Dean Stephen J. Cavanagh
Dean Stephen J. Cavanagh

Discovery Beyond a Decade

The year 2020 will go down in history as a year that tested our health care systems, our societal prejudices and our personal resolve. It transitioned our classrooms to the internet and transformed our homes into new sites of innovation. It taught us the valuable roles we play, as health care providers and educators. It illuminated injustices from the past and our duty to shape a just future. It emphasized the importance of technology in keeping patients cared for and us connected.

Before anyone uttered the words novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse. It proved to be just that and so much more.

Here at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, we began the year marking a milestone: a decade is now passed since we welcomed our first classes of graduate students. Since 2010, we grew from a handful of faculty and staff and 33 students to a community of more than 600 alumni, 300 current students, five graduate-degree programs and more than 350 community partners and collaborators. We reflected on what we’ve learned about our school family, our role in health care education and our impact on the communities we serve. Then COVID-19 hit. We charged forward, each day a new discovery building on our determination and resilience for our students.

Colleagues throughout UC Davis Health stepped up to keep our students in clinical rotations and maintained high quality learning environments when other health systems weren’t able to take learners. Faculty stepped outside of their comfort zones to innovate in remote instruction, when in-person engagement was no longer an option. We discovered we needed connection, even if it was at a distance, and we learned how to make online meetings productive and fun with virtual backgrounds of Betty Irene Moore Hall.

Just as times of crisis shaped the founder of our profession, Florence Nightingale, whose 200th birthday we celebrate this year, the coronavirus pandemic molded health care leaders among our ranks. Faculty from our Family Caregiving Institute collaborate with future engineers to spark technological designs for older adults and their caregivers. Alumni create a financial safety net for fellow students facing unforeseen challenges. Graduates of our programs initiate the establishment of local chapters of national organizations, thus providing pathways for underrepresented students into our professions and sparking conversations about much-needed change in our society.

Furthering our commitment to grow a school that reflects the diversity of our community as well as fostering an inclusive learning environment, we took a big step toward realizing that goal with the 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.

July marked one year since I joined UC Davis. I chose to serve as dean for this School of Nursing and embark upon exciting challenges to educate both nurses and physician assistants, collaborate with the UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis Health as well as forge new partnerships to improve the health of those we serve. After Year No. 1, the commitment and talent of everyone has exceeded my expectations.

Be it in times of crisis or during our daily routines, we work collectively to improve lives and transform health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative interprofessional education and creating dynamic partnerships with the community. We continue to discover new ways to educate students, new ways to support advanced practice providers and new ways to advance Betty Irene Moore’s vision of nurse leadership across the nation .

Though we continue to live in uncertain times, the only definite is that life will not be as it was before the pandemic. While we can’t fully envision what the future it will look like, we can be confident that the emerging reality will offer new opportunities for discovery. Through remote instruction and meetings, we discovered how to balance competing priorities and engage virtually. Through grueling hours working extra shifts, in support of our patients and students, we discovered resiliency, strength and leadership.

Most importantly, we discovered perspective. Life is precious. Flexibility is crucial. Encouraging others is necessary. Generosity is contagious. Leadership is critical. Resiliency is lifesaving. From that viewpoint, we stand ready to take on whatever challenges come our way today, tomorrow, in the next decade and for years to come.

Stephen J. Cavanagh

Stephen J. Cavanagh, PhD, MPA, R.N., FACHE, FAAN
Dignity Health Dean’s Chair for Nursing Leadership
Dean, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing