Nancy Kostel-Donlon Scholarship

Nancy Kostel-Donlon

Nancy Kostel-Donlon
Nancy Kostel-Donlon, a stroke coordinator from St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, NY, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and passed away on September 17, 2010. Nancy was a committed nurse, educator and mentor for the past 30 years. The Nancy Kostel-Donlon Stroke Coordinator Scholarship was created in 2011 to honor the memory of Nancy Kostel-Donlon by recognizing the Stroke Coordinator who best exemplifies their commitment to quality improvement, patient education, and mentorship.


2018 Nancy Kostel-Donlon Stroke Coordinator Scholarship Recipient

Melissa Lawson, RN, BSN – Stroke Program Coordinator, Backus Hospital – Norwich, CT
Melissa Lawson graduated from UCONN SON in 2001 and has worked as an RN at Backus ever since. Lawson loves the community feel of this hospital and has always been proud to call Backus her community hospital.  She is currently enrolled at Sacred Heart University and is working towards a master’s degree as a Clinical Nurse Leader.   Lawson was hired as the Stroke Program Coordinator in October 2017 and brought extensive cardiac and emergency room nursing experience to the position. The position was created with the goal of bringing Backus Hospital certification from the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center.  She soon realized the goals were more than “just obtaining the gold seal.” The majority of ischemic stroke and TIA patients brought into the emergency department were transferred to a tertiary hospital for care and the need for high quality stroke care in this area was greatly needed.  She realized her first goal was to keep patients local and give them the same high quality care they would have received at Hartford Hospital. Education to every member of the team that comes in contact with the patient was urgently needed and with a team of educators and managers, they worked to deliver meaningful stroke education to staff.  Confidence soon grew with providers and staff that we were well trained and ready to take care of the stroke population safely.

“In April 2018, Backus Hospital was awarded Certification of Primary Stroke center by the Joint Commission.  This team is very proud to have this honor and I am grateful for their dedication and willingness to accept the responsibility of maintaining this certification. I also give thanks for the program’s success to the partnership with my counterparts in the other hospitals in our health care system.  I believe the success is directly related to the guidance and support the Hartford Healthcare has provided.  I believe the role of the stroke coordinator is unique as it works to bridge together the interdisciplinary teams from prevention in the community to detection with EMS and the ED to treatment in the inpatient units and partnership with post discharge treatment teams. I love that this job allows me to reach people at every stage. One area that I love to reach out to in the community is in the local senior center. I found they are always eager to accept health education and stroke prevention is such a valuable topic. These lectures have been very successful.”

Plans for the future include branching out to another community hospital in the East region, and obtaining Acute Stroke Ready certification.  Lawson is currently working on building a successful partnership with VNA services and local rehab facilities to have a seamless transition and experience that is consistent with high quality stroke care and education.

The 2019 application period is now closed. The 2019 Nancy Kostel-Donlon Stroke Coordinator Scholarship recipient will soon be announced.
Please check back for information on the 2020 application period.

General Scholarship Information

The criteria for the Nancy Kostel-Donlon Stroke Coordinator Scholarship:

  • Must serve as your hospital Stroke Coordinator (title may vary)
  • It is unlikely that your hospital will be able to financially support your attendance
  • New to the Stroke Coordinator Role (less than 2 years) OR
  • In the Stroke Coordinator Role for more than 2 years and actively mentor others

The Scholarship Recipient will receive:

  • Waived registration fee to attend The NECC
  • Travel Expenses Reimbursed
  • Hotel Accommodations

Questions? Please email