Dr. Derek Holt, assistant professor and director of the family nurse practitioner track, is recipient of the 2022 Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence, presented by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Dr. Derek Holt, assistant professor and director of the family nurse practitioner track, is recipient of the 2022 Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence, presented by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
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Holt honored with Nurse Practitioner Award for Excellence

Published on Monday, January 31, 2022

By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, awdilworth@umc.edu

At 17, Derek Holt was already working in the nursing field. Some 20-odd years later, he is the recipient of the 2022 American Association of Nurse PractitionersState Award for Excellence.

The AANP, the largest professional membership organization for nurse practitioners of all specialties, received 265 nominations from across the country last year. For 30 years, it has recognized outstanding NP clinical practice and efforts to advance the image, profile and visibility of the profession.

Portrait of Julie Sanford

Dr. Julie Sanford, dean and professor in the School of Nursing, said Holt provides strong leadership for the family nurse practitioner program. “Excellent faculty translates to excellence in student learning outcomes,” said Sanford. “The award not only recognizes his contributions as an advanced practice provider, but it also brings visibility to the School of Nursing for excellence. We are proud of Dr. Holt’s accomplishments.”

“I always wanted to be a nurse,” said Holt, who lives in Madison with wife Kimberly and their three daughters. “The journey started in high school, where I served as state vice president and member-at-large of Health Occupation Students of America - Future Health Professionals.”

His Vero Beach, Florida, high school offered a variety of career and technical classes, from which Holt chose the certified nursing assistant track. He enrolled in those classes as electives, went to clinicals and took the state test.

“I began working the end of my senior year in nursing homes as a CNA,” explained Holt, now assistant professor and director of the family nurse practitioner track, as well as the nurse practitioner educational coordinator at UMMC.

A nurse practitioner of 15 years, Holt holds a Doctor of Nursing practice and is board-certified as both a family nurse practitioner and emergency nurse practitioner. The 2021 Dean’s Emerging Academic Leaders fellow joined UMMC as an ICU registered nurse in 2003 after earning his bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State University.

Though now an experienced NP manager and educator, securing his first job in the role did not come easily. Ater earning his doctorate, Holt briefly left the UMMC to work as a nurse practitioner in occupational medicine, returning a year later.

“I applied 12 times to the department of emergency medicine before I was eventually hired and returned to UMMC,” Holt said.

Still, most of Holt’s career and education have gone according to plan. He’d always known he would attend Alcorn for undergrad because of family tradition. He’d also planned to work at UMMC after earning his bachelor’s because he knew working at a Level I trauma center would improve his chances of being admitted to a CRNA program.

“However, Alcorn invited me to come immediately back upon graduation to obtain my master's degree, forgoing the years of experience requirement for admission into the family nurse practitioner program,” he explained. “That decision changed my trajectory, and the rest is history.”

Nominating Holt for the award was an easy choice to make, said Dr. Tearsanee Carlisle Davis, who met him when they were graduate nursing students at Alcorn.

Tearsanee Carlisle Davis

“I nominated Dr. Holt because he is more than worthy,” said Davis, director of clinical and advanced practice operations for the Center for Telehealth and assistant professor in the School of Nursing. “He works very hard to make sure the students that cross his path not only gain the practical knowledge they need, but that they also understand the responsibility that comes with nursing. Dr. Holt could be anywhere else, yet he chooses to stay here to contribute to the health of our community. 

“As the 2020 recipient of the State Award for Excellence, I count it a privilege to pass this on to Derek,” continued Davis, who said Holt was the first person she thought to nominate. “He is an outstanding example of excellence in nursing and specifically, African-American males in nursing. He has pushed through adversity professionally and still remains a rock star.”

Holt is widely respected as a family nurse practitioner and expert in emergency medicine, where he helped forge the role in Mississippi, said Dr. Johnnie Wijewardane, an AANP state representative who served on the awards selection committee.

“He attained certification as an emergency nurse practitioner when the certification was in its infancy,” said Wijewardane. “Through the years he has precepted countless NP students. He supported full practice authority through teaching NP students and through his exemplary work as an NP. Dr. Holt is a consummate professional nurse and nurse practitioner who strives for and exemplifies excellence in his work as an NP. Mississippi and the NP profession is grateful for his contributions and congratulate him on this prestigious award.”

Audwin Fletcher

Dr. Audwin Fletcher, professor and assistant dean of graduate programs, and director of adult gerontology acute care for the School of Nursing, was not surprised by how Holt handled the news. “As expected, he was very humble. When he shared the news with me, it was in casual conversation: ‘Oh by the way, I won…’”

The award recipient has high expectations for himself and expects the same from students and colleagues, said Fletcher. “Derek is highly creative in his ideas for nursing education, problem solving abilities and communications with the students and colleagues. Advanced practice nurses around the world are doing great things to propel the profession. He lives by his lifelong mantra: ‘Excellence is the expectation, and perfection is the goal.’ He has personified this mantra over the years as he has established a statewide and nationwide reputation for himself.” 

Holt said he does not know what set him apart from the competition but tries to give back to the profession that has given so much to him. The number of nurse practitioners has doubled since he entered the profession, resulting in a greater understanding of their importance in health care. “Nurse practitioners have taken on more significant leadership roles in health care and are becoming full partners with other health care professionals.”

He found it fitting that the June 24 award will be presented in his home state, where he began his career. “It is ironic to be from Florida, and to be awarded the Mississippi Award for Excellence at the national convention in Orlando, Florida.”