Year in Review: Message from Dean Kathy Rideout
By Kathy Rideout
Thursday, January 6, 2022 3:27 PM
The dawning of a new year is a time for hope and optimism, a clean slate from which we can start fresh. Although 2021 ended in much the same way it began, with cases spiking and our health care systems challenged to meet the needs of our communities, my sincerest wish is that sometime in 2022, we all can begin to find relief from the relentless threat of COVID-19 and return more fully to the lives we left before the pandemic. For the time being, we will continue to stay the course and remain optimistic about our future.
As I look back on the past 12 months, I am encouraged that there have been many positive developments, particularly in our University of Rochester School of Nursing community. Certainly one of the most important was that we returned to fully in-person learning for the fall semester. We were able to host pinning ceremonies, Commencement, and Convocation in person.
It felt really good to be able to hold these important academic ceremonies for our students again, and we all benefited from the increased sense of vitality in our building with our faculty, staff, and students walking the hallways. Although we have temporarily returned to virtual learning for the month of January, my hope is that we will be fully in person again soon.
We have also made great strides in the Helen Wood Hall expansion project. The second and third floors are close to completion, while the fourth is progressing quickly. We are grateful for the support of many who have helped this project to go forward, and a special thank you goes out to the anonymous donor who gifted us $1 million for the naming of the second floor. The new wing is expected to open for the summer semester with a planned ribbon cutting in May 2022.
It’s been said that the new wing is the physical embodiment of our academic philosophy, and I agree. Not only does it provide extensive space for our students and faculty, but it is technologically advanced to better support teaching and learning. The UR School of Nursing has been built on a tradition of pioneering nursing education, and over the past few years, we have moved swiftly to use technology and evidence-based approaches to curricular design and development to better prepare clinicians and providers for a rapidly changing health care system. Our innovative approach in this area was recognized by Apple, which bestowed upon us the Apple Distinguished School designation, one of only four nursing schools in the nation to receive this honor.
Our educational programs continue to be recognized for their academic rigor and student success. The UR School of Nursing ranked 26th in the most recent rankings of master’s programs by US News and World Report and our adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner program tied for 12th in rankings of individual master’s specialties. Our Doctor of Nursing Practice program tied for 44th, making UR Nursing the only school in Upstate New York to rank among the top 50 for both its master’s and doctoral programs.
The school’s research function also ranks among the nation’s best in attracting research dollars from the National Institutes of Health. Coming in at No. 29 among nursing schools, the UR School of Nursing continues to produce impactful, ground-breaking research in areas such as aging, brain/cognitive decline, nutrition/obesity, maternal/child health, HIV/AIDS/sexual health, and others. There is much more important work to be done to improve care in acute care and at home, as well as reduce disparities in care, especially for those in underserved communities.
In November of 2021, I had the privilege of joining friends and family of our beloved Harriet Kitzman and dedicating the Office of Research Support in her memory. Harriet passed away in March 2020 and less than a year later, we were able to secure approval to name this area after her.
There was also big news in terms of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. In February, Mitchell Wharton was appointed associate dean for equity and inclusion, the first male and first African-American to serve the school as a senior administrator. Mitchell also made a splash at the national level, being named secretary of AACN’s new DEI Leadership Network and being named president-elect of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.
As a school, we were recognized once again by Insight Into Diversity magazine as a winner of the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. This marked our fifth consecutive year as a recipient of the only national honor celebrating the diversity efforts of schools of nursing, medicine, pharmacy, and other health professions.
Our clinical mission made a mark on the national level, as well. Our Center for Employee Wellness continues to work effectively with clients across dozens of organizations in the greater Rochester area, and newly completed research on the efficacy of its conditional management programs showed the dramatic effects wellness coaching can have on individual health.
Wellness programming and the work of our Passport Health and School-Based Health Center teams was perhaps more important than ever in 2021. Our clinicians remained a constant presence in our community, helping to manage vaccinations and flu shots, while helping to manage the overall well-being of some of our most vulnerable. At the school level, our Wellness Task Force also took on the vital responsibility of contributing to a living and working space that helps all members of our community to find joy and thrive.
I am ever grateful for the work and sacrifice of all of our faculty, students, and staff, who have persevered through yet another roller coaster of a year. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out a few folks who achieved major milestones in 2021, such as Meghan Underhill-Blazey, who was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing; Mary Starks, named New York State’s Nurse Practitioner Student of the Year; and Lisa Brophy and Carla DeLucia, who were named the school’s new assistant deans for education and student affairs, respectively.
My time at the UR School of Nursing has been one of the greatest blessings of my life!
As you all are probably aware, 2021 was my last full year as dean of what I believe is the greatest nursing school in the world. Nothing that I have witnessed this year from our faculty, our students, our staff, our amazing friends and donors, could convince me that anything else is true. I have no great predictions for what is in store for 2022, other than for more change, more challenges, and more opportunities to learn and grow and make the world a better place. I truly believe that this community – one I have called my home for the past 35 years and will continue to be a part of long after a new dean comes on board – is uniquely prepared and well-equipped to meet and overcome those challenges and continue to blaze new trails for the generations that follow. In short, my time at the UR School of Nursing has been one of the greatest blessings of my life!
My best to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2022!
Kathy H. Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP
Vice President, University of Rochester Medical Center
Dean and Professor of Clinical Nursing and Pediatrics,
University of Rochester School of Nursing