In recognition of her distinguished career dedicated to the art and science of nursing, Executive Vice Chancellor Lisa M. Colombo, DNP, MHA, RN, received an honorary Doctor of Science in Nursing from Worcester State University and delivered an inspiring commencement address to more than 1,200 graduates during a virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 25.
“It was a tremendous honor to speak to the students at this year’s commencement and receive this honorary degree from Worcester State University,” said Colombo. “As a student there, I learned so much more than just the science of nursing. Worcester State is where I first learned what it means to have a nurse’s heart—the motivation to serve others, the devotion to learning, and the ethics and commitment to social justice that define and guide a life and career in nursing.”
Colombo’s commencement address focused on her recent experience leading a state command center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Colombo reflected on how her career in nursing—including her foundation as a Worcester State student—helped prepare her for what became one of the most challenging personal and professional experiences of her life. And she discussed the critical lessons learned, including not letting fear stand in your way; relying on your education, training, and experience; and the importance of cultivating trusting relationships among your colleagues.
Following the commencement ceremony, Millicent M. Malcolm, associate clinical professor at UConn School of Nursing, whose niece was among the Worcester State University graduates, sent a message thanking Colombo for her moving words. “Your speech took such an overwhelming and horrible situation and provided graduates with a way to look at tragedy, bring improvement, and see the life lessons learned in navigating such tremendous challenges. I think your most important message was, ‛everything happens for a reason.’ You brought this and so many important messages full circle for the graduates, and I don’t think they will ever forget your very inspiring speech.”
Colombo began her nursing career at Worcester State, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree. She subsequently earned a master’s degree in health administration at Clark University and a Doctor of Nursing practice at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions.
Before joining Commonwealth Medicine, Colombo served as senior vice president and chief nursing officer at UMass Memorial Medical Center. She has served as president of UMass Memorial Clinton Hospital, and as both corporate vice president for clinical operations and chief nursing officer at UMass HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster.