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Message From the College of Nursing Dean: Summer 2023

Christine Kennedy

It is a joy to once again share news from the RUSH University College of Nursing. Our students, staff and faculty have been hard at work, and we’re excited to share our accomplishments and accolades with you.

In April, U.S. News & World Report released the 2023 Best Graduate School rankings. Once again, RUSH received high rankings, reinforcing our national reputation for excellence in nursing education. Our ranking for the Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree program was ranked No. 2 for the second consecutive year, and our Clinical Nurse Leader program secured the No. 1 spot nationwide. In addition to those two programs, five other programs were ranked in the Top 5, including Pediatric Primary Care (No. 2), Family Nurse Practitioner (No. 3), Psych Mental Health (No. 3), Adult Gerontology, Acute Care (No. 4), Adult Gerontology, Primary Care (No. 4) Nursing Administration (No. 5) and finally, our Generalist Entry Master’s program was ranked No. 10.

Our faculty’s unwavering dedication to their profession and strength in research have been on full display during the last several months. At regional and national conferences, our faculty have a strong presence that helps bolster our profile and showcase our leadership among professional and academic audiences. Recently, our faculty have won awards including:

  • Urmeka Jefferson, PhD, RN, has been named as a fellow of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses in recognition of her significant contributions to the health of women and newborn babies. Dr. Jefferson has more than 16 years of clinical experience caring for infants and mothers in the NICU and Well-Baby Nursery. Her research focuses on reducing breast-feeding disparities to advance health and reduce mortality for women and infants. Dr. Jefferson designed the Mother’s Milk Connection app, now named LatchOn, to support breast-feeding women from the prenatal period through birth and after hospital discharge.
  • Kirsten Dickins, PhD, AM, APRN, FNP-C, received KL2 funding from the NIH Institute for Translational Medicine (ITM) to expand research among Black women experiencing homelessness and traumatic stress.
  • Wrenetha Julion, PhD, MPH, RN, CNL, FAAN, has new funding to expand anti-racism training across RUSH University. The grant, Health Equity Anti-Racism Training, or HEAT, will ensure health professions students training at RUSH University are prepared to provide care rooted in equity. This work is funded by the Genentech Innovation Fund.
  • Heide Cygan, DNP, RN, was named to the 2023 cohort of the Environmental Health Research Institute for Nurse and Clinician Scientists™. Joining this cohort builds on Dr. Cygan’s work in climate health, recently supported by a grant from RUSH University to expand education on the topic among health professions students.
  • Angela Moss, PhD, MSN, APRN-BC, RN, FAAN, is hosting the inaugural Faculty Practice Summer Institute at RUSH this summer. The RUSH Faculty Practice Summer Institute is designed to support department leaders, administrators and business directors, and clinical faculty who are ready to start a faculty practice program at their institution. Breakout sessions will give attendees the opportunity to network with peers around the country and at RUSH University College of Nursing. We are excited to share a recap of the institute with you later this year.

Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize the graduates who crossed the stage in April. Nearly 300 nursing students participated in the 51st RUSH University commencement ceremony, where we were joined by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, MSN/MPH, RN, FAAN, who represents Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, as our commencement speaker. She is the first person of color and the first millennial to represent her district in Congress. Rep. Underwood is a registered nurse and co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, which addresses America’s Black maternal health crisis in Congress and advances policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes and end disparities.  

It is my sincere hope to see many of you this fall, either at the Magnet conferences in Chicago, or at one of our academy meetings in October. In the meantime, I hope you will stay connected with us. Without your unwavering commitment, none of these successes would have been possible. Thank you again for your enduring support of our mission.

P.S. I hope you will join us for the second annual RU All Alumni Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 14. More details will be shared soon. Contact with questions.


Christine M Kennedy, RN, PhD, FAAN
Kellogg Dean, College of Nursing
Provost, Interim & Vice President