Dean Stephen Cavanagh reflects on his first year as nursing school dean

What a year! July 2020 finds us navigating our new pandemic-induced realties, translating passionate protests into lasting societal change and eyeing opportunities to ensure optimal health and health care equity for all.

One year ago, I was attracted to the dean post at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing because of the leadership opportunities to collaborate across UC Davis Health and the UC Davis School of Medicine. Today, I can attest to the reality that what lured me here continues to energize me.

I have witnessed incredible resiliency and adaptability of faculty and staff to manage an environment no one could anticipate. Rather than take a breather before the start of spring quarter, faculty rushed to convert in-class curriculum to engaging coursework for remote instruction. Staff created online solutions to innovate through technology to support our students. The School of Nursing team lived out its mission to prepare clinicians and researchers to be change agents by adapting and evolving in the rapidly changing health care environment.

When health systems across the region closed their doors to our student learners, our partners at the School of Medicine and UC Davis Medical Center opened up new opportunities to collaborate. The flexibility and accommodation of colleagues enabled our nursing, nurse practitioner and physician assistant students stay on track to complete their programs. That teamwork speaks volumes about an academic health system that equally values practice, research and education.

Collaboration also lies at the core of the UC Davis Health Aging Initiative, a systemwide effort to create a healthier older adult population in Northern California based on outstanding care, research and innovative models of education. The School of Nursing’s Family Caregiving Institute is poised to play a major role in the initiative and expand into direct services to older adults and their caregivers as we elevate the role of these often-invisible care members within the larger health care system. I’m excited about working with the team of experts across the system that with whom Allison Brashear, School of Medicine dean, and I have the privilege to collaborate.

Dean Brashear has been a real partner and colleague since day one. You may recall that we started our UC Davis leadership journeys on the same day. Vice Chancellor David Lubarsky brought us in together to foster collaboration, build team-based models of care and innovate in how we educate future generations of health care professionals.

The foundation for those goals is now firmly established and I look forward to building on them in the year ahead. From increasing the role of advanced practice providers within UC Davis Health to strengthening the connections between School of Nursing students and School of Medicine departments and preceptors, I’m entering year two with both plans for even greater innovation and collaboration.

Prior to my arrival, the School of Nursing faculty and staff developed the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Aspirational Goals (2016). In addition to a commitment to grow a school that reflects the diversity of our community as well as fostering an inclusive learning environment, our team sought to develop a strong infrastructure to further support diversity and inclusion. I’m pleased we took a big step toward realizing that goal with the July 1 appointment of Piri Ackerman-Barger as our school’s associate dean for health equity, diversity and inclusion. With Dr. Ackerman-Barger’s leadership, we will continue to work toward our ultimate goal of ensuring that all people have equitable access to health care.

Though the current pandemic and national calls for social justice are not resolved and in the rearview mirror, I look ahead confidently and with great hope. The team at the School of Nursing, in partnership with all our Sacramento and Davis colleagues, stands ready to manage future challenges.