Instructor writes on white board

From Sesame Street to Italy, Instructor Lisa Iannacci-Manasia Brings Out the Best in Her Students Through Modelling Excellence

September 11, 2018

Lisa Iannacci-Manasia ’77 ’89, MS, knew that when she saw a child first being born, pediatrics was what she wanted to practice — and that doing so involved striving to be at her best. This ambition has marked her career, spanning the United States and Europe, in and out of the classroom, as well as in the clinical setting.

This credo and unflagging energy, inspired by her parents and her education at Columbia Nursing, has been the foundation of her life and her career.

What made you want to become a nurse?

It was a combination of forces. I remember always feeling very compelled to be a protector and caretaker. I also was curious about how the body works, asking my pediatrician hundreds of questions. In addition, I grew up in a household with immigrant parents who stressed I should graduate with a skill that would make my life and others better.

What made Columbia Nursing so special for you, academically and personally?

The culture of academic excellence was palpable at Columbia Nursing. Also, I had parents who emphasized the importance of being the best. Moreover, I became aware of the stakes involved when you’re caring for someone’s health and life. I also believed nursing was uniquely positioned to help individuals, in health or in illness, be the best person they possibly can be.

Can you describe your career path as a nurse after graduating from Columbia Nursing?

Witnessing a child being born for the first time cemented my interest in pediatrics. So, I decided to take my first job at Babies Hospital in New York City, where I soon became a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Specialist. I worked in a national/international research study group there, which put me in touch with the pediatric hospital at the University of Turin in Italy, where I became a Research Nurse Clinician in Pediatric Oncology. After returning to the U. S. and finishing the pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) program at Columbia Nursing, I went into primary care, independently managing my own panel of patients. After a hiatus from nursing, during which time I opened and ran an art gallery — along with some soul searching — I returned to work at Columbia Nursing.

You were a consultant for the children’s educational program Sesame Street. Can you describe that experience?

Upon graduating from the PNP program, I completed a project about health education in the media. I noted that various children’s TV shows were portraying, quite inaccurately, the experience of being in the hospital. So I ended up writing a proposal and reaching out to the director of research for Sesame Street. Once a week, I helped with programming about children’s healthcare issues. The most notable piece I worked on was about Big Bird going to the hospital for an asthma attack.

What does working at Columbia Nursing mean for you, and what are your roles, responsibilities, and passions?

Aside from my teaching role as Instructor of Nursing, I’ve worked as a Clinical Placement Director for the PNP program, a Clinical Placement Liaison for the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, and am overseeing clinical placements for community health in the Masters Direct Entry program. I’m also the Program Director for the Boomer Esiason Foundation (BEF)/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Initiative for Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which has become a deep, abiding passion of mine. In addition, I am simultaneously pursing my PhD in nursing at Molloy College with the goal of contributing to nursing research.

In October last year, the school held a conference titled “The Path Forward in Cystic Fibrosis: Advanced Education for Nurses.” How did you become involved in the project as the program director, what drew you to cystic fibrosis (CF), and what are some of the plans moving forward?

I became involved in the BEF/ J&J Initiative for CF because I saw a need for adult and pediatric nurses to understand CF better in order to help patients transitioning from pediatric to adult care. Years ago, young people diagnosed with CF rarely lived past 14. Now, with advances in research and treatment, people with CF can live beyond 65. Nurses for adult and pediatric patients need to be better educated about CF, so we developed a curriculum and held the inaugural conference here at the school.

Because of the conference’s success, Columbia Nursing’s approach has become a CF national educational model, and we have engaged other schools to replicate the program. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, has already participated. Other schools and hospitals that will participate include: Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, University of Cincinnati; Loyola Medicine, Loyola University Medical Center; and University of Chicago Medicine, University of Chicago. I hope to build upon this and continue partnering with schools and hospitals to educate this country’s nursing population, helping advanced practice nurses and nurse researchers learn about cutting-edge CF care.

You were recently appointed to be a visiting professor at the University of Turin (Italy), Department of the Sciences of Public Health, Nursing and Pediatrics. Can you describe your prior relationship with the university and how it evolved into your appointment?

I worked at the university in the mid-1980s and on a recent vacation to Italy I decided to visit the pediatric hospital — Ospedale Infantile Regina Margherita — to reignite a relationship with the administration there.

This past April, I brought Columbia Nursing students to the University of Turin as part of a six-week internship. Many of the students had the time of their lives learning so much and added real depth and dimension to their skills by absorbing the workings of a foreign clinical culture.

My relationship with the university evolved into my appointment as a visiting professor because the university is very interested in learning how Columbia Nursing teaches our nurses — to be bold, to be independent thinkers, to be evidence based in our approach, to be transformative.

Would you like to add anything else?

I feel tremendous gratitude to be here interacting with students. It is a privilege to help them to become the best they can be and in turn, their patients benefit from the skills they learn and master. This has been my mantra and personal and professional philosophy my entire life.