Alumna Barbara McCormick-Mejias Leaves Lasting Impact as Nurse, Educator and Veteran

United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Holy Family University nursing alumna Barbara McCormick-Mejias '03, M'07, DNP, RN, CEN, readily admits that the only time she ever truly read a textbook from cover to cover was when she was deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Though she had been working as a nurse since 1993 and commissioned in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Nurse Corp in 1994, she was, at that time, enrolled in the RN-to-BSN Nursing Program at Holy Family University.

“After enrolling at Holy Family University, I was called to a year of active duty,” McCormick-Mejias recalled.  “I left my year-old son (with her husband, Ray, a now retired New York City policeman and technical sergeant in the Air Force), and went off to Afghanistan. The Holy Family faculty were just amazing.  They actually mailed my textbooks to Afghanistan.  I would look for the tail numbers of the plane so I could locate the books.  Technically, I was an online student before it even existed.  My professors were really engaged and worked to keep me on course and in my course. They didn’t let me fall behind.”

Following deployment, McCormick-Mejias returned to complete her BSN degree in 2003. She earned an MSN at Holy Family in 2007 and completed a doctorate of nursing degree at Drexel University in 2019. She has been honored by her alma mater with the American Service Award (2003) and the Alumni Achievement Award (2020) and is in her 30th year of nursing for Jefferson Health.

Having served as a critical care air transport nurse in Afghanistan, she was deployed to Iraq in 2010 in support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as a CASF (Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility) nurse, where she assessed patients, coordinated critical care and facilitated the safe medical airlift of casualties. 

“Because of a volcano eruption in Iceland in 2010, volcanic ash had impacted our normal flight patterns,” she said. “It was challenging. Not only was there an increase in the number of patients, but the conditions it created changed our normal operations.  I used all of my nursing skills in that deployment as we moved more patients than anyone since 9-11.”

McCormick-Mejias was deployed a third-time through the Delaware Air National Guard in support of Delaware Public Health Department’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing mission. She has always been up to the challenges of nursing and military service, based in large part from her upbringing, including the loss of her parents at a young age.

“My mom, herself a nurse, was born on the border of Germany and Poland in 1921,” she said.  “We used to travel behind the ‘iron curtain’ to Poland for family visits when I was a little girl.  My father, who was in the Army Corps of Engineers in WWII, died when I was seven. My mother passed when I was 12. I was born and raised Catholic, and when my parents died, the nuns were always there for me. That’s another reason I really bonded with Holy Family University and their teneor votis mission. When you see what life is like in other places, it makes you grateful to be an American.  And when you are deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq, you realize that, even with our problems, we live in one of the best places in the world.”

Perhaps because she has both nursing and the military in her blood, McCormick-Mejias acknowledges that she would readily welcome another deployment and, in fact, recently received a waiver beyond the 60-year retirement age that will allow her to serve for an additional three years. 

On Veterans Day – specifically on 11/11 at 11 a.m. – you will find McCormick-Mejias leading the Washington Township, N.J. Veterans Day celebration, where she serves on the Veterans Advisory Board.  She represents Gloucester County as the Department Executive Committeeman for the New Jersey  American Legion and is one of the trustees of the Washington Township VFW. A past president of the New Jersey State Nurses Association for region five serving Camden, Burlington, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties, she was recently named 2024 president-elect of the State Emergency Nurses Association.

An adjunct professor of nursing at Thomas Jefferson University and Rutgers University in Camden, McCormick-Mejias now works to develop strategies for nursing recruitment, retention, and education.

“I am working with nursing leaders now to build some really cool things to support nursing,” she said, “including a dedicated education unit and a retired nursing program. I also am honored to be assisting Dr. Cindy Hou, a respected infectious diseases doctor, on a federal grant. The project Reducing Risk for Readmission Optimizing Language Access and Improving Equity (ROLE) is a federally-funded grant to promote equitable access to language services in healthcare for Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.”

Nursing and the military have given McCormick-Mejias both great challenges and great opportunities, lifelong friends, a slew of accolades and awards (including the 2003 Nurse of the Year Award for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware from Nursing Spectrum Magazine), and a true sense of fulfillment.

“I have a been a student, a wife and mother, a full-time night-shift ICU nurse, an educator, a commissioned officer and a reservist/guardsman who continues to proudly serve my country,” she said.  “I’m happy that I chose nursing as a profession. Holy Family really made a difference in my education. Nursing has so many options, and I am happy that I have been able to do so much, for so long.”





Jan Giel