August 15, 2011

Have you kissed a frog? A tradition returns to Johns Hopkins Nursing

Legend has it that something magical happens when you kiss a frog—but sometimes it takes several attempts to capture that magic. At the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, it takes only one smooch with an amphibian and a celebration begins.

Kissing the Frog, the unusual tradition of hugging and kissing the school’s courtyard frog sculpture, was started in 1999 by Karin Coyne. Coyne, the first Johns Hopkins doctoral nursing student to defend her dissertation, celebrated her accomplishment by embracing and kissing the inanimate four-foot fiddling amphibian.

As more students completed the doctoral program, many followed her lead and began their celebrations of success with a frog smooch. During the ensuing decade, the numbers of doctoral students doubled and tripled, but the tradition began to wane. The Fiddling Frog continued his silent serenade by the courtyard fountain. The shrubbery around the fountain grew and began to invade his mushroom perch. The tradition was eventually forgotten—until this year, when the magic returned.

After successfully defending her doctoral dissertation, “Couple Functioning and Posttraumatic Stress in Soldiers and Spouses,” Lt. Col. Kristal Melvin, U.S. Army Nurse Corps, went to the newly expanded and refurbished courtyard, planted a kiss on the frog’s head and singlehandedly revived the tradition. “To me, the courtyard frog symbolizes the best of Hopkins,” Melvin said. “It’s unique, it’s steadfast, and it celebrates the caregiving and kindness of nurses. This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and to remember, and I’m proud to be part of this tradition.”

The doctoral program directors—Hae-Ra Han for the PhD program and Mary Terhaar for the Doctor of Nursing Practice program—are now encouraging others to do the same following the successful defense of a dissertation or presentation of a capstone project. “This is a whimsical and fun way to celebrate a major accomplishment,” Terhaar said. “And with 45 DNP and 27 PhD students now enrolled, the frog will enjoy many hugs and kisses in the next few years.”

The Fiddling Frog has held an honored position in the courtyard since its construction in 1998. The courtyard and the sculpture were given to the school by Bob and Townsend Kent in memory of their daughter Louise and to honor the nurses who cared for her while she was a patient in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.