By NASH NUNNERY
Tonya Moore embraces the KIS (not KISS) method in her life.
“I like to ‘keep it simple’ but without the second ‘S’ (for stupid) in KISS,” she said, smiling. “I’m not a complicated person.”
The current president of the Mississippi Nurses Association, Moore also serves as executive director of leadership and workforce development with the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Simplicity seems to serve the soft-spoken Moore well.
Growing up in Fayette, she was inspired into a nursing career by her mother, who went back to school and earned her nursing degree when Moore was a teenager. Seeing her mother’s dedication to post-partum nursing, Moore decided the job was a perfect fit for her personality.
“All the boxes were checked,” she said.
Before her professional trajectory with UMMC, the Chicago native’s nursing career began as a medical surgical nurse in 1995 at Vicksburg’s Parkview Regional Medical Center. Two years later, Moore went to UMMC as a staff nurse and advanced to hold various educator and management positions as she does today.
Moore found that she could impact patient care in a different way – influencing the bedside nurses by making sure they had what they needed to provide quality care.
Last October, Moore was elected as the first African-American president in the 108-year history of the MNA. A portion of her role is to serve as the state’s representative to the American Nurses Association.
“I was an MNA member for years and it broadened my view of nursing and healthcare,” she said. “My goal as president is to encourage more engagement among all nurses in the state of Mississippi, and to continue to elevate the standards for our profession. When I started advancing my education, it was clear to me that I needed to be involved in policy and advocacy.”
Leadership and health-care disparities are two subjects near and dear to Moore’s heart. She has great admiration for the leadership qualities of her grandfather Charles Evers, who remains an iconic figure in the Mississippi civil rights movement story.
“Mississippi ranks first in so many negative health-care areas, including obesity,” she said. “The bedside nurse faces an increased complexity in issues experienced by patients. Nurses have many challenges today in treating patients. Keeping up with technology – telemedicine and AI (artificial intelligence) – present nurses with even greater challenges.
“The landscape of health care is changing and changing at a rapid pace.”
The first in her family to earn a doctoral degree, Moore chose to study nursing research at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Her dissertation was a study of obesity in African-American women.
“Pursuing the doctorate was a wonderful journey, though extremely hard as a single, working mother,” she explained. “UAB has a solid reputation in the medical community and lent diversity to my educational profile.
“Earning a doctorate allowed me to understand my leadership style and added to my credibility. And, to understand the ‘whys’ of obesity based on data, research and resources.”
Through New Hope Baptist Church in north Jackson, Moore began a series of volunteer nursing mission trips abroad in 2003. She’s traveled to Honduras and Africa’s Malawi several times, including a few missions shared with her mother and son Ralph, who is scheduled to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in May.
“As a servant-leader, I enjoy giving back and the mission trips give me a better understanding of the relationship between environment and health,” she said. “You see health disparities up-close-and-personal in those countries, and realize that environment and health work hand-in-hand.”
In 2019, Moore was honored to receive several awards recognizing her work, including the prestigious Myrlie Evers-Williams Minority Health Leader Award. Evers-Williams is the widow of late civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Charles’ younger brother.
“I was blown away and it was so special being a descendant of the Evers family,” Moore said. “(Myrlie Evers-Williams) is the same person on TV as she is with family. The leadership example she set… to be associated with her in anyway, is truly an honor.”
When she’s not working, Moore enjoy traveling, be it a mission trip overseas or to Annapolis to visit her son. Leisure reading and dancing also are high on her list of ways to wind down.
“It’s all about work-life balance,” Moore said.
In her “next professional life”, Moore claims, she’d like to transition to motivational speaker.
“I always ask myself ‘how can I continue to have a positive impact on people?’”, she said. “The answer is to inspire people to set goals and let them know they can achieve them.”
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