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Editor's note: Virginia Lipke is one of the recipients of the American Association of Community Colleges' 2012 Outstanding Alumni Award. They will be honored this week at the annual AACC convention in Orlando.
Virginia Lipke has earned associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and health care, but it was her experience at a community college that taught her the invaluable skill of managing time.
“The time-management aspect of going to school and juggling home and work commitments was very useful,” said Likpe, who works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an infection control and prevention nurse, teaching people around the world how to live healthier lives.
Her teachers at DeKalb College (now Georgia Perimeter College) also made an impression on her.
“My instructors were experts in giving adult learners the tools and support needed to complete such a rigorous nursing program,” Likpe said. “They are truly gifted mentors and made time for each student’s questions and concerns.”
She found her community college experience critical in preparing her for her future career as a nurse specializing in helping people with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
“The most positive parts were a) knowing that upon graduation I would have the skills and knowledge to deliver safe and compassionate care to my patients, and b) that ongoing education would be needed in order to provide the excellent level of care and service that everyone deserves,” Lipke said.
A fledgling career
Lipke’s dedication to preventing the spread of infectious diseases started early in her medical career. Her first job after obtaining her associate degree was at Emory University School of Medicine’s Grady Infectious Disease Clinic, where she served as a research nurse and study coordinator for multiple clinical trials. She discovered a passion for helping those with HIV/AIDS.
Four years later, Lipke was working at Piedmont Hospital and within a year became manager of its infection control department, with direct responsibility for 500 beds. She then served as an infection control practitioner at the three-hospital Clarian Health System in Indianapolis, Ind., and was manager of infection control at the two St. Luke Hospitals of Northern Kentucky. In 2008, she accepted the position with the CDC’s Global AIDS Program.
As part of one of the world’s most advanced HIV/AIDS prevention program, Lipke brings her health-care expertise to some of the remotest regions in the world. Each year, she visits six sub-Saharan African countries, advising on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention and care in rural clinics that often do not have water.
In addition, Lipke develops strategies and guidance for infection control in areas with few resources and represents CDC in meetings with local and federal government personnel. Her strategies have helped to set the standard for HIV/AIDS and TB patient care throughout the world.
Extending her global reach further, Lipke works with several international agencies, including the World Health Organization, with whom she has collaborated on several documents about tuberculosis infection control.
Lipke’s excellence in nursing has been recognized by numerous organizations. The Cincinnati Business Chronicle named her a 2006 Healthcare Hero for her work in implementing ventilator-associated pneumonia reduction programs. In 2007, the Association of Professionals in Infection Control named her a “Hero in Infection Prevention” for her work in implementing standing orders for pneumococcal and influenza vaccines and other programs.
Despite her international recognition, Lipke hasn’t forgotten her roots. She is dedicated to giving back to her alma mater, serving as president of the GPC Nursing Alumni Association Board and as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, where she assists with capital campaigns and other projects. She also takes time to speak in GPC’s nursing classes and at special events.
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