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Sally Rives doesn’t do straight lines. A very suburban kid from Greensboro, NC who’d never really been outside her home state, Rives nonetheless has thrown herself into opportunities to serve needy communities in West Africa and Peru. And of course, here she is in urban Baltimore, working her way through the MSN: Entry into Nursing Practice program and toward what she expects will be a career in nursing research.

“In some ways I feel like my path has been linear,” she explains, “but it really hasn’t been at all.”

Sally Rives

Photo by Chris Hartlove

A lifelong athlete herself—“soccer, swimming … whatever was out there”—Rives had set herself on a path toward a career in sports-related physical therapy. It made sense. “Then I went abroad for a summer in West Africa … Benin.” There, she got to sit in on community public health education activities “and that got me excited.” Scratch the PT. It was on to health research.

First, an undergraduate adviser at Wake Forest University got her involved with a diabetes study. Then she joined a company working on research funded by the National Institutes of Health. “As the entry-level person, they let me test out a few different things,” Rives says, meaning, of course, that they “let” her do the grunt work. “I got to learn all these little details, and so that helped me develop even more of a passion for research, just this idea that we can always improve our policies and our practices.”

But what really caught her attention? “We worked with a lot of research nurses, and their protocols—they are really at the intersection of the health care research and delivery. That really appealed to me.”

The patient-care part? That’s growing on her too. “Clinical days are the most terrifying days of the week for me,” Rives explains. “Just because I don’t have as much past experience in patient care, I feel out of place sometimes—but also very supported. I begin each clinical day terrified, and I leave with the biggest sense of accomplishment. So it’s a good kind of scared.”

She’s learned to embrace her own emotional nature, and even channel it in her caregiving.

“These patients are letting you be with them at some of their most emotional times, the highest highs and the lowest lows,” Rives explains.

After her MSN, Rives figures she’ll move into research and teaching. Both parents are in higher education: Mom teaches innovation and entrepreneurship and Dad’s a chemistry professor. “I like to think my goal has always been the same: to work in health care and promote health. But where I thought I was going with that has changed a little bit.”

The Louise G. Thomas Cooley Scholarship Fund

The Louise G. Thomas Cooley Scholarship Fund was established in 2004 by her friends. Learn more at nursing.jhu.edu/financialaid.

LEGACY: Louise G. Thomas Cooley

Louise Goldsborough Thomas of Frederick, MD lived a love story that began when, as a head nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, she met dashing young resident surgeon Denton Cooley. Though she and Denton would soon marry and move to Texas, Hopkins Nursing and Maryland remained deep in her heart.

Louise G. Thomas Cooley, ’49, died October 21 at age 92 just after this magazine’s Fall 2016 issue was published. From her family obituary:

Louise was proud of her “roots” in Frederick, Maryland; a historic town famous for its church spires and the burial site of Francis Scott Key. She would regale her family with tales of the swinging bridge, visits to Braddock Heights, the oyster barrel in the cellar where her chore was to keep the live oysters fed. All her life, oysters, served any style, were her first choice on a menu. …

Her training as a nurse proved invaluable when she was among the first responders at the Poe School bomb in 1959 [in Houston]where three of her children were students, just as it did in raising five daughters. She always said, “Nurse’s training is training for life!” …

Denton often said, “I always wanted to be captain of my ship, but I married an admiral. She is my life line. Without her, I would have been lost.”

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