In the Spotlight: Spring 2021 Valedictorian Dana Lall, B.S., Nursing

Leah Schmerl


Dana Lall

Dana Lall's nursing education not only propelled her to spring 2021 valedictorian honors but equipped her to help New York combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dana has been administering COVID-19 vaccines as part of an externship she landed this spring with Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn. Her message about the importance of vaccinations is clear.

"If you decide to get vaccinated, you will benefit yourself and everyone else, because you're helping stop the spread of COVID-19," she said. "Don't be afraid to do your research beforehand. Ask any questions to your nurse or whoever you have administering the vaccine to you."

A 2017 graduate of Midwood High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, Dana entered SFC with plans to pursue nursing from the start. She maintained an active life outside the classroom that enriched her classroom learning. As secretary of the College's nursing club, she helped organize a panel discussion this year with professionals from a range of nursing specialties, providing career guidance and hope to her fellow students.

Dana also tutored a student whose parents are incarcerated, as a member of the Make A Difference club. "I was really able to empower her," she said of that experience.

But the biggest impact to her nursing education may be her internships in medical facilities, helping develop her expertise in addressing patient needs. In addition to her work at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, she spent the summer of 2019 at Bishop Orris G. Walker Jr. Health Care Center, part of the Interfaith Medical Center, calling patients to confirm appointments. "That really enhanced my communication skills," she said.

Dana recently reflected on her being selected the 2021 spring valedictorian, and on her outstanding record at St. Francis College.

How does it feel to be spring 2021 valedictorian?

It's such an honor to be chosen as the valedictorian. This is not something I ever imagined that I would be. I had to look back at the email about 10 times because it was so unexpected. All my professors, all my friends and my family and everyone was just so excited when they found out. Everyone's so proud of me. I'm so happy that I get to represent the Nursing Department this way.

Why did you choose to pursue nursing at St. Francis College?

I chose nursing because of my grandfather. He was diagnosed with ALS and passed away in 2019. My family and I, we had him admitted to a nursing home. It was really the nurses who were always there to support him – as well as my family and me – through the whole process. It was that experience that solidified in my mind that I wanted to become a nurse. I want to be able to uplift my patients and provide them with the best support and care that I possibly can.

What classroom experience at SFC had a big impact on your success here?

Being able to practice skills hands-on in the skills lab has really contributed to my success. I was honestly very afraid to even touch the nursing mannequins when I first entered the lab. So being able to take blood pressure on other students, and practice performing injections on the mannequins was something that I was grateful to experience. It built my confidence.

What personal qualities allowed you to achieve so much at SFC?

I'm very determined and I always try to challenge myself. I decided to take a credit overload in fall 2020. I took 19 credits because I wanted to do an honors thesis.

What did you research for your honors thesis?

My thesis is titled "The Nursing Students' Perception of the Virtual Clinical Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic."

Being able to hear what nursing students have to say about how the pandemic impacted their education was very beneficial because it allowed the students to have a voice. Also, it made me realize I may want to pursue nursing research in the future. I like to take advantage of all the opportunities that are given to me no matter what obstacles stand in my way.

How did your clinical experience while at SFC contribute to your success?

Currently I have an externship at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. It's been an amazing opportunity. I'm very grateful for it because I know that many hospitals don't even want nursing students inside their facilities during the pandemic. I've been at this externship since January, and it's 19 weeks long. I've had the opportunity to be on different units at the hospital. I've been exposed to different specialties. I was able to see a patient give birth recently. And I was in the OR. I saw hysterectomy. I never thought that this was something that I'd be able to see as a student nurse. I was also able to administer COVID-19 vaccines. That was a wonderful opportunity because the patients are so grateful. They really want us to try and stop the pandemic.

How did you get this externship?

My nursing issues professor, Dr. Susana Duran, is a nurse educator there. She reached out to me back in October telling me about the possible externship that the hospital may have, but they were unsure because of COVID at the time. She told me that she wanted to recommend me because she thinks that I'm very professional, and that I would be a great fit. I was excited, although at first, I was also hesitant because of COVID. I didn't want to risk the safety of my parents and my whole family. But I thought to myself, this is an opportunity that I'll never get again, and I'm about to graduate. So, I should take it while I can.

What's next for you?

I plan on taking the summer to study because I want to take NCLEX, which is the test to get our license to become a registered nurse. My goal is to work in the neonatal intensive care unit because I just fell in love with working with babies. I think they need all the love, attention, and support that they can get during that time in the ICU. I definitely see myself furthering my education, too. I'm not sure when, maybe in about two years, but I would like to become a nurse educator and do more research within the field of nursing.