The advancement of nursing education, practice, and research takes a strong investment, so a fundraising organization that formed in 1994 committed itself solely to helping fuel growth at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston.
PARTNERS (Providing Advancement Resources to Nursing Education, Research, and Students) raises funds through membership drives and special events such as its annual luncheon. Since its founding, the organization has contributed more than $15 million, directly and indirectly providing over 200 full-tuition scholarships, 63 faculty research grants, and four endowed professorships.
“PARTNERS is one of the big success stories of Cizik School of Nursing, and we are envied by most nursing schools in the nation,” said Dean Emerita Patricia L. Starck, PhD, RN, FAAN.
In the early ’90s, an advisory council member suggested that the school identify a group of women in the community who could help lay the groundwork for fundraising. The dean of nursing at The University of Texas at Austin visited to share that institution’s approach, but Starck and long-time supporter Margaret A. “Peggy” Barnett had other ideas.
As the founding chair of PARTNERS, Barnett recruited members as did subsequent leaders of the organization. “PARTNERS worked closely with the school to align funding priorities, and they have funded so many things at the school that continue to make such a difference,” Starck said.
In many cases, PARTNERS grants have funded the preliminary work needed for faculty to successfully apply for larger awards, including multimillion-dollar grants awarded from the National Institutes of Health. The organization has also attracted several large planned gifts establishing endowments to support future scholarship and research initiatives.
Dean Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, RN, FAAN, counts herself among PARTNERS’ beneficiaries. She received a grant from the organization in 2018 funding her research into HIV prevention among youth experiencing homelessness. She is now principal investigator on more than $4.3 million in NIH grants assessing the efficacy of a nurse case management intervention for this undeserved population.
“The tireless work of PARTNERS members has enabled many students to achieve their dreams of becoming nurses and many faculty members to take those critical first steps in building meaningful programs of research needed to advance nursing science and achieve health equity,” Santa Maria said.