Message From the College of Nursing Dean: Summer 2022

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

It is a joy to once again share news from RUSH University College of Nursing. Our students, staff and faculty have been hard at work in each of their respective domains. Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that we still face, the excellence of our teams continues to shine through.

On March 29, U.S. News & World Report released the 2023 Best Graduate Schools rankings. Once again, RUSH received high marks, reinforcing our national reputation for excellence in nursing education. Our ranking for the Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, degree program stayed among the top of the country at No. 2, and two additional programs — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Acute Care and Nursing Administration (Transformative Leadership: Systems) — claimed the No. 1 spot. Six other DNP specialties were ranked in the top four, and our master’s program was ranked No. 17. These robust rankings demonstrate the exceptional dedication and passion of our faculty, staff and students, particularly during the pandemic.

Our faculty’s unwavering dedication to their profession has been on full display during the last several months. They’ve had a strong presence at regional and national conferences that helps bolster our profile and showcase our leadership among professional and academic audiences. Several have also recently won awards, including:

  • Urmeka Jefferson, PhD, RN, received the Award for Excellence in Research from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Jefferson’s research focuses on reducing disparities in breastfeeding to improve morbidity and mortality for vulnerable infants. Her current project is expanding her work in breastfeeding support for Black mothers using mobile-app technology.
  • Lynn Mohr, PhD, APRN, PCNS-BC, CPN, FCNS, received the 2022 Clinical Nurse Educator of the Year Award from the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists. Mohr is an associate professor, program director for the pediatric and neonatal clinical nurse specialist program and chair of the Department of Women, Children and Family Nursing at RUSH University College of Nursing.
  • Melinda Earle, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, became a fellow of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Earle leads the Transformative Leadership: Systems program, designed for nurses looking to gain expertise in improving outcomes and leading change at a system level.
  • JoEllen Wilbur, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Midwest Nursing Research Society. Among the advances from her two decades of research, she has developed culturally sensitive, community-based interventions that are effective in increasing physical activity, improving blood pressure and maintaining weight in Black women.

In addition to the considerable national recognition, several emerging and establisheaculty have recently received funding that has the potential to make significant changes to health care, including:

  • Chuka Emezue, PhD, MPH, MPA, received the first Health Equity Scholars award from the RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity. Emezue’s project focuses on developing, pilot testing and deploying technology-enhanced interventions that address overlapping interpersonal violence, mental health comorbidities and substance use in young Black males ages 18 to 24. This project responds to research that indicates one in four women and one in nine men in the United States report experiencing partner violence.
  • Heide Cygan, DNP, RN, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers received one of the 2022 President’s Collaborative Research Award for a project that aims to empower health professionals at RUSH and beyond to think of themselves as leaders in planetary health, which is defined as balancing the needs of human civilization and the natural systems it needs to survive. Two other faculty members, Todd Ruppar, PhD, RN, GCNS-BC, FAHA, FAAN, and Shannon Halloway, PhD, RN, FAHA, also received awards for projects examining medication adherence and health behaviors for cognitive health.
  • Monique Reed, PhD, MS, RN, FAAN, received R01 funding from the National Institutes of Health to grow her research in childhood obesity prevention. The project, Black Girls Move, is a school-linked daughter and mother physical activity and dietary behavior program for ninth and 10th grade students. This program is designed to prevent obesity in Black adolescent females.

The people who make the College of Nursing a home for students and faculty are the staff — they are truly some of the most influential people in the entire University. Nearly 60% of the staff at the College of Nursing hold a master’s degree, and 15% have been at RUSH for more than a decade. Their expertise, dedication and passion do not go overlooked and are a hallmark of the experiences of our students.

Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize the graduates who crossed the stage in May. These nurses made it through despite the myriad challenges they faced during their academic careers, including the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting responsibilities at home and work, and new demands for distance learning and telemedicine. They will go into the world better prepared to care for patients, lead their units and their peers, and examine the structural forces that contribute to the health of the patients and communities. We are all so proud of their tenacity.

I sincerely hope to see many of you at our All Alumni Weekend celebration on Oct. 21-22. This will allow us to connect in person for the first time in far too long. We will celebrate not only the recent accomplishments of the College of Nursing but also the 50 years of excellence of RUSH University. I highly recommend you add this date to your calendar and plan to visit Chicago for the festivities this fall.