Cynthia Hickman's master's degree isn't for her. It's for anyone who wants to be a nurse.

In April 2006, cardiology nurse and case manager Cynthia Hickman, R.N., and her employer, St. Luke's Episcopal Health System in Houston, were honored with a $50,000 Johnson & Johnson Community Health Care Leadership Award. The award was given in recognition of outstanding care provided to hurricane evacuees at an emergency care center that St. Luke had set up and where Hickman selflessly volunteered for midnight shifts.

But Cythnia didn't spend her portion of the money on herself. Instead, inspired by the book and movie Pay It Forward, Cynthia used her portion of the money to start a scholarship fund for prospective nursing students. Students who received the scholarship must then "pay it forward" by advancing the quality of health care in their communities.

In addition to the scholarship endowment, a portion of the award funds scholarships through the National Black Nurses Association and Hickman's local chapter in Fort Bend County, Texas.

Cynthia is pursuing her Master's degree the same selfless way. Hickman says she chose to pursue her M.S. in Nursing degree at Walden University because she wants to strengthen her teaching skills so she can help prepare nurses using both real-world and scholarly training.

"As a nurse I learned the art of touch and compassion, and I learned the art of listening," Cynthia says. "It became clear that the patient could teach you so much. Walden's teaching me how to teach nurses the healing powers of compassion, empathy and joy."

You can reach your professional goals while making a difference in the lives of others. And you can start today at Walden University.

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