Head of WT Department of Nursing, Seven Other WT Alums Named to Panhandle Great 25 Nurses List for 2022


Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124, [email protected]


CANYON, Texas — Ten nurses educated at West Texas A&M University—including the current head of the WT Department of Nursing—will be honored among the Panhandle Great 25 Nurses for 2022.

The celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at Embassy Suites Amarillo, 550 S. Buchanan St.

The list, which includes eight WT-educated nurses, was chosen by a committee in collaboration with Texas Nurses Association District 2 and the Panhandle Organization of Nurse Executives. Criteria include leadership qualities, service to the community, compassionate caregiving and significant contributions to the profession of nursing.

Sue Rankin, a 1988 WT graduate, was named to the Texas Nurses Association District 2 Hall of Fame; she now works at Texas Tech Physicians Pediatrics. Dr. Michael Evans, currently dean of the School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, received the Legacy Award; he earned his BSN from WT in 1974.

Dr. Holly Jeffreys, who has served as department head since August 2020, is a nationally certified rural health clinic professional and the owner and provider for the Family Care Clinic of Panhandle, Family Care Clinic of Boys Ranch, Family Care Clinic of Claude and Family Care Clinic of Bushland.

She earned both her bachelor and master of science in nursing at WT in 1997 and 2002, respectively, then earned a doctorate in nursing practice at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston in 2009. She earned a post-master’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certification at WT in May.

“To be recognized as a Great 25 Nurse is truly an honor,” Jeffreys said. “I have spent most of my life serving the people of the Texas Panhandle, and while there is nothing more rewarding than serving others, it is extremely encouraging to know one’s efforts are not only appreciated by patients, but also by one’s peers. More importantly, nothing great is ever done individually. God has blessed me by surrounding me with amazing teams who share in a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others and work tirelessly doing so. The work we do together on a daily basis is what truly makes the biggest impact for individuals, families and our communities. I am truly blessed to be able to share in this work with so many amazing nurses.”

Seven WT alumni also made this year’s Great 25 Nurses list:

  • Silvia Garbalena-Esparza who earned her BSN in 2007 and is a certified nurse midwife for Beyond Birth Midwifery and Birth Haven Center in Amarillo;
  • Allison Henry, who earned her bachelor of science in nursing in 2002 and is now an infection preventionist at the Amarillo VA Healthcare System;
  • Mary Irwin, who earned her BSN in 1986 and now works for Amarillo Regional Pediatric Specialty Clinic and Cook Children’s Healthcare System;
  • Lexi McAnally, who earned her BSN in 2015 and is now charge nurse at Hansford County Hospital District in Spearman; and
  • Teresa McClain, who earned her BSN in 2017 and is director of risk management and compliance officer at Northwest Texas Healthcare System;
  • Jamie Milton, who earned her BSN in 2011 and is now neonatal ICU nurse manager for BSA Health System;
  • Melissa Smith, who earned her BSN in 2005 and is a school nurse at Carver Elementary School in Amarillo.

Also recognized on this year’s list are Suzanne Anderson, Mayra Barber, Rhonda Billington, Ashley Biskup, Julia Burkhard, Alice Conner, Andrea DeLoach, Aaron Gann, Priscilla Gann, Ricardo Granados, Jill Haynes, Polly Johnson, Teresa Moore, Sheryl Mueller, Ashley Paetzold, Jacinda Perez and Hazel Plexico.

Panhandle Great 25 Nurses also will give $2,000 scholarships to 13 students, including three WT students: Vanessa Bolz, senior nursing major from Amarillo; Alyssa Davis, senior nursing major from Amarillo; and Melissa Shanks, graduate nursing student from Aransas Pass.

Established in 1972 and graduating its first students in 1974, WT’s Department of Nursing in its College of Nursing and Health Sciences currently provides about 70 percent of nurses employed throughout the Texas Panhandle.

WT nursing graduates, over the past five years, have averaged a 97 percent score on the National Council Licensure Examination, required by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to test the competency of nursing school graduates in the United States and Canada. Nationally, the average is 85 percent; in Texas, it’s 87 percent.

For information on this event, contact Dr. Richard Pullen at [email protected] or Dr. Valerie Kiper at [email protected].

Meeting regional needs, particularly in healthcare, is a vital component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $110 million.



Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.