Congratulations to Mila Devineni, SRNA, for being selected as the first-ever recipient of the Patty Cornwell Stewardship and Advocacy Scholarship! An SRNA at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing Nurse Anesthesia Option and president of the Tennessee Association of Student Nurse Anesthetists (TASNA), Mila will be honored on August 16 during the 2021 AANA Annual Congress in Austin, Texas.

The $3,000 scholarship was established jointly by the Tennessee Association of Nurse Anesthetists and the AANA Foundation in recognition of legendary TANA member Patty Cornwell, CRNA, who has devoted a lifetime of service to her profession, TANA, and the AANA.

“Patty Cornwell is an inspirational woman and a force to be reckoned with. She is a pillar in our community and a symbol of what lifelong advocacy looks like. To be given an award in her name is such an amazing compliment,” said Mila. “I love working with TANA and appreciate how much they value student involvement. I’ve put in years of work, dedication and added stress during my time as TASNA president and it feels amazing to have my leadership and commitment rewarded in this way. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!”

Mila, who will graduate in May 2022, said she knew she wanted to become a CRNA “because it involved everything I loved about the ICU—the critical care, patient care, monitoring and critical thinking. Plus, it allowed me the autonomy to care for my patients without waiting for someone else to write orders. Being a CRNA is exactly what I want for my profession!”

She is equally passionate about getting involved and embracing leadership opportunities. “I see myself as someone who stands up for what’s right because that’s how I was raised,” said Mila, explaining her motivation. “I’ve always tried to advocate for my patients and for social causes I believe in, but I never thought I’d be interested in advocating for the CRNA profession until I started anesthesia school and my program’s faculty took the time and effort to educate us on how important organizations like TANA and the AANA are for our community. I knew I had to do whatever I could to stay involved.”

Among her many mentors in life and along the road to becoming a nurse anesthetist, Mila especially recognizes her mom, who is “the strongest person I know”; Professor Lanny Coker, “always a source of support for me in CRNA school”; and TANA CRNA Hope Ferguson, who “has been a role model for me and whose footsteps I hope to follow.”

Still new to her profession, Mila is already building an impressive resume that includes serving as the TASNA president since 2019. In this role she leads the TASNA Board, which mirrors the TANA Board but is entirely student-led. TASNA is dedicated to increasing student involvement in TANA and ensuring that SRNAs’ voices are heard and opinions valued. During the COVID-19 pandemic, TASNA has been a strong advocate for SRNA safety.

Mila also serves on the Memphis Student Nurse Anesthetist Foundation (MSNAF), whose goal is to promote the nurse anesthesia profession through scholarship, community service, and bringing anesthesia professionals together while offering students the opportunity to broaden their scope of professional engagement. In her role as the MSNAF director of internal communications, Mila facilitates communication between 60+ SRNAs, CRNAs, and faculty members throughout Memphis. MSNAF organizes a variety of events, most notably Education Weekend, a smaller version of TANA’s Annual Conference which is entirely student-led and funded.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for TANA and their willingness to give SRNAs a platform and a voice,” Mila said. “Being a student can be so difficult—we work long hours, don’t get paid, are constantly stressed out, and stuck at the bottom of the totem pole for years. Knowing that TANA will always advocate for our rights just as hard as they advocate for CRNAs means the world to me.

“I’ve been so honored to represent the SRNAs of Tennessee, and will absolutely stay involved after finishing school, especially in TANA. I admire how dedicated TANA and the AANA are to protecting our profession. It inspires me to be a lifelong advocate for CRNAs so future generations will love this profession as much as I do—similar to what Patty has done for my generation,” Mila said.

Patty, who is now retired, devoted her professional career to providing exceptional anesthesia care to patients for surgery, labor and delivery, and other healthcare needs, and she devoted her spare time to serving the nurse anesthesia profession she loved. After graduating from the Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia, she joined the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) in 1972 and the Tennessee Association of Nurse Anesthetists (TANA) in 1976. Throughout her decades of membership, she served as TANA president three times, on dozens of committees, and as the organization’s executive director, lobbyist, and federal political director at various points in her career. She was passionate about advocating for her profession at the local, state and national levels.

The Patty Cornwell Stewardship and Advocacy Scholarship, to be awarded annually to an SRNA enrolled in one of Tennessee’s nurse anesthesia educational programs, follows the establishment in 2015 of the Patty Cornwell Practitioner of the Year Award, given annually by TANA to a Tennessee CRNA in recognition of Cornwell’s exemplary career as a clinician.

“Throughout her career, Patty was a shining example for all nurse anesthetists on how to provide high-quality, compassionate, patient-centered care,” said TANA President Vic Martin, MBA, CRNA, APN. “As a dedicated association member, Patty worked tirelessly to strengthen TANA and to advance and protect nurse anesthesia practice. She truly has been a difference-maker for our profession.”

“I’m excited that Mila is the first recipient of this new scholarship,” said Patty. “I always encourage CRNAs and students to get involved in their state association and be as knowledgeable as possible about what is going on around them that can impact their profession and career. It’s important to pay attention and keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Mila has demonstrated a determination to do exactly that. She has a bright future!”

Please join TANA in congratulating Mila for being honored with this first-time scholarship.

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