Alumna’s $5.5 million commitment to provide scholarships to support nurse anesthetist students 

A decorated Air Force officer, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) alumna Cheryl E. McRae-Bergeron, DNP (NUR ’94), has spent a lifetime advancing the critical role of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologists (CRNA) in health care.

Today, through a transformative $5.5 million estate commitment to the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, McRae-Bergeron’s legacy will continue, ensuring that generations of nursing students can follow her path into this growing field.

“Nursing has been my life’s passion—especially in my work as a CRNA,” said McRae-Bergeron, who earned her registered nurse anesthetist certification in 1975. “Having studied and worked in many different environments, I know what the school did for me —providing me the confidence I needed to elevate my career—and have no doubt their exceptional faculty and staff will continue investing in creating nurse leaders and highly qualified CRNAs.”

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologists are advanced practice nurses who administer every type of anesthesia in a variety of medical environments—including surgical procedures and health care settings where anesthesia is required. CRNA applicants to CWRU must have either two years of recent critical care experience or one year of critical care experience with a specialty certification.

Through the CRNA program, students at the nursing school can deliver direct patient care, participate in staff education programs and identify clinical topics for research. They also administer general and regional anesthesia in people of all ages and across a number of settings, including emergency operations, obstetrics, pediatrics and neurosurgery.

The Dr. Cheryl E. McRae-Bergeron Endowed Scholarship Fund will support at least one full-tuition scholarship annually to a student pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice in the school’s three year Nurse Anesthesia program, which will allow them to sit for the CRNA examination. Remaining funds will provide half-scholarship awards as available. The endowment continues McRae-Bergeron’s quarter century of support of Case Western Reserve and its School of Nursing.

“This generous gift from Cheryl McRae-Bergeron is a continuation of her commitment to our school, our students and the entire nursing profession,” said Carol M. Musil, dean for the School of Nursing. “Through her support, the school will continue creating life-changing opportunities for our CRNA students as they prepare to deliver care in this critical field.”

An exemplary career of service to others

When she stumbled across a Case Western Reserve University doctorate program ad in the American Journal of Nursing 25 years ago, the Georgia native thought, “I’ll never be able to do that.”

After all, it had taken her four years to earn her associate’s degree and even longer to secure a collection of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, including her CRNA, from five other institutions. The more she considered the opportunity, however, the more determined she was to try.

Already a decorated Air Force colonel, having completed assignments in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Hawaii and Virginia, McRae-Bergeron knew that she needed a doctoral degree to earn the leadership roles she desired.

Two years later, as a Doctor of Nursing Practice, McRae-Bergeron was appointed, as a reservist, as the chief of medical operations for the Pacific Air Command, a position she held until she retired in 2002.

Today, McRae-Bergeron lives with her husband, Woody, also a retired Air Force officer, in Texas.

Since earning her degree, McRae-Bergeron has continued her engagement with the school and the university, participating in the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing Alumni Association, the dean’s visiting committee, and the Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve. Her involvement and financial support reflect her philosophy on giving.

“People look at a glass and maybe see it half empty,” she said, before adding her own twist on the popular phrase. “I look at it and think ‘If I can get it just a little bit more, I might get it all the way full.’”

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