First-class caring all the way

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At a touching and solemn ceremony, class valedictorian and summa cum laude Sarah Roth, 30, led the largest class to graduate from the Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing. The Borough Park resident and mother of three young children, completed an intense two-year Associate’s degree program at the top of her class and was the recipient of The Seymour J. Phillips Award for Highest Scholastic Achievement.

Roth thanked the school faculty for “their caring, patience and support,” as well as her supportive family, particularly her husband, Shloime, her “biggest supporter,” who worked two jobs in addition to taking on additional household responsibilities to allow her to concentrate on her nursing studies.

“I could not have done this without him,” she said. “And thanks to my kids who are the best fan club in the world.” Roth also exhorted her fellow graduates “to make a difference, one patient at a time.”

Diplomas were awarded by Phillips Beth Israel Trustee Co-Chairs Janet Green and Ruth Nerken. After 100 seniors had marched up the stage one by one to receive their hard-earned associate in applied science degree in nursing, the face of one student who should have been there flashed on the screen and his classmates stood up and cheered as Dean Janet Mackin, RN, EdD, announced the posthumous honorary degree to Nestor Sulpico, widely acclaimed as “New York’s most honest taxi driver” after returning precious black pearl necklaces left by a passenger.

Devorah E. Shulkin earned the second highest GPA, which won her the Rita Hillman Award for academic excellence coupled with compassionate patient care.

Shujun Cao was the recipient of the Dr. Chaim and Pearl Weiss Award, established by alumna Ruth Merdinger to honor the memory of her parents who perished in the Holocaust. Cao is a native of China, and her experience of coming to the US paralleled the challenges Merdinger faced as a young woman when she was given the opportunity to go to nursing school.

Acclaimed stage and film actress Lynn Redgrave, chosen by the students to be commencement speaker, offered encouraging words — relating how nurses had brought her comfort during her experiences with childbirth and as a cancer survivor.

“The Class of 2008 is a diverse group of students who have completed a rigorous program of nursing education in our traditional day and innovative weekend programs,” said Dean Janet Mackin, RN, EdD. “This is the culmination of concentrated learning and preparation for working in a variety of patient care settings, as well as a stepping stone for more advanced nursing degrees.”

The majority of the class are second-career individuals who switched to nursing, determined to be part of the solution to the nursing shortage. Roth taught high school algebra and trigonometry in a Brooklyn yeshiva for 10 years before turning to nursing.

Dean Mackin noted that most of the students held jobs and many raised families and had other responsibilities while in school. About 79 percent of the class have indicated that they plan to seek Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees, which will be facilitated by the school’s recent articulation agreement with Excelsior College, a nationally recognized leader in nursing education.

“I am confident that graduates of this class are destined to become excellent nurses and some will become the nursing leaders of the future,” Dean Mackin averred.

The Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, a part of Beth Israel Medical Center, is located at 776 Sixth Avenue between 26th and 27th streets in the Fashion/Flower District of Manhattan.

For more, visit the Phillips Beth Israel website,

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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