Getting to know Mary Ann Wissman

For the last 42 years, Mary Ann Wissman has been serving the community through her work at Parkview. She’s reached out through various nursing positions and coordinating opportunities, but one thing has remained unchanged; her dedication to educating people about their health.

With an unwavering commitment to informing and reaching every population, and a loyalty to spreading the word about a FAST response to stroke, Mary Ann is one of the enlightening, tireless, caring People of Parkview

Name: Mary Ann Wissman

Title: RN, MSN, Parkview Community Based Registered Nurse

Describe your education and career journey:

  • 1973 – Graduated Ball State University with Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • 1983 – Graduated Ball State University with Masters of Science in Nursing
  • 1973-1975 – Nursing instructor at St. Joseph Hospital Diploma School of Nursing, Fort Wayne
  • 1975-PresentParkview
  • 1975-1979 – Nursing instructor at Parkview Hospital Diploma School of Nursing  
  • 1979-1980 ­­– Newborn Nursery; I developed and taught a program for parents having a C-Section.
  • 1980-1992 – Trauma Nursing in ER, staff and charge nurse
  • 1992-2004 – Parkview Research Nurse Coordinator. I became the first nurse at the Parkview Research Center (Parkview Stucky Research Center at that time).
  • 2004-2010 – Women’s Health Specialist at Parkview’s Women Health Center (now known at the Center of Health Living).  I was in charge of developing community health programs, providing health screenings, coordinating health fairs and counseling clients on health issues. 
  • 2010-Present - Community Based Registered Nurse at Parkview Community Nursing

When did you start at Parkview, and what do you remember about your first day?
August, 1975.  I remember being very excited to be a nursing instructor at Parkview’s Diploma School of Nursing and to join the Parkview family.

What made you choose this profession?
I was 6 years old.  I had a Madam Alexander doll called “Marybell Get Well.”  She had a cast for her arm and leg with crutches, measles and chicken pox (with sunglasses to protect her eyes) “stickers” to place on her and bandages.  I played with her for years and now share her with my granddaughters.

What is a typical day like for you?
Every day is different in Community Nursing because of our many roles and the diverse population we serve.  Community Nursing takes us to every corner of Fort Wayne.  I am the “lead” coordinator for the free health screenings and events for the underserved in our community.  I work with many community partner organizations (NHC, Matthew 25, Rescue Mission, etc.) churches, Francine’s Friends, etc. to coordinate our free health fairs. We also partner with many Parkview departments such as the Stanley Wissman Stroke Center, the Center for Healthy Living, The Cancer Institute and PPG to name a few.

We provide free cardiovascular and diabetic prevention screenings, medical education, access to medical care and community resources to the underserved, low income clients of all ethnic backgrounds.  After our clients receive their cholesterol, HDL, blood sugar, blood pressure and sometimes bone density screenings each client receives a “point of care” consultation by one of our nurses concerning these results which includes discussions of their lab results, blood pressures, general health, medications, recommendations to improve their health and well-being and to provide access to medical care.  I am responsible in making sure that all clients who have abnormal results receive a “follow-up” telephone consultation within a month of our health fair and get connected to the resources they need.

I set the date and logistics of the event, organize our volunteers, screening supplies, set-up, oversee each health fair and float to the various stations as needed.  I’m in charge of the data collection and evaluating the outcomes of the events.

I also assist with teaching Infant Safe Sleep classes, CPR, Advanced Care Planning Facilitator, CN NCAT Team Lead, Nurse Preceptor for nursing students earning their BSN or MSN.  I am active on the National Kidney Foundation Board and the Parkview YMCA Board. I am a co-lead for the MD & Me: Walk ‘n Learn sponsored by PPG, Parkview YMCA and the Parks & Recreation Center. 

Why are screening events so powerful?
We are able to provide the underserved populations with free lab screenings, one-on-one health consultations, evidence-based medical literature on a level that they can understand, access to medical care and a level of trust by showing them we care about their health. We provide recommendations to improve their health and well-being and the resources they need. We also bring interpreters to screening events to enhance the communication. We provide information about cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Infant Safe Sleep classes, asthma education, smoking cessation, nutrition, medication assistance, FACE Center information for families, advanced care directives and other important health information.

