Diana Schunn got into nursing at the beginning of a paradigm shift, and she’s continued to push for progress.

Schunn, of Whitewater, is the recipient of Bethel College’s 2019 Distinguished Achievement Award, which acknowledges character and citizenship, achievement in a chosen profession or vocation, and work of benefit to humanity.
 
She will receive the award at the college’s annual Alumni Banquet, June 8 during Alumni Heritage Weekend on campus.
 
Schunn received her bachelor of science in nursing from Bethel in 1987 and went to work at St. Joseph Medical Center in Wichita with orthopedic and abdominal surgery patients before moving to the emergency room where, she says, “I enjoyed the adrenaline.”
 
When she was asked to do a review of procedures and policies at St. Joseph regarding domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual assault cases, she realized there was more to be learned and asked her superiors to send her to sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) training.
 
“I was only a half-day in when I realized, ‘This is a whole paradigm shift,’” she remembers, “and not just ‘We need to change how we do a few things in the ER.’”
 
She came back to the Sisters of St. Joseph and told them she believed there needed to be a whole new program for handling sexual assault that included developing and training a team of professionals. The late Sister Helene Lentz told her, “We’ll make this happen.”
 
 “When Sister Helene said something would happen, it did,” Schunn said. “I was a little hesitant to start this program, but a few months in, I knew it was my passion.”

She has been largely responsible for helping put Wichita ahead of the national curve in how it serves victims, particularly children and youth, of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
 
When Schunn began nursing in 1987, sexual assault cases came into the ER, where any nurse could examine them. “Orientation” consisted of “someone saying, ‘Here’s a sexual assault kit – take a look, you might have to use it.’”
 
Now there is a dedicated space outside the ER, and a specialized procedure carried out by a Sexual Abuse Response Team or SART.
 
“We have changed the culture [around sexual assault],” Schunn says. “It has become a priority [for law enforcement]. This has moved nurses into a much more important role in testifying and working with the district attorney’s office to develop expert witnesses.”
 
After training in both SANE/SART and forensic nursing Schunn has, of course, been an expert witness herself. As for how many times – “I stopped counting after about 70.”
 
This training also led Schunn into new administrative roles. She was instrumental in developing the Kansas Sexual Assault Network to help other medical facilities across the state adopt and train for the SANE/SART model.
 
From 2006-08 (now employed by Via Christi Health in Wichita), Schunn sat on a board that was looking at developing the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Sedgwick County, an interagency nonprofit that would bring together the Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit (EMCU; a joint venture of the Wichita Police Department, the Sedgwick County Sheriff and Child Protective Services), the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, representatives of the Sedgwick County DA’s office, the Department of Homeland Security and the Wesley, Via Christi and University of Kansas hospital systems, and ICT S.O.S., which works with victims of human trafficking.
 
Schunn was appointed the CAC’s first executive director in 2008. She led a $7 million capital campaign to buy and renovate the former Lincoln Elementary School in Wichita, where the CAC moved in 2016.
 
Maybe one of the more unusual results of Schunn’s work was being in the audience of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009.
 
This was after Roy Wenzl published his extensive story in the Wichita Eagle about the extreme abuse of a pair of Wichita sisters.
 
The girls had received services from the EMCU, and someone there who had a sister working for Oprah sent her the Wenzl story, resulting in an invitation to the sisters to be on the show.
 
“The sisters were young, and not willing to talk with Oprah’s people,” Schunn says. “I became the go-between to set it up, and then went to the show as support for the girls – and also the audience. They come in with no knowledge of the topic for the day, and statistics show there will be survivors [in any group].”
 
Schunn (who was the Bethel Department of Nursing’s Outstanding Young Alumnus in 1996) has received numerous awards for her work helping people of all ages deal with the trauma of sexual violence. Among those: Wichita Business Journal Women in Business list, 2017; American Red Cross Commitment to Community Hero, 2016; Wichita Police Department Certificate of Appreciation, 2006, “For service rendered to the community and citizens of the City of Wichita, Kansas, in the interest of better law enforcement”; The Vagina Monologues Vagina Warrior Award, 2004; and Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall’s Crime Victim Service Award, Outstanding Individual for Commitment to Crime Victims, 2000.