Public Servant of the Year

Susan AntolSusan M. Antol, PhD, RN
School of Nursing
Assistant professor, Department of Partnerships, Professional Education and Practice
Director, Wellmobile and School-Based Program 

Her colleagues say Susan M. Antol, director of the Wellmobile and school-based programs at the School of Nursing (SON), is a quilt maker. Not that she ever picks up conventional needles.

"She knits together the strengths and assets of the community to advance and support the health and functioning of the populations and people she serves," says Kathryn Montgomery, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, chair of the Department of Partnerships, Professional Education and Practice at SON. "In my more than 15 years of working with Susan, she has often referred to her work as making a 'quilt' — assessing each piece and knitting all the pieces together to benefit patients, families, and the community.  I have observed Susan making her ‘quilt’ of community assets in both rural and urban settings with farmers, migrant workers, new immigrants, children, and chronically disadvantaged populations." 

Antol joined SON in 1998 as director of clinical operations for the array of nurse managed clinics, including the Wellmobile, Open Gates, and school-based health centers, and clinical instructor in community health nursing, bringing over two decades of experience in community and home health care nursing. Since 2009, Antol has been director of the Wellmobile, which has provided health care services in underserved areas ranging from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Western Maryland.

One of many improvements she has made is expanding the interprofessional component of the Wellmobile, adding a family medicine physician, clinical pharmacy consultant, and outreach workers to the team.

"A nurse-managed health center that provides primary care on a mobile unit at off-campus sites requires a competent health care delivery team," Antol says. "Successful program implementation requires commitment to teamwork by faculty and staff across the health professions and ancillary staff, attentiveness to project goals, and adherence to performance standards."

The collaborators on the Wellmobile team applauded Antol’s efforts.

"Through her leadership, she cultivated and developed our greatest assets for becoming an interprofessional team with amazing synergy," says nurse care manager Carole Staley Collins, PhD, MSN, PHCNS-BC, on behalf of the team. "It has brought us to a higher level of functioning and advanced the impact of the care for the underserved people that we care for."

Despite the thousands of patients it treats annually, Wellmobile state funding was cut in half in 2009. Antol diligently pursued grants and partnerships, acquiring three years of funding from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, $1.04 million from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and collaborated with the School of Pharmacy on a $1.2 million Maryland Community Health Resources Commission Grant.

Obtaining the HRSA grant in particular underscores Antol’s tenacity, perseverance, and fierce dedication, says SON Dean Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN.

"She initially applied to HRSA in 2012 for a grant on interprofessional collaboration but was not funded," Kirschling says in her nomination letter. "In 2013, she applied again and was scored but not funded; in 2014, she applied and was scored, accepted, but not funded due to lack of funds. Then following funding reconsideration, she was funded in 2015 for a three-year, $1 million grant. She is someone with enormous resilience in the face of setbacks and the strength of character and will not give up."

Antol humbly says it’s just part of the job. "Each grant was awarded based on competitive applications."

Her willingness to go where others refuse to go has added to her legion of fans.

Scott Burleson, MBA, FACHE, executive director of Shore Medical Center in Chestertown, says "medical professional shortages" there were a problem that often fell on deaf ears.

"Susan Antol and her team are a notable exception. She directed a nurse practitioner, a PhD level nurse case manager, and support staff to 'case find' for patients that were underserved," Burleson says. "In 2012, we began a [four-year] cooperative arrangement with the Governor’s Wellmobile. Staff visited three sites in our hospital’s service area and provided urgent care, primary care, social services, and referrals to specialty care. The cases that they came across were startling and examples of what can happen when patients 'fall out' of the system."

Another Antol Eastern Shore success story was a qualitative study of the "Health Issues of Female Mexican Crab Pickers" (2004-2006). Links to community resources, including the Choptank Community Health System and the Dorchester County Health Department, enabled Wellmobile nurse practitioners, with the help of interpreters, to conduct health assessments and coordinate care of women employed by the numerous crab houses on Hooper’s Island.

"Dr. Antol is a true advocate for developing and implementing programs to serve others," says Sara Rich, MPA, president and CEO of Choptank Community Health. "Her efforts have made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and migrant workers in the state of Maryland."

Another overlooked population, human trafficking survivors, also has benefited because of Antol’s efforts. "Through a partnership with the SAFE Center, the Wellmobile has been an important source of primary care for a number of the human trafficking survivors with whom we work," says Laura Ardito, deputy director.

As if directing the Wellmobile (which provided 2,480 nurse practitioner, 57 family medicine, 394 nurse care manager, 977 social work, and 2,204 outreach worker visits in fiscal year 2016) and all these projects wasn’t enough, Antol also is an active member of key statewide organizations such as the Maryland Assembly on School-Based Health Care and the Governor’s School-based Health Center Policy Advisory Council (PAC).

With PAC, she worked on amendments that allowed for much-needed reimbursement for the School-Based Health Centers and more timely care for the children.

Asked how she finds the time, Antol says, "Meetings are mainly early in the day or after work. Sharing expertise is community service."

Completing her 'quilt,' Montgomery says, "Susan’s passion, creativity, and persistence is remarkable. In many cases [she] provides the only source of health care for families and workers."