New Health Sciences Division Chair
Brings Youthful Vigor and Impressive Track Record to Macon State
By Sheron Smith
As a clinical nurse, Dr. Pam O’Neal often counseled her
patients to learn how to relax.
O'Neal gets to know MSC nursing
major Scott Walker.
Photo by Sheron Smith
Typical of most medical practitioners, however, she seldom took
her own advice.
“I really don’t know how to relax,” said O’Neal,
Macon State’s new chair of the nursing and health sciences
division. “I’ve always worked hard at everything I do.”
And she has much to show for it.
Still shy of her 36th birthday, O’Neal has earned a doctorate
in nursing (a relative rarity in the field), gained a national reputation
for her research in pulmonary medicine and landed on Georgia Trend
magazine’s list of rising stars in business, education and
Macon State is not even her first stop in academic administration.
As chair of the nursing and health sciences division at Gordon College
in Barnesville for the past two years, O’Neal managed a $1
million annual budget and more than 30 full- and part-time faculty.
Her abundant energy should serve O’Neal well as she assumes
leadership of Macon State’s nursing and health sciences division.
Besides overseeing four-year degrees in health information management
and health services administration, as well as two-year programs
in respiratory therapy and nursing, O’Neal will lead the development
of the College’s new bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN,
which the Board of Regents authorized earlier this year.
O’Neal replaces Dr. Diane Craine, who retired from Macon
State last spring after laying the groundwork for the new BSN.
O'Neal shows nursing majors Amanda
Delph, left, and Rachel Andrews a patient exam procedure during
Photo by Sheron Smith
“We needed a division chair who could carry on the good work
begun by Dr. Craine and others, and I’m confident that Pam
O’Neal is that person,” said Dr. David A. Bell, MSC’s
president. “She is a young and outstanding professional with
an impressive academic track record. She has the leadership qualities
Macon State needs to take the health sciences programs to the next
A native of Southaven, Miss., just south of Memphis, Pamela Vickers
O’Neal first thought of a nursing career when she was in high
school. Her younger brother, Wayne, had Down Syndrome, and O’Neal
often accompanied him on hospital visits, including a trip for heart
surgery from which he later died when complications set in. While
naturally saddened by her family’s loss, O’Neal said
the “high-tech, high-touch” nature of nursing fascinated
“Here were these nurses operating all this high-tech equipment
in the intensive care unit,” she said, “but also doing
warm, wonderful things for my brother, like bringing small stuffed
animals he could hold in his hand.”
In her senior year of high school, O’Neal received a prestigious
Horatio Alger Scholarship, awarded to students who have overcome
obstacles and are committed to using their college degrees for public
service. In 1989, O’Neal graduated from Union University in
Jackson, Tenn., with an associate degree in nursing.
Since then she’s earned two bachelors’, a master’s
and that doctorate, but O’Neal treasures her associate degree
as her admission ticket into a field she loves. Her two-year degree
program experience also gives her valuable perspective as she leads
the effort to build Macon State’s BSN, which is specifically
designed for registered nurses with associate degrees who have already
begun their careers.
In Southhaven, Miss., 35 years ago
Education: Ph.D, nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University;
M.S., nursing, University of Tennessee; B.S., nursing, Union
University; B.S., psychology, Union University; A.S., nursing,
Career Highlights: Chair, Division of Nursing &
Health Sciences, Gordon College; program director of National
Institute of Health-funded study, Virginia Commonwealth University;
nursing instructor, Virginia Commonwealth and Emory University;
pulmonary clinical outcomes coordinator, Promina Gwinnett
Medical Center, Lawerenceville; charge/staff nurse, Promina
Douglas Hospital, Baptist Memorial Hospital, The Medical Center
(Columbus, Ga.), Jennie Stuart Medical Center and Madison
County General. Widely published in medical journals, O’Neal
is one of only three nurses in the nation researching ventilator-associated
pneumonia. She sought and received a number of grants for
her research, including a 1999 award from the NIH. Named to
Georgia Trend magazine’s “40 Under 40,”
Rising Stars in Business, Education and Politics.
Family: Husband, Allen O’Neal, manager
of Business Systems Development at Lithonia Lighting, Conyers;
and two bull mastiffs, Megabyte and Sergeant.
Personal interests: Gardening, sewing, reading.
She said it: “Allied health is such a rewarding
profession. Not many other professionals can go home at the
end of a long day and say, ‘I made a difference today.’
“I’m an associate degree product, and I value that
background,” O’Neal said. “I understand the importance
of Macon State’s associate degree in nursing, and that program
will remain strong and viable. At the same time, we’re going
to give practicing nurses a chance to increase their knowledge and
enhance their careers with a baccalaureate education. That’s
going to result in an even better quality of care in this region’s
health care facilities.”
O’Neal’s appointment was welcome news to Central Georgia
health care facility officials who have known her since her time
at Gordon College.
“She is the right person to build the four-year program,”
said Barbara Stickel, senior vice president and chief nursing officer
for the Medical Center of Central Georgia. “It is an enormous
benefit to the Central Georgia community to have someone with Pam’s
outstanding academic credentials and realistic viewpoint of professional
nursing leading Macon State’s nursing program and the recently
approved BSN. Her experience and readiness to accept this challenge
are evident. I think she will ask for what she needs from the academic
and professional communities and will systematically establish a
Two factors should help ensure a high-quality baccalaureate program
for Macon State.
One is the nursing and health sciences division’s top-notch
instructors (“I’m amazed at the outstanding credentials
and work experience we have among the faculty,” O’Neal
said.). Another is the construction of the $16.2 million Nursing,
Health Sciences and Outreach Complex. When completed by fall 2003,
the complex will include state-of-the art teaching facilities for
the nursing program, including a technologically advanced 10-bed
“patient” unit where students will practice. All classrooms
will be completely wired for information technology and distance
“I’m extremely impressed with the growth and development
at Macon State, not just in the health sciences but campuswide,”
O’Neal said. “It’s invigorating to be a part of
O’Neal will work directly with the Georgia Board of Nursing
to develop Macon State’s upper-division nursing courses, which
she hopes will be available by fall 2004. Her plans also include
working with other Macon State departments to develop a high-profile
marketing strategy for the associate and baccalaureate nursing degrees,
as well as her division’s other health sciences degrees.
“The nursing shortage is well-documented, and it’s
my intention that the division will reach out to the Central Georgia
community to come up with creative ways we can help address that
shortage,” O’Neal said. “We’re going to
look for community partnerships to provide optimal learning opportunities
for allied health students and professionals.”
Macon State College
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Bachelor of Science: Macon State's B.S.
in nursing is known as a “completion” degree because it will
be specifically designed for registered nurses with associate
degrees who are already in the workforce and want to complete
a four-year baccalaureate program. Students will be eligible
to enter the program once they have completed an associate
degree in nursing, earned state licensure as RNs and entered
the workforce. It will also be open to graduates of three-year
hospital diploma programs. The baccalaureate nursing program
will consist of 60 academic credit hours beyond the associate
degree. RNs with their associate degrees can begin
now to take the core courses and electives they will need
to enter the B.S. program. New students can
start now to work on their associate degrees in nursing in
anticipation of continuing on in the bachelor's degree program
after entering the workforce as RNs. Macon State expects that
many students will continue to work full-time as registered
nurses while pursuing the four-year degree on a part-time
Other Programs: Macon State's nursing and
health sciences division also offers baccalaureate degrees
in health information management and health services administration.
Associate degree programs include respiratory therapy, health
information technology and physical education.
Call 471-2761 or 471-2762 for more
information about Macon State's health sciences programs or