DNP, PMHNP-BC
2017 Award for Excellence in Leadership - APRN

“Communities, states, and the nation at large need systems thinkers to streamline models of care and innovatively address complex problems within micro, meso, and macrosystems,” says Lora Peppard. Her mission is to shape the future of psychiatric-mental health nursing by engaging students in the development and understanding of systems that perpetuate the field. For her systems approach to disseminating evidence-based practices to meet community needs, Lora Peppard is this year’s recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Leadership – APRN.

Lora’s path to psychiatric-mental health nursing was an unconventional one. Upon receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business, Lora moved to Germany where she suffered a herniated disc. During a hospital stay where she received emergency surgery to restore feeling in her leg, Lora was inspired by the nurses around her. “I was extremely touched by the impact the nurses in this hospital had with other patients as I observed from my bed. The lightbulb went off for me at that moment,” she says. “Then in my first psychiatric clinical experience…I was afforded time as a nursing student to really talk with [a patient with mental health needs] and learn about the complex challenges she and so many others face. I had found my passion!”

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
SBIRT; System processes

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Think big. Think systems. Stay informed. Always meet people and organizations where they are at.”

Psych Nursing Light Bulb Moment:
“I was afforded that amazing time as a nursing student to really talk with [a patient] and learn about the complex challenges and trauma she and so many others face. I had found my passion!”

As an Associate Professor at George Mason University, Lora was instrumental in the development and launch of George Mason’s DNP program and currently directs the psychiatric nurse practitioner program. In the past 8 years, she has advised over 120 DNP students, chaired 16 university committees, and published her work in several peer-reviewed journals. It was through her role with George Mason that she discovered the need for comprehensive training on effective strategies for substance use disorders. “Unmet community needs and unidentified risks leading to poor outcomes drew me to the subject of substance use and SBIRT as an evidence-based practice and form of behavioral health integration,” says Lora. “In order to effectively prepare students, providers, or other medical staff to either manage or contribute to the management process of substance use, they must also be trained in contextual factors like assessing the infrastructure, approach, and role of their organization.”

Lora is currently leading a Virginia state initiative to train and connect healthcare delivery and behavioral health specialists with an $8.3 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. She also is the Project Director for a $920,000 SAMHSA training grant and a $900,000 behavioral health integration grant through HRSA. With these 3 grants, Lora brings students into clinical settings at the Mason and Partners clinics and throughout Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley so that they can be trained in SBIRT and integrated care principles. With this hands-on training, students will have a strong foundation in the SBIRT process when they eventually begin their practice. “This collaboration with faculty, students, community leaders and end users in Virginia will provide screening, brief intervention, and referral across a large geographic, frequently underserved part of the state,” says J. Goodlett McDaniel, who nominated Lora for this award. “Peppard integrated students in all areas of this undertaking including researching and writing the proposal, developing policy, implementation planning and comprehensive evaluation design.”

Marian Newton says in her recommendation for Lora: “I have learned in working with Dr. Peppard that she is an excellent critical creative thinker on projects and a team member who will always follow through on promises. She also brings a positive attitude and ‘can do’ reality based philosophy to the project table.” Lora’s positive attitude is the result of what she sees as the foundation to her identity. “When I strip away many layers of my identity to this day, at the heart I always find a psychiatric nurse,” she says. We look forward to celebrating Lora’s leadership at the APNA 31st Annual Conference in Phoenix.

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The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.