Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

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Serving where the need is greatest

Serving where the need is greatest

By Amanda Friedlander

Throughout her 53-year career as a professional nurse and nurse educator, Mary Ann Blackman Noonan (BSN ’64, MSN ’79) has worked to support and assist underserved and minority populations. Her passion for working with underserved populations originated long before entering the nursing profession, beginning when she was in high school.

“I’ve always surrounded myself with people who are interested in offering services for others,” Noonan says. “My family, my parents, and the Sisters of St. Francis in Indiana have all been instrumental in my upbringing and establishing my values.”

After completing an internship at the Indian Health Service (IHS) at the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and the Chicago Health Outreach-Primary Healthcare for the Homeless clinic in Chicago, Noonan initiated a two-week primary care clinical experience for Loyola graduate adult nurse practitioner students at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. For three years, she accompanied and supervised Loyola nurse practitioner students to deliver primary health care to native Sioux Indians. In 1997, she received the Midwest Alliance in Nursing Award for her contributions toward improving health care needs for rural and minority populations in that area.

It was one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had,” Noonan says. “We had incidents of rattlesnake bites, gunshot wounds, anything you can think of. People would usually come into the clinic because we were the only one within 150 miles. It was very difficult, but very rewarding.”

Following her retirement from the University, Noonan continued to precept Loyola nurse practitioner students at a residential shelter for domestic violence, delivering free onsite health care for women and children. She received the School of Nursing’s prestigious Spirit of Ignatius Award for her service over the years, and this year was honored at Loyola’s annual Founders’ Dinner as Niehoff’s recipient of the Damen Award.

Following her daughter’s passing, the Kim Noonan Memorial Nursing Scholarship was established in memory of Kim Noonan, who died of leukemia in 1990. In order to raise money for the scholarship, Niehoff, along with the Noonan family, established the annual Kim Noonan Walkathon. In addition, Noonan and her husband became active counselor volunteers at One Step at a Time Camp in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, a two-week residential camp for children with cancer, where her daughter had been a camp leader for several years.

It was quite a humbling experience,” she says. “It was very important for myself and my husband to work at this camp. It was fulfilling for us and a way of giving back.

At Niehoff, Noonan taught nursing courses both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she coordinated the RN/BSN and Adult Nurse Practitioner programs. Presently, she is an active volunteer at St. Angela School in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and at St. Hubert Parish in Hoffman Estates.

It’s all been very uplifting for me,” says Noonan. “All of these have strengthened my role as a nurse practitioner and my role of helping the underserved and less fortunate.”