Dedication and Compassion All in a Day's Work for Evy Silk
By Roberta McCoy, NP-BC
CANP San Diego North Chapter
Evy Silk’s dedication to the nurse practitioner profession dates back many years and includes a long list of accomplishments. That list recently grew when she was named the recipient of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) 2017 State Award for Excellence.
As one of the early nurse practitioners in California, Silk has invested greatly in the growth of advanced practice nurses. She held significant responsibilities in the state’s earliest nurse practitioner organization, the California Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, the progenitor of the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP). She represented Imperial and San Diego Counties on the Board of Directors and also served as Director of Public Relations. As part of those duties, she solicited, interviewed and scheduled all speakers for CANP’s 20th Annual Educational Conference, held in 1996. She has just completed two terms as secretary of the San Diego North Chapter and prior to that was the continuing education coordinator of the San Diego Central Chapter.
Her dedication to the profession and passion for helping others was formed in part when, as a young exchange student in Brazil, she witnessed first-hand the poverty and illnesses that accompany such impoverished living conditions. She knew then that she wanted to not only go into the health care field but also to provide care to those who had no access to health care.
The images of Brazil also fueled her motivation to do international work later in her career. Silk was enrolled in one of the first nurse practitioner training programs at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Already an RN, she was one of ten persons in the state chosen to receive a federal grant to become a Family Nurse Practitioner with a focus on care of the underserved. She was the ideal candidate since she had already been providing care in the farming fields. At that time, the government was formulating a curriculum for nurse practitioners as well as medical internship and clinical residency requirements for care of the underserved. When she began her work as a nurse practitioner, the field was just beginning. She was truly a pioneer!
Although certified in family care, she has a particular interest in educating patients and treating patients with gynecological, obstetrics, and pediatric concerns. She has provided care to the medically indigent throughout California. She is well equipped with compassion and cultural sensitivity as she treats women and children who are victims of trauma. Her skill with Portuguese and Spanish languages especially enhances her services since an interpreter is not required for these sensitive situations.
In addition to her clinical skills, she has become affiliated with numerous academic institutions. She has conducted research which has been published in nationally recognized medical journals addressing topics such as the identification and treatment of cervical cancer in high risk, under-served populations. As clinical faculty of the UC Irvine Medical School (UCI) she has educated and provided the clinical tools and cultural knowledge to future physicians who are also committed to caring for the poor. For this, she was recognized with a UCI award for her outstanding clinical teaching in 1996. To this day, she has students at her side, both nursing and medical, representing California State University-Long Beach, Azuza Pacific University and Ball State University learning her philosophy of holistic care.
Her work with the urban poor brought her to the endeavors of the Scripps Healthcare system, which partners with the San Diego-based Loloma Foundation. This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide sustainable medical, dental and infrastructure support to the rural communities of the South Pacific. Selfless volunteer physicians and nurse practitioners from San Diego and all over the United States provide general medical care, as well as specialty pediatric, gynecological, dermatological, surgical, ophthalmological, cancer and dental care.
As a member of one of several medical teams, Evy returns to the far-flung islands of Fiji annually at her own expense. She provides care in austere clinics with meager medical supplies and equipment. She brings with her donated and purchased supplies. Some specialized supplies are especially important in the treatment of asthma, which is very common.
Her most recent medical mission included cyclone relief to Fijian villages. Overlooked by the world community, category 5 cyclone Winston, caused massive destruction to the already destitute island nation on February 21, 2016. Many villages were almost totally destroyed, including their meager structures, water supply, crops, and fishing boats. This presented even greater challenges to these dedicated health care providers.
In the past, she had observed that there were virtually no veterinary services outside of the main island, Vitilevu. The farmers are reliant on work animals for subsistence farming. A disease or injury to their work animals has immediate impact on the family. Without spay and neuter services, the islands are overwhelmed by untreated strays which are starving and a vector for disease. Evy volunteered this May for an additional five days with Animals Fiji, a mobile Australian veterinary team that works in a MASH-like atmosphere providing animal care and training of proper care for dogs, cats, horses and pigs in five villages. She assisted the vets in their surgeries on the animals, as they were lacking in trained volunteers.
This tireless compassionate nurse practitioner and animal advocate has taken on many challenges. She has generated interest in the San Diego Community for Fiji, raising thousands of dollars and donations in kind to augment resources for the Loloma Foundation and Animals Fiji.
Evy credits her experiences at her alma mater as the genesis of a long career of volunteerism. In addition to her international volunteer work, she has assisted UCLA for two decades as a member of scholarship committees reviewing applications and interviewing candidates to assure the best and brightest students are selected. Always current with all things UCLA, she is a representative to numerous college fairs throughout San Diego. She has served on selection committees for leadership awards for women UCLA Alumna.
Compassion, desire for excellence, a commitment to well trained and dedicated future providers, and a heart of volunteerism are all synonymous with Evy McNitt Silk, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner.