CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with West Texas A&M University announced that the head of the WT Department of Nursing, along with nine other WT-educated nurses, were included in a list of the Panhandle Great 25 Nurses for 2022.

Officials detailed that a celebration to honor the nurses will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Embassy Suites, located at 550 S. Buchanan St.

The list, according to officials, was chosen by a committee that worked with the Texas Nurses Association District 2 and the Panhandle Organization of Nurse Executives, as they based their decision on leadership qualities, service to the community, compassionate caregiving, and contributions to the profession of nursing.

Sue Rankin was named to the Texas Nurses Association District 2 Hall of Fame and now works at Texas Tech Physicians Pediatrics, while Dr. Michael Evans, dean of the School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, received the Legacy Award. Both honorees graduated from WT.

In addition, Dr. Holly Jeffreys, who served as the department head of WT’s nursing department since August 2020 and earned her bachelor’s and master of science in nursing at WT in 1997 and 2002, also made the list.

“To be recognized as a Great 25 Nurse is truly an honor,” Jeffreys said. “I have spent most of my life serving the people of the Texas Panhandle, and while there is nothing more rewarding than serving others, it is extremely encouraging to know one’s efforts are not only appreciated by patients, but also by one’s peers. More importantly, nothing great is ever done individually. God has blessed me by surrounding me with amazing teams who share in a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others and work tirelessly doing so. The work we do together on a daily basis is what truly makes the biggest impact for individuals, families and our communities. I am truly blessed to be able to share in this work with so many amazing nurses.”

Officials released the following list of WT nursing alums who also made the list:

  • Silvia Garbalena-Esparza who earned her BSN in 2007 and is a certified nurse midwife for Beyond Birth Midwifery and Birth Haven Center in Amarillo;
  • Allison Henry, who earned her bachelor of science in nursing in 2002 and is now an infection preventionist at the Amarillo VA Healthcare System;
  • Mary Irwin, who earned her BSN in 1986 and now works for Amarillo Regional Pediatric Specialty Clinic and Cook Children’s Healthcare System;
  • Lexi McAnally, who earned her BSN in 2015 and is now a charge nurse at Hansford County Hospital District in Spearman;
  • Teresa McClain, who earned her BSN in 2017 and is director of risk management and compliance officer at Northwest Texas Healthcare System;
  • Jamie Milton, who earned her BSN in 2011 and is now neonatal ICU nurse manager for BSA Health System;
  • Melissa Smith, who earned her BSN in 2005 and is a school nurse at Carver Elementary School in Amarillo.

Panhandle Great 25 Nurses also gave $2,000 scholarships to 13 students including three WT students: Vanessa Bolz, a senior nursing major from Amarillo; Alyssa Davis, a senior nursing major from Amarillo; and Melissa Shanks, a graduate nursing student from Aransas Pass.

Officials noted that nursing graduates of WT have averaged a 97% score on the National Council Licensure Examination as the national average in Texas is around 87%.

Contact Dr. Richard Pullen at or Dr. Valerie Kiper at for more information on the event.