Q: What does an award like this mean when it’s given by your peers?
A: It means the world to me that my peers recognize my contribution in advocacy. The ACR/ARHP has given me the opportunity to combine my love of physical therapy with my love of advocacy.
ARHP Distinguished Clinician Award
Debra Bancroft Rizzo, MSN, FNP-BC
Nurse Practitioner, Division of Rheumatology, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Background: In 1981, Debra Rizzo started her career as a nursing assistant on a 24-bed inpatient arthritis unit at Columbia Hospital in Milwaukee, Wis. “I was surprised by the complexity of many [patients] we cared for, along with the [need for] patient education to manage chronic illness,” she says. “As I completed my education and began my nursing career, I chose to continue caring for this group of patients and have never turned back.”
It worked. Ms. Rizzo has had a 36-year career and been honored multiple times by the ARHP. She worked in private practice in Milwaukee for 15 years before moving to the University of Michigan in 2011. Ms. Rizzo has been a member of the ARHP since 1982, was an associate editor for its first online training program (now known as the Advanced Rheumatology Course) for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and was scientific editor for its first two revisions.
Ms. Rizzo’s awards mantle includes the ARHP Addie Thomas Service Award, the ARHP President’s Award and the Yost Volunteer of the Year Award from the Arthritis Foundation’s Wisconsin chapter.
Q: What is it about rheumatology that keeps you so engaged?
A: It’s the mix of caring for complex patients and teaching self-management skills to these patients, [and] the evolution of so many new treatments and the need to keep abreast of the research and clinical applications. I’ve found I can do that best by being involved in clinical activities, as well as other volunteer and professional activities.
Q: What lessons have you learned from mentors over your career?
A: I’ve had several mentors through the years, starting with [past ARHP President] Janice Pigg, RN, who taught me the value of teaching patients self-care and the value of an interdisciplinary team of caregivers. I’ve [also] had many physician mentors who’ve taught me the value of getting a thorough history from a patient, without which a diagnosis may be hard to come by. Working on different committees, I’ve learned important lessons on how to be a leader and how important it is to delegate tasks to accomplish a goal.