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November 9, 2012

'She goes above and beyond'

Public health nurse receives award -- just in time for 80th birthday

Eileen Stepanian is a whiz at teaching online nursing classes for St. Joseph’s College in Maine, and has spent countless hours working toward her doctorate degree.

Of course, she has to fit those in around her job as public health nurse for the town of Merrimac. And, in between, her volunteering as parish nurse for Pilgrim Congregational Church.

Some might scratch their heads and wonder how Stepanian even had time to slow down and celebrate her 80th birthday last week. Luckily, the nurse did — and she did it in the biggest way possible.

Stepanian traveled to San Francisco where she was honored as the recipient of the prestigious Lillian Wald Service Award from the public health nursing section of the American Public Health Association on Oct. 30 — one day after her milestone birthday. The distinction, granted to a nurse for exemplary public health nursing practices, was one of three national awards given at the annual meeting, where Stepanian was joined by several of her children.

While Stepanian, a Merrimac native, knew colleagues had nominated her last winter, she was completely astounded to find out earlier this summer that she had won — when she eventually heard the news, that is.

“I have three email addresses,” she said, and the news of her award was sent to an address that she hadn’t yet checked upon arriving to work one day. Instead, she opened her second account, where her inbox was flooded with messages of congratulations.

“It was sort of a roundabout way of finding out,” she said.

For those who know Stepanian, the news of her honor was hardly a surprise; but, they agree, it couldn’t have been awarded to a more deserving recipient.

“She’s incredible, she really is,” said Laura Dillingham-Mailman, executive director of the Merrimac Council on Aging. A friend of Stepanian’s for 20 years, Dillingham-Mailman says the woman has taught her colleagues “so much.”

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