NCH Director Selected As International College Graduation Student Speaker

NCH Healthcare System Director of Pediatric and Childcare Services Joanne Loewel has been selected as the 2001 International College graduation student speaker.

Loewel, 43, of Naples, has a perfect 4.0 GPA and will graduate summa cum laude in June, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in management.

“I was shocked when I was selected,” said Loewel, who has been with NCH for 24 years, starting out as a Certified Nursing Assistant and eventually moving into management. “I’m really looking forward to giving this speech.”

Loewel had the drive to go to school and improve professionally. What she was unsure about was the time. Loewel is married, has three children ages 10, 13 and 21, manages four departments at the hospital and sits on various community boards and committees.

An initial return to college at another local institution failed, because the courses didn’t fit into her schedule. Later, officials at NCH told Loewel about International College.

“Because I was in management, I felt it would be important to enhance those skills,” she said. “The experience at International College had a major impact on how I managed myself, my time and my staff.”

Being selected as the graduation student speaker will be just one of the experiences Loewel adds to her resume. The first occurred when Loewel took a marketing class with International College Professor Gene Landrum. Students were asked to come up with a business plan. Loewel turned her vision for an infant/toddler daycare center into a reality.

NCH officials approved in September Loewel’s plan for a daycare center, which will be made available to hospital employees and businesses that support NCH’s Sick Child Care Program. The daycare will accept newborns and toddlers up to age 36 months. Groundbreaking has started on the building, which should be completed in one year.

The hospital already has a daycare center, but accepts only infants. After conducting extensive research, Loewel found there was a strong need for toddler care as well.

“International College has given me more confidence and has given me the knowledge to get a plan from the idea phase to a reality,” she said.

Jim Cato, Executive Vice President of Clinical Operations for NCH, said he encourages all his management teams to pursue higher education.

“Education is an important aspect of management,” Cato said. “Although we provide leadership, hospitals are not educational institutions. The opportunity to go back to school and get business and leadership skills will better equip them to run their units.”

Cato is not surprised that Loewel is the graduation student speaker or that she got her business plan approved.

“I know the caliber of person she is. She is someone who is involved in healthcare and the community,” he said. “I’m very proud of her.”

International College President Terry McMahan said the student speaker spot was highly competitive this year. Eight students were under consideration for the honor. Criteria for student graduation speaker include having a 3.9 to 4.0 GPA, earning a bachelor’s degree and possessing strong speaking skills.

“The students all were exceptional. Ms. Loewel exemplified the nontraditional student who attends International College,” he said. “ She also has a level of enthusiasm the audience will enjoy.”

Loewel has clear message she wants to send graduates during the June 9 graduation ceremony.

“Don’t be afraid to try. As an adult learner, I want other people to understand learning doesn’t stop when you graduate from high school. There are a lot of opportunities available to us,” she said. “Don’t shy away from things you think you aren’t going to be able to do. I decided to take on the challenge. I’m glad now that I did.”
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