What is the No. 1 reason people should take advantage of public screening events?
To learn their “numbers”, receive free health consultations, medical literature and knowledge so they can become as healthy as possible.

May is Stroke Awareness Month. What is your connection to the disease?
I was the first Parkview Research Center Clinical Trial Stroke Coordinator.  My late husband, Dr. Stanley Wissman, was the first stroke investigator in NE Indiana and I was his coordinator.  We worked closely with his partners and Dr. Robert Plant throughout the years. 

My husband, Dr. Stanley Wissman, died unexpectedly in 1999.  I continued to work at the Research Center and worked closely with his partners as the Parkview Research Center Stroke Coordinator.  On the one-year anniversary of Stan’s death, Dr. Frank Byrne, President of Parkview Hospital at that time, met with me to discuss establishing the Parkview Stanley Wissman Stroke Center in honor of my husband’s tremendous work in stroke research and his leadership in the medical community.  I was ecstatic that Parkview would recognize Stan with a lasting legacy and that his life’s work would live on. Both Stan and I were so excited about being on the verge of new state-of-the-art breakthroughs in stroke treatment, so establishing the stroke center was perfect.  I loved our work and our very special times together as husband-wife and doctor-nurse in our everyday lives and stroke research.

Our first stroke study was the ATLANTIS tPA Study. tPA was approved by the FDA in 1996 and changed the entire course of treatment for stroke patients and increased stroke patient’s survival rate and decreased devastating disabilities of strokes caused by clots.

What’s something people don’t realize about having a loved one who suffers a stroke?  Many people don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke and unfortunately wait too long to seek medical treatment. 

What advice would you give those impacted by this condition?
Everyone needs to learn to act FAST to save brain cells when a stroke occurs! FAST means:

F = FACE – Drooping of mouth or numbness, tingling
A = ARMS – Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
S = SPEECH – Difficulty talking
T =TIME –Time is critical. Call 911 immediately

Do you have any continued involvement with stroke awareness?
I take stroke literature to every Community Nursing Health Fair or other event I’m involved with and encourage other departments to do the same.  I educate the community about the risks, signs and symptoms, prevention of stroke and the urgency to call 911 when suspecting a stroke. I also educate the community about the Parkview Stanley Wissman Stroke Center because it provides top quality stroke care and rehabilitation at PRMC and Parkview Hospital Randallia.  The Center excels in stroke treatment and prevention by combining outstanding medical expertise, interdisciplinary teamwork, patient and family-focused care, worldwide technology, participation in national stroke research and community health education.

What moment would you count as your greatest success to this point?
I have three:

  • Working with my husband, Dr. Stanley Wissman, with all of the tremendous stroke clinical research trials, especially ATLANTIS—tPA.
  • Assisting with establishing the Parkview Stanley Wissman Stroke Center.
  • Working with the underserved in our community providing free health screenings, education, resources and access to medical care to assist them in living healthier lives.  I am so proud to be working with the fantastic Community Nursing team to provide excellent care to our community.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I made a “hole-in-one” on July 11, 2009 at True North Golf Course in Michigan.  It was an 86-yard Par 3 (Hole #16) and I used my 9 Iron.  It was so exciting! I sure loved the thrill!

Do you have any hobbies or things you like to do outside of work?
Photography, golf, gardening, watching my grandchildren’s sporting events and spending time with my family no matter where we are.

If you could tell people to read one book in their lifetime, which would it be?
“The Biography of Mohammed Ali”. I admired him and have lived by many of his famous quotes:

  • “Don’t count the days-make the days count.”
  • “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
  • “A man who has no imagination has no wings.”

Best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
“You can accomplish anything,” and “Be yourself.”

What would we find on your bucket list and what do you plan to check off next?
I want to become a National Geographic Photographer and travel around the world photographing people from all nations.  I have always had a passion for photography.

If you have 5 minutes to relax what do you do?
Sit outside on the deck listening to country music while watching birds and butterflies and sipping a glass of wine.


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