New role provides alumna with new opportunities
Leah Morris says her graduate education led her back to UC Davis
Leah Morris began her career in nursing at the bedside, but found herself intrigued with the bigger picture of health care. Three decades, many professional opportunities and a master’s degree in leadership from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis later, she combines her clinical expertise and systems-level knowledge in a new role with unlimited possibility.
“Throughout my career, I always kept the initials R.N. after my name, because I wanted it to be clear that I am a registered nurse and understand what it means to deliver care,” Morris says.
When she decided it was time to reengage with patients, she chose UC Davis to advance her education.
“I thought this school was amazing. The idea of taking adults – who were already nurses – and teaching them about health care systems, health policy, leadership, informatics and cross-disciplinary work, I was like, oh yeah,” recalls Morris, a Class of 2013 alumna. “I thought, if I’m going to invest the energy and time to complete a thesis and work toward a second master’s degree, this is the place.”
Morris’ career spanned earning an earlier master’s degree in public health, driving health policy, conducting national development of managed care and consulting on California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She entered the School of Nursing in 2011 and immediately put her past experiences into action. Having worked with Medi-Cal managed care for more than 10 years, she dove into learning more about social disparities and determinants of health. Her knowledge of collecting data to improve health quality took on new meaning through her informatics coursework. The Community Connections class exposed her to leaders at Yolo Hospice, where she would work for five years after graduation in hospice care and to build a community-based palliative care program.
“Through the curriculum, caliber of other students and the exposure to talented faculty, the School of Nursing gave me the opportunity to re-engage in direct care and re-examine end-of-life care,” Morris explains. “If I hadn’t made those connections during my master’s-degree program, I would not have ended up here at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.”
Today, managing the direction of the supportive oncology and survivorship department at UC Davis Health, Morris works to provide whole-person care to people newly diagnosed and surviving with cancer. She knows to be successful, she will need to draw upon her clinical expertise, her many health-related career experiences and the knowledge she gained at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
“It’s not about having more initials behind your name,” Morris says. “It’s about the experience and the exposure of this type of leadership program. I look forward to developing deeper partnerships with the School of Nursing.”