From the Clinic to the Classroom to the Community: A&M-Central Texas Nursing Director Shares Love for Health Care

Karen Clos
October 26, 2023

From the Clinic to the Classroom to the Community
Dr. Amy Mersiovsky pinning a graduate from A&M-Central Texas's nursing program.

Just west of Central Arkansas, in the verdant expanses of rolling green hillsides, lush countryside, and local creeks and rivers, Amy Mersiovsky, now 47, grew up the eldest daughter in a farming family of five.

Raised there by parents, Mike and Sharon Turner, grandparents, Bill and Annette Martin, and a close-knit community, Mersiovsky remembers her girlhood tenderly, but with characteristic Midwest common sense and a deeply rooted sense of purpose.

“My grandfather’s family came to Arkansas when the Civil War was heating up in Tennessee,” she said. “They thought they would be safely away further north but found themselves – and their looted cattle – a commodity that confederate soldiers needed during one of the Battles of Pea Ridge. Still, they persevered.

Mersiovsky remembers her parents’ relentless work ethic: her father, she says, now 72, can still be found on the tractor – as long as it is not raining – and her mother, even now, runs the household as she always did, gardening, running farm errands, and taking meals to her husband who considered lunch at their dining table a luxury as long as there were crops to tend to.

“My father worked from very early in the morning as soon as it was light enough to see what he was doing,” she said.

The farmhouse where she and her two brothers grew up is still there today, she added. And it is still a place where family gathers. Surrounded by thousands of acres of soybeans, wheat, milo, and rice, she remembers the occasional ride on the headlight of her father’s tractor.

But she also has memories less pleasant. She worried – even at young age – about the same things her whole family had to learn to live with: the physical risks involved with farming and the uncontrollable things that were not much more than random twists of fate like weather, disease, and pestilence – any one of which could reduce their work – and their investment – to nothing.

“I was only three years old, but I recall falling asleep to the rain,” she remembered, a slight drawl slowly extending her words like ethereal wisps of cotton candy.

“The wheat was top heavy by then,” she said. “All long and yellow and ready for harvest, and I knew that the rain sometimes brought hail with it that would topple it over, and all my daddy’s work would be wasted. So, I prayed.”

By the time she was nine, Mersiovsky became involved in 4-H activities, but instead of taking the traditional path and raising animals, she began writing safety columns and sending them to the local paper, The Petit Jean Country Headlines, which happily published them.

“I knew how dangerous farming could be, and even though I knew that farmers were a very careful people, I had also heard of a number of accidents, and I wanted to do what I could to keep people safe.”

And, as it turns out, Mersiovsky had a knack for communication, winning 4-H awards over the next 10 years including the Arkansas 4-H Teen Star, Arkansas 4-H Ambassador, Arkansas 4-H Safety Project Winner, National 4-H Safety Project Winner, and, as recently as three years ago, winning the 2020 Arkansas 4-H Alumni of the Year.

“For a long time, I thought I would become a journalist,” she admitted. “But there were also teachers in our family tree. A lot of teachers. And they definitely inspired me.”

For example, she says, her step-great grandmother, Georgie Lemley, was well-known in Central Arkansas during the 1920s for quite independently riding horseback from town to town and schoolhouse to schoolhouse. She was already the first woman in the family to be formally educated – so riding anywhere under her own steam may have been a simple act of practicality and need. But, in that place at that time, she was an anomaly.

Mersiovsky might have gone in either of those directions – toward journalism or teaching – but something else, not entirely unsuspected by her mother, would happen that would change the trajectory of her future.

“I was about 12 years old, and my mother noticed that my spine looked crooked,” she said softly. “Mother knew that other people in the family had been diagnosed with scoliosis, so she had me examined right away, and we learned that I would need surgery.”

Even at that tender age, Mersiovsky dealt with the diagnosis and the corrective surgery with the same stoicism that she had witnessed in her parents when they – or the farm – were confronted with a challenge. Be strong. Have faith. And do what needs to be done.

And there, in surgical recovery, and away from her loved ones, Mersiovsky could have been frightened or withdrawn or even pitiful, but those things just are not part of her character.

She looked at things differently. She noticed the nurses who cared for her, and how they were there around the clock. Even when the surgeons and physicians came and went, the nurses, she said, made sure she was healing and comfortable and kept her spirits up.

Mersiovsky attended Arkansas Tech University where she earned her undergraduate degree in nursing, and slightly more than 10 years later, graduated from University of Mary Hardin Baylor with her graduate degree in nursing. Her doctorate in nursing would follow as did more personal milestones.

Mersiovsky still practices nursing – volunteering at Feed My Sheep Free Pediatric Clinic – so it might be surprising to learn that amidst everything else in her life, she has stayed close to her original 4-H roots for the past three decades – raising and showing rabbits in local, state, and national competitions. Which is, coincidentally, where she was introduced to Navy veteran, Donald Mersiovsky, her husband of the last 22 years.

“My brothers were showing rabbits, and one of the judges told them that they needed ‘better rabbits’ if they wanted to be competitive. And right around that same time, mutual friends introduced me to Donald, who just happened to be very familiar with where to find ‘better rabbits.’”

While it is certainly too soon in her career to offer a sweeping retrospective, Mersiovsky does take note of and appreciate the symmetry of where she is, what she is doing, and how all of the interests she had as a girl are unmistakably tied into what she does today. Even the unexpected things.

Three years ago, she says, she began contributing to local news stories in response to television reporters’ need for content on health-related stories. At the beginning, she says, most of her work with them involved the pandemic, but eventually turned to a plethora of topics ranging from her specialty, pediatrics, to more garden variety medical subjects.

“In the last three years, I’m told I have contributed analysis on health-related topics more than 300+ times,” she said, proudly.

“I see it as building a bridge between the university classroom and the community. I know that there is value to it professionally,” she added, describing how she was surprised to hear one nursing official at a national conference suggest that more nurses should involve themselves in communication efforts for the good of public health.

“Not a soul there knew me or anything about all the stories we had done over the years, and still there was this national nursing official describing exactly what we had been doing all along. Plus, I have the chance to dabble in journalism, and I have always loved that.”

Another positive from her experience working with the media has been the constant stream of topics she has covered. Ironically, she became inspired to begin researching and writing about the subjects she had been asked to cover with television reporters.

“I have responded to so many stories that reporters were working on that involved TikTok challenges, I can’t even keep count of all of them,” Mersiovsky said. “These social media challenges proliferate,” she admitted. “So, I started researching that topic and writing about the impact for those of us in the nursing profession.”

“It is the only way I know how to turn a negative situation toward a positive outcome. I just never would have imagined that my childhood dreams of journalism, teaching, and nursing would all come together like this.”

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