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GNSA Leadership Council

The Leadership Council consists of 10 graduate nursing student members who will serve a two year term to help shape the formation of the GNSA and provide direction on what programs, services, and resources should be developed to meet the needs of nursing students in master’s and doctoral degree programs. 


Please direct any questions to AACN Director of Student Engagement Marta Okoniewski at

GNSA Leadership Council 2017-2019

Tamu Abreu
PhD Student
Texas Woman's University

Tamu Abreu, MSN, RN-BC, CPPS, is a PhD in nursing student at Texas Woman’s University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center in 2012, and then completed her Master’s in Clinical Nurse Leadership at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Tamu has been a nurse for 12 years and has worked in various settings in Medical-Surgical Nursing, Telemetry, and Neuro-Oncology/Neurosurgery Ambulatory nursing. She holds certifications in both Medical Surgical Nursing (RN-BC) and as a Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) and currently works as a Clinical Patient Safety Specialist in the Texas Medical Center. She is a member of several professional nursing organizations and is actively involved as a board member of the Texas Gulf Coast Association for Healthcare Quality (TGCAHQ) coordinating education activities for its members. Tamu is passionate about many things, including research, patient safety and quality, advocacy and mentoring nurses. In her free time, she likes spending quality time with her family, reading, hiking, and volunteering with different organizations.

Yasmine Adem
DNP Student
University of Colorado, Denver

Yasmine Adem, MPH, RN, CHES, is in her final year of a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with an emphasis in public health at the University of Colorado, Denver. Her scholarly project is addressing the issue of frequent emergency department use through improved community care coordination efforts. Yasmine has been a registered nurse since 2009 but started her career in health care as a nursing assistant in 2006. She first earned her Associate of Applied Science in Nursing in 2009, then earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Nevada State College in 2011, and her Master of Science in Public Health from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2014. As a nurse, she has worked in a variety of settings that span from acute care to public and community health. She currently works for the State of Nevada with the Department of Health and Human Services in the Aging and Disability Services Division. Her current role is a care coordinator for the Home and Community Based Waiver programs. Yasmine has strong interests in health policy and administration and plans to continue to build on work among these interests upon graduating from her DNP program. While she is not at work or studying, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

Jung Amaral
MSN Student
Johns Hopkins University

Jung Amaral, BS, is an entry-level MSN student at Johns Hopkins University. Jung originally received her Bachelor of Science in public health and has worked primarily with women and children in a variety of settings, from community to private clinics. Jung is passionate about patient advocacy. Her public health perspective drives her commitment to patient education, resource allocation, and multidisciplinary collaboration for all patients, particularly those who are under-resourced. She has pursued these interests through Johns Hopkins School of Nursing's free doula service called Birth Companions, leading their Spanish language line, and through a quality improvement fellowship focused on the launch of the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. She also serves as a chapter leader for Nursing Students for Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Cassandra Dziobek
PhD Student
University of Massachusetts Medical Center

Cassandra Dziobek, MSN, APRN, is a current PhD in nursing student at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center with a focus on first episode psychotic disorders, brain reactivity, and medication adherence. Cassie attended the University of Vermont as an undergraduate, where she received a BS in Neuroscience and Psychology. She received her BS and MS in Psychiatric Nursing at Regis College in Massachusetts.

Jo Ann A. Otts
DNP Student
Loyola University New Orleans

Jo Ann A. Otts, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Chair, completed a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Executive Leadership (2017) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Health Care Systems Management (2015) from Loyola University New Orleans. Her areas of interest include nursing education, leadership development, and health policy. She is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Nurse Executive, Advanced (NEA-BC), and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International. A registered nurse and executive leader for more than 30 years, she is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing at the University of South Alabama.

Catherine Pantik
PhD/DNP Student
University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Catherine Pantik, BSN, RN, Vice-Chair, is a current student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in the PhD/DNP program. Prior to founding several companies, including two durable medical equipment companies, Catherine received a BA in Psychology and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the Cox School of Business from Southern Methodist University. Subsequently, she served as the practice manager and board member of a successful nephrology practice. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Union University with a BSN, she worked as a staff nurse in solid organ transplant. Catherine is active in the Southern Nursing Research Society, serving two years as the student representative on the Board of Directors, as well as several committees. She is a Jonas Scholar, developing with her mentors a project that aims to identify the patient perceptions of primary care provided by nurse practitioners in Tennessee. Her dissertation work is a mixed methods study of patient and provider perspectives of chronic illness management following kidney transplantation.

Heather Raley
DNP Student
University of Louisville

Heather Raley, BSN, RN, is a second-year Doctorate of Nursing Practice student in the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty at the University of Louisville. She currently works as a registered nurse at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. Her professional interests have taken shape based primarily in caring for and empowering children and families. She intends to make a contribution to nursing research regarding the topic of prevention, early intervention, and management of overweight and obese obstetric and pediatric patients in a primary care setting. She is elated that this GNSA Leadership Council appointment will give her the opportunity to actively contribute to the growth and proficiency of the nursing profession. She is also eager to continue her journey of lifelong learning in the field of nursing and achieve her full potential as an advanced practice nursing professional.

Tonya Smith
FNP/DNP Student
Ohio University

Tonya Smith, MSN, RN, is a currently an FNP/DNP student at Ohio University. She graduated with an ADN in 2000 from Clark State Community College and obtained her BSN (2009) and MSN in Nursing Education (2014) both from Indiana Wesleyan University. She teaches full time at The Ohio State University and Hondros College of Nursing and has been involved with AACN’s Graduate Nursing Student Academy since 2012, enjoying working with graduate nursing students across the country. She has been a member of STTI since 2013 and actively involved in the Zeta Phi and Omega Lambda Chapters. In her spare time she enjoys being outdoors, baseball games, camping, traveling, and being with family and friends.

Brandon Varilek
PhD Student
South Dakota State University

Brandon Varilek, RN, BAN, PCCN, CCTC, is a PhD in nursing student at South Dakota State University. He is currently in the fourth year of the 5-year BSN to PhD program. His master’s focus is nursing education. He also works full time as a Transplant Coordinator at Avera Transplant Institute in Sioux Falls, SD. In his free time, he enjoys camping, hiking, and spending time with his wife and newborn baby.

Alexander Wrynn
DNP Student
Robert Morris University

Alexander Wrynn, BSN, RN, is a third year BSN-DNP Family Nurse Practitioner student at Robert Morris University. He is an alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh BSN program. He has worked as an RN in the emergency department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh since graduation. Additionally, he works as adjunct clinical faculty at Carlow University. For the past five years he has been a member of Sigma Theta Tau. His research interests include infectious disease, simulation, and quality improvement. Outside of work and school, he is an avid runner and traveler.