The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing is establishing an endowed scholarship to honor the memory of Assistant Professor Melody Waller, PhD, RN, a rising nurse leader who passed away February 6.
Dr. Waller, 43, was recently appointed as director of the college’s Dr. Margaret A. Newman Center for Nursing Theory. The scholarship in Dr. Waller’s name will benefit a student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN). The link to contribute to the Melody Waller Endowed Scholarship fund is http://giving.uthsc.edu/waller.
“Melody was one of a kind and will be greatly missed,” said College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP. “I hired Melody as a research nurse when I first joined the college as a faculty member and saw her tremendous growth over her years with us. She was a tremendous faculty member, leader, and educator. But most importantly, Melody was an exceptional person with a beautiful spirit.”
A native of Chattanooga, Dr. Waller joined the College of Nursing faculty in 2009 and earned her PhD in Nursing Science at UTHSC in 2016. She served as the RN to BSN program coordinator for several years, and most recently led the college task force charged with seeking National League for Nursing (NLN) Center of Excellence status. The college was designated as an NLN Center of ExcellenceTM in the category of Enhancing Student Learning and Professional Development for a four-year term from 2021-2025.
Dr. Waller mentored many students in the college in her unique lighthearted way, said Assistant Professor Trina Barrett, DNP, RN, CNE, CCRN. “Her commitment to students did not end at graduation. She continually helped former students to grow in her beloved specialty area of women’s health. Personally, I consider Melody’s most significant impact on the nursing college is how she embodied inclusivity and camaraderie among students, faculty, and staff.”
Dr. Waller’s honors include receiving the Student Government Association Executive Council Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011 and 2013 and the Johnson & Johnson/American Association of Colleges of Nursing Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship Award in 2013 and 2014.
Assistant Professor Crystal Walker, PhD, DNP, FNP-C, met Dr. Waller as a student. “Throughout my nursing program, she coached me, advocated for me, and mentored me to finish strong,” Dr. Walker said. “I graduated No. 1 in my nursing school class, and I owe it all to the belief that Melody had in me. I knew she was rooting for me, and I wanted to make her proud.”
In addition to her role within the college, Dr. Waller held several positions in community and professional organizations. These included service as a national board member for One-By-One Ministries, which trains volunteers from local churches to mentor expectant parents or parents with new babies. She was also vice president of the Beta Theta At Large chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society and was co-chair of the Minority Health Research Interest Group of the Southern Nursing Research Society. Dr. Waller’s research efforts were directed toward women’s health and improving the sexual and reproductive health status of African American women.
Professor Mona Newsome Wicks, PhD, RN, FAAN, was Dr. Waller’s department chair and her mentor in her PhD program.
“It was a gift to see her thrive in her new role this past year, developing and promoting our Dr. Margaret A. Newman Center of Excellence in Nursing Theory. The position was a perfect match for her talents because Melody could build relationships and get things done – work critical to creating new initiatives,” she said. “Dr. Melody Waller will be sorely missed and forever remembered by those who knew and loved her radiant spirit and encompassing smile.”