Indian activist and civil rights leader, Mahatma Gandhi, once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Few phrases describe the noble profession of nursing any better.

In a testament to dedication to Army Medicine's mission of readiness and patient care, 1st Lt. Mary Zekan and Jonathan Serna were recognized as William Beaumont Army Medical Center's Light the Way award honorees, an award recognizing nurses who exemplify outstanding patient care, and the spirit and passion of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Serna, a staff nurse at WBAMC's Inpatient Surgical Ward, and Zekan, head nurse at WBAMC's Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, are the second set of recipients of the quarterly award. Recipients can be nominated by staff or patients and are selected by a committee of nurses and hospital staff depending on the impact of recipients' actions.

"I like giving patients the ability to be empowered to make their own health care decisions," said Zekan, 27, native of Charleston, West Virginia. "I'm really interested in wellness coaching and helping patients feel like they are in control of their own health."

Zekan, who holds a national board certification in holistic nursing, was commissioned in 2014 and decided on a nursing career after, which she said came naturally since her father is a surgeon, mom is a nurse and has one brother currently in medical school.

"It's in my blood," said Zekan.

A lineage of medical professionals also runs in Serna's family, whose father and mother are both nurses.

"When I was growing up I didn't want to be a nurse, I didn't want to be like mom and dad," said Serna, 25, native of El Paso, Texas. "It was weird, as I was growing up I wanted to get out of (El Paso) and leave but then (later) I wanted to stay closer to home and family."

After graduating high school, Serna became a nursing assistant before becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). After becoming more engaged in patient care, Serna went on to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

"When I first became an LVN I thought I was content with that. As I continued (working), I knew I could make more of a difference as an RN. As I finished (school) I realized I could continue making more of a difference," said Serna, whose next goals are to become a family nurse practitioner. "It's very rewarding, it puts your life into perspective. You come in and take care of people that are sick and it makes you realize other problems you may have aren't as bad as you're making them out to be."

Zekan, who previously worked at WBAMC's Medical Ward, was nominated for the recognition for extraordinary contributions. Her nomination details how she spends countless hours catching up on nursing and medical research, searching for better ways to care for our patients and has an infectious passion for people, which motivates doctors, nurses, and other support staff to be a beacon of light during a not-so-pleasant experience.

"I like (working in the Medical Ward) because patients are genuinely ill and staying for prolonged periods of time. You get to spend more time with them, build a relationship and learn their personalities," said Zekan. "I hope I have an impact, patients tell me that I do. I've even had some come back to thank me."

Zekan, whose military commitment is coming to an end this summer, plans to continue her career in medicine as a hospice nurse practitioner.

"All the little stuff you learn in school starts making more sense as you evolve, increase education and increase your practice," said Serna. "Half the battle is just caring, if you care then you're doing your job. That's what we're here for is to take care of people."