Malik said her colleague was exceptionally skilled at running daily operations, organizing clinical volunteers and keeping up with the needs of each patient.
That’s why Papa was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Tuesday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. More than 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 receiving nursing awards.
“She has a phenomenal memory, able to cite details about individuals we may not have served in several years,” Malik wrote in nominating Papa for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Celebrating Nurses Award.
Papa first got involved with CCHC in 2015 as a volunteer while beginning nursing school at Emory University. She has academic degrees from Clayton State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Emory. In addition, she is a clinical instructor at Emory’s school of nursing.
Papa said she was “driven to health care and the nursing profession” as her final career. She always had a passion for removing barriers and helping people.
Before nursing, she worked in information technology with the Georgia Board of Regents. One of her tasks was establishing more opportunities for under-served and nontraditional students to obtain a college degree.
She also volunteered with a medical mission group working in Haiti. She helped them create a nonprofit, raise money and even led one of the medical-social mission trips.
“I saw the amazing outpouring of love and compassion,” Papa said.
As the granddaughter of immigrants, Papa grew up in the Midwest with a “sense of duty” and value for education and resourcefulness. Her background has enabled her to connect with the immigrant population the clinic serves.
“I believe that healthcare is a human right, and everybody is entitled to good healthcare,” Papa said. “It’s a pleasure for me to find a career path that linked my head and my heart in a way I could be of service.”
Like every clinic, CCHC shut its doors for in-patient visits in 2020, but that didn’t stop Papa from ensuring the clinic continued to provide services. Malik said it was fully operating by June of 2020, and, in 2021, Papa coordinated nearly 4,000 telehealth and in-person clinic appointments.
Papa also opened the clinic for COVID testing and vaccinations, and CCHC was the first testing location to open on Sundays during the height of the pandemic. Volunteers swabbed almost 1,000 nasal passages in Georgia during four months in 2020, the administrator said.
Papa’s background motivates her to reduce barriers in health care, Malik said. Papa“understands that for a lot of uninsured patients, a primary care clinic also acts as a gateway for other services.”
Two years of COVID-19 exposed the health inequities and socioeconomic disparities shared by many patients, but Papa is determined to find solutions, Malik said.
“Dr. Papa’s model and tireless efforts have allowed our diverse patient population to continue to receive healthcare so that they, in turn, can provide essential services to our communities and nation.”
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Read more about the nurses honored at this year’s ceremony:
Shannan Browning, Piedmont Healthcare
Lauren DePietro, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital
Sarah Harper, Wellstar Cobb Hospital
Rose Horton, Emory Healthcare
Damar Lewis, Northside Hospital Duluth
Deepa Patel, Wellstar Shared Services
Andrew Perea, Kaiser Permanente
Cherish Ramirez, Piedmont Healthcare
Julie Singleton, Northeast Georgia Health System
Denise Ray, Piedmont Healthcare: Nurse Leader Award
Current job: Clinic Administrator at Clarkston Community Health Center
Years of experience: 6+
Educational background in nursing: DNP, MSN, MS, FNP-BC, APRN, RN from Emory University School of Nursing
Family info: Papa grew up in the Midwest, then came to Clayton State University (then Clayton College) on a soccer scholarship. She was in her 30s when she decided to pursue nursing. A foot injury slowed her down, forcing her to sit with her thoughts and take stock of her life. “In those quiet moments, I realized that health care and nursing are where I need to make that next step,” she said.