Honoring Jeffrey Bryan Petraco

December 14, 2018


Jeffrey Bryan Petraco, MBA, AGPCNP

Jeffrey Bryan Petraco, MBA, AGPCNP, RN

Jeff was an integral part of our family at the VCU School of Nursing for five years during which time he held roles as a student in the accelerated bachelor’s degree program, a research assistant, an adjunct professor, an affiliate faculty member, and a project coordinator for the Office of Practice and Community Engagement.

Jeff earned his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA and subsequently went on to earn his M.B.A. from Temple University. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college. After a 31-year career working in public health and social services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Jeff retired in 2010.

Jeff had a bold and adventurous spirit. Not one to sit idle, he decided to pursue his lifelong interest in nursing in 2013 by enrolling in the accelerated bachelor’s program at the VCU School of Nursing.

This amazing choice to go back to school to follow his passion was featured in a VCU News article about first generation college students.

Jeff graduating with honors.

Jeff graduating with honors.

In the article, Jeff gives advice to students: “Know yourself, and know your passion.”

Jeff certainly knew himself and knew what he was passionate about – caring for others and doing his best every day.

After graduating as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner at the VCU School of Nursing in spring 2018, Jeff began working full time with the VCU School of Nursing Office of Practice and Community Engagement. Within this role, Jeff provided expertise related to the programming and research efforts of the Richmond Health and Wellness Program. His expertise in managing complex projects and his desire to help the underserved were a perfect match for his new role. His skills and training as a nurse practitioner equipped him well to precept student teams at the Richmond Health and Wellness clinical sites. His passion, positive attitude and can-do spirit will truly be missed. Jeff made a lasting impression on the population he served in the Richmond community.

People were so saddened upon hearing the news of the loss of such a kind and generous soul. During our grief, we started to realize Jeff’s true reach and impact.

Notes left for Jeff.

Notes left for Jeff.

People from all over the school felt compelled to write notes and leave them on his door, as a tribute. VCU nursing students, faculty, and staff all attended an extemporaneous tribute led by Debra Barksdale, Ph.D., associate dean of academic programs.

We learned that Jeff and his friend Hallel Basco dreamed of serving the underserved communities of Richmond by creating a nurse practitioner clinic at The Center for Healthy Hearts in Richmond.

Jeff and Hallel on graduation day.

Jeff Petraco and Hallel Basco on graduation day, May 11, 2018.

We learned from current students how much he meant to them as a clinical teacher. It was his encouragement that helped them through the most difficult troubles they were having in school.

We learned from former students who were Jeff’s classmates that he rode with them across country to see the eclipse because they wanted to go.

One of his former classmates shared this:

“I was a classmate of Jeff’s in nursing school. I didn’t know him well, I must say, until I lost my mom that first year by suicide. He reached out to me with his kind heart and raised money in my mom’s honor for the AFSP and walked with my family in the Out of the Darkness Walk. Rest in Peace to a beautiful person, give my momma a kiss for me!” – Ellen Cash

With his endless generosity, optimism and calmness, he had a profound impact on many of VCU School of Nursing’s students, faculty and staff. He will be forever missed. His talents and contributions will remain within the spirit of our work as we move on.

One poem that was left in honor of Jeff by an unknown author:

A Symbol of Hope

A Symbol of Hope
A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam
And for a brief moment its glory
And beauty belong to our world
But then it flies again
And though we wish it could have stayed…
We feel lucky to have seen it.

Jeff will be remembered at a Buddhist Powa Service on December 21, beginning at 2 p.m., at the Kadampa Meditation Center Maryland, at 900 East Northern Parkway, Baltimore, Maryland 21212.

10 Responses to “Honoring Jeffrey Bryan Petraco”

  1. Ginna Slattum Says:

    I had the privilege of working with Jeff as a research assistant for two years, during which he served as my mentor and an even better friend. He truly embodied the intelligence, caring, and passion of a stellar nurse. I cannot express my sorrow for his passing. However, the impact from his hard work and warm smile will always be seen at the VCU School of Nursing and the Richmond Community. I will truly miss you Jeff.

  2. Kenna Says:

    I met Jeffrey in my health assessment labs – my first semester as an ABSN student. We became friends and I stopped by to have a chat with him every now and then. We talked about everything from our personal health issues to our careers. He was a wonderful, caring and attentive mentor and gave me a ton of advice to help guide me through the program. We talked and laughed every time we ran into each other and he would always leave me with a compliment – every time. Last we spoke (only 3 days before his passing) I promised to stop by at his office and catch up with him on a community project idea we both had earlier discussed to work on together. Little did I know that would be the last I would see him.

    Jeff, you were a magnanimous, compassionate and endearing soul and we will all miss you terribly!

    Goodbye, Mr Petraco.

  3. Tracye Proffitt Says:

    Jeff was one of my students during my first semester of teaching. I’ll always remember his kind face sitting in the front of the class. It was great to see him around the building during his graduate studies and after graduation. He was always kind, upbeat, and ready to help. You are missed.

  4. Kaitlyn Patterson Says:

    Jeff was a teaching assistant for some of the classes I took last year. It was always such a blessing to come to class and see his smiling face. We always knew he was happy to be there with us. He will be missed.

  5. Carley Says:

    I had Jeff as a student in his first clinical rotation. I wish I could go back to make some of those moments in the hospital and at the patients’ bedside with Jeff more vivid; but I certainly knew he was a shining star and an extraordinary person from day one. Jeff had a way of always making those around him feel special and important to him. He was genuinely interested in and cared for people and it showed in every encounter. On the day before he passed my encounter with Jeff included him holding the elevator for me and asking about my son and motherhood. I hope Jeff had an idea of how much his character was and is cherished by so many. You are dearly missed Jeff. ~Carley

  6. Tamara Zurakowski Says:

    Jeff and I both tended worked late at night in the SON. He told me that Pam was worried about his being alone in the building, but when she discovered I was here as well, she decided it would be safe for him to stay. Jeff and I joked about my being his “protector”, and I never left without telling him he was on his own. Sorry I couldn’t protect you from everything, Jeff.

    • Kyungeh An Says:

      Jeff was my protector when I worked late in the building. I used to say ‘good night, and don’t stay too late’ when I left before him. I wish he stayed for me to say good night, again. He might respond, “I hear you.”

  7. Bukola Usidame Says:

    I may never know why you left Jeff…but that’s okay because you’re in a better place than I am. A place free from all this violence, wickedness and heartache in this world. I can’t believe I knew you for just 4 months and yet this hit me so hard! I hope I’ll see you one day somewhere. I miss you Jeff. Rest well my dear friend.

  8. Curtis Sexton Says:


    Your infectious smile, laugh, and kind nature are missed everyday. Thank you for all that you did to make me feel welcome when I started at the School of Nursing.


  9. Teri Smith Says:

    I met Jeff as an Accelerated BS student, our relationship changed over the five years I had the pleasure of knowing him and we had recently became colleagues and friends. I am a better person for having known him and my only wish was that we would have had more time. <3 xo