Getting their due: here are our 2020
excellence in nursing winners.


Written by Ken Iglehart and Rebecca Kirkman


Health & Wellness

Top Nurses 2020

Getting their due: here are our 2020 excellence in nursing winners.

Photography by Christopher Myers


WHAT A YEAR TO BE A NURSE: As the pandemic swept from east to west, sickening— and killing—millions, it was the R.N.s in front-line specialties who put themselves at greater risk than most other health-care workers. And people took notice. For once, the spotlight was not entirely on the physicians, as the nation saluted the critical contribution made by these dedicated professionals.

During the crisis, we’ve seen that nurses are now at least as likely as physicians to be the ones directly attending to patients, and those with specialized training can not only perform many of the same roles as a physician, but are the backbone of health care today.

There are few metro areas with more great nurses than Baltimore, and our job in Baltimore’s sixth annual Excellence in Nursing survey was to identify the best of the best. To arrive at the results, we solicited nominations from peers, supervisors, and patients of registered nurses—both in and out of hospitals—who represent the finest in their field, and we received an overwhelming response. And in our accompanying story, we went behind the scenes at a local VA hospital to see the double duty that faced those nurses—caring for wounded veterans plus protecting them from COVID-19.

There were 18 nursing specialties for which we accepted nominations in a process that took nine months. Then the hard part began: picking the finalists. For that, we relied on an impressive panel of highly experienced R.N. advisors, who divvied up the specialties and pored over the hundreds of nominations to arrive at our winners. Congratulations to all 68 of them.

On behalf of Baltimore magazine, we are honored to celebrate, congratulate, and thank the 68 incredible 2020 Excellence in Nursing winners for their bravery and courage during these unprecedented times.

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Our Advisors

Our thanks to the survey’s seven registered-nurse advisors, who lent their time and considerable expertise to the process. The role of the advisors——several of whom have served on the panel in the past——was to review the hundreds of nominations we received in order to identify the winners. Advisors may not be on the winner’s list in the year they serve.

CARLENE FREW is the director of nursing resources at Saint Agnes Healthcare, where she provides oversight to staff, including those in the float pool, IV therapy, and patient escort. Frew earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Phoenix and was a 2016 recipient of Baltimore’s Excellence in Nursing award.

SARAH AFONSO is a director of nursing programs at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she is responsible for assisting the vice president of nursing with coordination of executive priorities and implementation of operational and strategic objectives. She received her bachelor of nursing degree at Florida Gulf Coast University and her master’s in nursing informatics from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

DR. AMY ALSANTE is the magnet coordinator and nursing practice innovation lead at MedStar Harbor Hospital. Her more than 20 years of nursing experience includes critical care, clinical education, and leadership. Alsante earned her bachelor’s degree from Towson University, her master’s in nursing leadership and management from the University of Maryland, and doctor of nursing practice in executive leadership from The George Washington University.

DR. LINDA K. COOK is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Cook has more than 40 years of nursing experience, mainly in critical care and nursing education. She received her initial nursing education at The Genesee Hospital School of Nursing in Rochester, New York, and completed her graduate work at University of Maryland, Baltimore. In her various positions, she has served as a mentor for nurses and nursing students.

CHRISTINE HEIMER currently works as an outpatient R.N. at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (MWPH), where she has served children and their families for the past 20 years. She earned her BSN at Towson University and is certified in pediatrics. Heimer’s experience at MWPH includes roles as a staff R.N., nursing supervisor, and nurse manager.

KAYLENE ROSS is a director of peri-op education at MedStar Harbor Hospital, managing a team of nurses and physicians to provide high-quality, safe patient care to surgical patients. Her more than 40 years of nursing experience includes open-heart surgery, pediatrics, labor and delivery, education, general and orthopedic surgery, ICU, and nursing leadership.

MICHELLE M. RIVERS earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland School of Nursing at Baltimore and master’s degree at Stevenson University. She has 28 years of experience as a medical-surgical nurse and educator. She is an education and resources nurse planner at the American Nurses Association and is a member of the Association of Nursing Professional Development.

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