1. Osterlund, Hob MS, RN, CHTP

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Jennie Chin Hansen, MA, RN, president-elect of the board of directors at AARP, could have rested a bit after retiring in 2004 from her position as executive director of On Lok, the highly respected San Francisco nonprofit provider of community health care to older adults. Instead, says Hansen, "I wanted to tap into my greatest something. I didn't know what it was, but something was brewing." She was 55.


During Hansen's 24 years in various roles at On Lok, the organization had been transformed into a comprehensive community health center providing medical care, prescription drug assistance, and bilingual case management. On Lok was so successful as a cost-effective alternative to nursing homes that it became a national prototype for the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). In 1997 President Bill Clinton authorized Medicare and Medicaid funding to become available to all 50 states for PACE.


Hansen's work at On Lok captured the attention of AARP, the national advocacy group for people ages 50 and over. She was appointed to its board of directors in 2002, and in February 2006 was elected the board's president. When she assumes office in 2008, Hansen will be the first Asian American and the first nurse to wear AARP's mantle.


While she was in graduate school, she met her first husband, Chris Hansen. Four short years later, he was diagnosed with a malignant glioma. When her husband died in April 1977, Hansen became a single parent to Erik, their 14-month-old son. Fifteen years later she married Phil Abrams, the man who had been Erik's second-grade teacher. Erik is now in his second year of an orthopedic residency at University of California, San Francisco, where his parents first met.


She believes that the idealism and activism of her generation will serve AARP. Her activism came as a consequence of "being the only Asian American female student on the entire campus during my freshman year at Boston College, and one of the first students ever to be seated on the university senate with faculty and administrators. In Idaho, I think I was the only Asian public health nurse around in 1972," she says.

Figure. Jennie Chin ... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Jennie Chin Hansen, president-elect of the AARP board of directors, will assume office in 2008. Courtesy of AARP
Figure. Hansen calls... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Hansen calls Joanne Disch, current chairperson of the board at AARP, "the ultimate collaborator." Courtesy of Tim Rummelhoff
Figure. Joanne Handy... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Joanne Handy, newly elected to the board of directors, brings business acumen to the role. Courtesy of Janet Sterns Photography

Her priorities at AARP? "It drives me crazy that 46 million people in the United States are uninsured," she says. When she went to Cuba in 2003 as part of a medical cross-cultural exchange program, she was aghast to find that "here's a third-world country that's 97% literate and where everyone is covered. Their health care indicators are equal to if not better than ours. Everyone in this country has to have basic access. There should be a floor of decency," she says.


Joanne M. Disch, AARP board chairperson. Hansen is delighted to be joined by Joanne M. Disch, PhD, RN, FAAN, the current chairperson of the board, whom Hansen calls "the ultimate collaborator." Disch is the director of the Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership and a nursing professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis. Disch is passionate about the role of nurses in improving American health care. "We really want to use our backgrounds to help people live independently and age with dignity," Disch says.


Disch knows that this may require new-even radical-thinking. "The current health care system is dysfunctional. We need a whole new system that enables nurses to take their place in active leadership, to offer personalized, efficient care that's not always hospital focused," she says.


Joanne Handy, AARP board member. The third nurse on AARP's board is Joanne Handy, MS, RN. She is the president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston and, according to Hansen, "a savvy executive." Overseeing a $50 million budget and 800 employees, Handy is optimistic about the global vision of her age group. "If AARP can help to unleash the idealism that we as a generation felt in our early twenties and use us now at a time when we have more skills and resources to give, we can change America," Handy says.


However that change looks, it's inevitable that the future of American health care-and nursing's role in shaping it-will be a high priority in the boardroom these nurses now share.


Hob Osterlund, MS, RN, CHTP