Dean Stephen Cavanagh shares vision for the next decade for the School of Nursing

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the introduction of the iPad, arrival to market of the first electric vehicle and signing into law of the Affordable Care Act. We can’t imagine today without these realities.

Nor could I imagine UC Davis Health without the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. One decade ago, 33 students embarked upon their graduate school journey with, what was then, a new school created to activate change where it is needed most. The School of Nursing grew out of the shared vision of UC Davis and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Today, more than 650 alumni amplify Betty Irene Moore’s belief that health care can be better, more responsive, more accessible and safer for individuals, families and communities.

Across the past decade we’ve discovered many things about ourselves, the role our school plays in realizing a new type of health care leader and how our programs must evolve to go beyond traditional expectations. I’m thrilled that in the 15 months since my arrival, the School of Nursing renewed our vision and mission and heightened our focus on health equity, diversity and inclusion with the appointment of Piri Ackerman-Barger as associate dean to spearhead those efforts and a partnership with UC Davis Medical Center to offer anti-racism and cultural humility training. We have also increased our collaboration with the UC Davis School of Medicine and our contribution to UC Davis Health.

This coronavirus pandemic necessitates new teamwork with our medicine and medical center colleagues, so that our nursing, physician assistant and family nurse practitioner students can stay on track to graduate on time. That partnership illustrates the strength of an academic health system and builds on the solid foundation of this school courageously forged by my predecessor Heather M. Young and the dedicated faculty and staff over the years.

As we look to the future, we envision new ways to contribute. The UC Davis Health Aging Initiative presents a unique opportunity to leverage the expertise of researchers in our Family Caregiving Institute in our quest to  promote healthy aging through an integrated approach across the lifespan and all care settings. The addition of six new nurse practitioner educators to our faculty, who have a dual clinical and teaching role, will play a critical role in the new clinic being developed to care for the older adult population.

The School of Nursing’s reputation and sphere of influence in nursing education, leadership and innovation continue to expand. In the last year, we developed three national programs to advance health research and practice and elevate Betty Irene Moore’s vision to national prominence: Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators, the Heather M. Young Postdoctoral Fellowships and a new N.P. Residency Program that seeks to expand medical capacity and improve health outcomes for primary care patients in Northern California rural and underserved counties.

On the research front, we continue to refine focus of our young research program and meet the needs of the communities we serve. Currently, faculty and scholars at the school conduct research on COVID-19-related issues, including how to reach populations who are vulnerable to the worst outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic through telehealth, how tweets on Twitter indicate who is likely to get a vaccine, and the impacts of social isolation on older adults and their caregivers during the pandemic.

Our community outreach takes on new meaning in our COVID world as well. Our work with the Alameda County Care Alliance focuses on implementing and evaluating a community driven faith- and community-based care navigator intervention to improve care for individuals with serious illness and their caregivers in predominantly African American churches. It has grown from five to 25 church partners and pivoted to Zoom and phone calls to replace in-person visits during this critical time.  In the next 10 years, I anticipate this type of outreach, along with an increased global focus, as we pursue a healthier, more equitable future for all.

At the beginning of 2020, many of us looked forward in anticipation asking, ‘What will happen in this new decade?’ 10 months later, we live a reality I don’t think any of us imagined. Yet, we’ve discovered resilience, strength, determination and purpose like never before. At the School of Nursing, we’ve gone beyond clinical education to elevate the skills, confidence and vision of our students. The critical thinking, clinical excellence, research capabilities and deep understanding of the health care system our students and alumni have gained now enable them to flourish today and the decades to come.