Nursing scholarships help area students on to success

ST. MARYS – Since the St. Marys Nurses Study Club officially began in 1940, 35 scholarships have been awarded to area residents pursuing a nursing career, and the very first recipient of that scholarship has said it made a significant difference in her life.Connie (Meyer) Otteni, who recently joined the study club, was awarded the scholarship in 1966. "This was far more than I dreamed of when I graduated from Elk County Christian High School in 1965, and was awarded that first scholarship from the St. Marys Nurses Study Club," Otteni said. "As the oldest of 12 children [of Robert and Catheryn Meyer], it was a stretch to think I could afford to go to college at all. The money from the Nurses Study Club helped make it a reality." Otteni retired from nursing in 2003 after a 37-year career and moved back to the St. Marys area at that time. A graduate of St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing in Erie, she earned her bachelor's degree in Health System Administration from Empire State College and a master's degree in Public Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo. Her impressive career began at Tri-County hospital in Gowanda, N.Y., in the intensive care unit and emergency department, where she worked for 18 years. She then entered the area of healthcare quality improvement, working in a number of western New York hospitals as director of quality improvement. In 1991, Otteni joined HealthNow NY (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York), from which she retired in 2002 as their corporate vice president of healthcare quality improvement. While there, she was responsible for all of the company's divisions in NYS, including the healthcare of over 500,000 members of the HMO Community Blue. In addition, she served as an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and did extensive speaking at healthcare and quality seminars and programs across many states.