NEWS | July 19, 2019

Snagging the 'job of the year': Meet new School of Nursing Dean Stephen Cavanagh

Stephen Cavanagh prepares to lead the School of Nursing at UC Davis


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Faculty, staff and students at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis eagerly await the arrival of Stephen Cavanagh. He becomes the school’s second dean and a member of the executive leadership team of UC Davis Health this Monday.

“This was the job of the year,” Cavanagh said. “It gave an absolute unique opportunity to come to a school that’s already well thought of.”

Chancellor Gary S. May appointed Cavanagh in early May. He, along with Allison Brashear, the new dean for the UC Davis School of Medicine who also starts next week, will work jointly to develop models around integrated care delivery and advanced practice for both disciplines.

“I think most of us realize that with our current health care system in the U.S., we can’t continue like this,” Cavanagh added. “We’ve got to find new ways of delivering care more affordably, but just as effectively, in people’s homes and communities. There are some great things already being done here, but I’d like to work with colleagues to accelerate that.”

Campus collaborations

Stephen Cavanagh
Dean Stephen Cavanagh is best known for developing the health care workforce and educating new generations of clinicians and scholars.

Dean Stephen Cavanagh is best known for developing the health care workforce and educating new generations of clinicians and scholars.

Cavanagh is recognized for developing the health care workforce, maximizing the use of advanced practice nurses in clinics around the region to advance access, and educating the next generations of clinicians and scholars. He brings extensive experience in cross-campus collaboration to create innovative programming for students and new forms of interprofessional education —a core value of the School of Nursing.

“Dr. Cavanagh has proven experience and demonstrated passion for developing a workforce that is both prepared and positioned to serve people where and when they need it,” said David Lubarsky, UC Davis Health vice chancellor and chief executive officer, to whom Cavanagh will report. “His perspectives will complement my vision for where we need to grow capacity at UC Davis Health and how team-based education and practice can build the workforce of the future.”

Leadership importance

Cavanagh comes to UC Davis from College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he served as dean for eight years. Prior to his Amherst appointment in 2011, Cavanagh served as professor and associate dean for academic and clinical affairs in the College of Nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit. He has been a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow and a Johnson & Johnson/UCLA Health Management Fellow.

Former colleagues speak highly of his leadership strengths and collegiality.

“Steve is a great choice to continue to build on the strong foundation at the Betty Moore School of Nursing,” said Antonia M. Villarruel, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and a Wayne State alumna who worked with Cavanagh while she was a professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. “He is a proven and strategic leader who will thrive in this extraordinary interdisciplinary environment.”

“My colleagues and I valued Steve’s active participation as a fellow, his thoughtful leadership and his collegial relationships with the other executive nurse fellows,” added Mary Dickow, the statewide director of the California Action Coalition and former deputy director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program when Cavanagh was a fellow.

“One of the exciting things about coming to this particular school is that leadership is so obviously central to everything that was done,” Cavanagh said. “The whole culture has to be one of opportunity and I would hope that will be something I’ll be working on as the days and months unwind.”

Hear more from Cavanagh and his thoughts on the nursing as a profession and the opportunities for collaboration across disciplines at UC Davis.