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April 17, 2014

Transitions and next adventures are on the way

As you probably know, this is my 30th year of serving as dean of this wonderful school, and I have asked UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., to seek my replacement as I wind up this academic year. I have agreed to stay until a new dean is in place, so the School will not need to have interim leadership. However, I hope my successor will be named by August 31. I plan to take a sabbatical, and then return to the university in my role as Senior Vice President for Interprofessional Collaboration, working to promote that new initiative across all six UTHealth schools.

It has been my honor and privilege to serve as chief administrative and academic officer of the UTHealth School of Nursing. I want to thank our entire faculty and staff for their countless contributions in transforming a “young” school (created in 1972) into one of the best nursing programs in the country. In advance, I express my appreciation for everyone continuing to work together throughout the busy months ahead.

Over the years, I’ve had succession plans, but it seems I have outlasted all of those I was hoping would someday take my place. At any rate, I am confident we will find just the right person. Transitions are a natural and inevitable part of life in higher education.

Dr. Tom Mackey, Associate Dean for Practice, will retire Aug. 3 from the School of Nursing after 25 years of service. He is, in my view, the nation’s leader in nurse-practitioner-managed clinics, having developed in 1991 a successful model – the University of Texas Health Services (UTHS) – that has been emulated world-wide.  Fortunately, Dr. Mackey plans to return to the university on a part-time and flexible basis in order to fulfill existing practice contracts. One of our first D.N.P. graduates, Dr. Laura Rooney, will become UTHS director, effective Aug. 4.

Also leaving the School of Nursing in August is Dr. Christine Brosnan, track director of our M.S.N. program and Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing in the Nursing Systems Department. She has been a high-performing, flexible and influential faculty member here for 24 years.

Sadly, the School also has lost Dr. Mary Joe White, a much-beloved faculty member for 36 years, who passed away on April 8 after finally losing her fight against glioblastoma. She had an admirable record as a principal investigator, and she was a mentor and role model to nearly four decades of nursing students – a great professional legacy. To permanently secure that legacy, the School has created the Mary Joe White Scholarship Fund in her honor.

All of our School of Nursing faculty, year by year, determine the quality of our students’ educational experience and bequeath a lasting influence on this school – on its employees, students, alumni and the patients they care for. I am very glad that President Colasurdo has encouraged the involvement of the full School of Nursing community – representative members of our faculty and staff, Development Board and PARTNERS leaders – to provide input to the committee now searching nationally for the next Dean of the UTHealth School of Nursing.

Qualifications of the successful candidate include: significant academic leadership experience with a progressive record of transformative change and collaborative advancement; experience in setting and articulating an academic vision; ability to develop and execute strategic plans, including strong faculty recruitment, development and retention strategies; and, excellent two­-way communications skills.  She or he must demonstrate budget and financial management skills and a willingness and aptitude to lead philanthropic efforts. Candidates should possess a deep knowledge of and commitment to our primary mission areas of education, research and clinical care with an understanding of the synergies among them.

Candidates should also have significant professional experience and qualifications appropriate for appointments as a full professor and holder of an endowed position.

If you have knowledge of qualified individuals who might be interested in this important leadership position, please make them aware of this opportunity. Review of applications will continue until the position is filled – hopefully, by Sept. 1, 2014. Interested candidates can find more information and may apply confidentially by pasting this link into a Web browser:

Confidential inquiries may be addressed to the co-chairs of the SON Dean Search Committee: Dr. Terri Armstrong, holder of the Dunn Distinguished Professorship in Oncology Nursing and Professor in the SON's Family Health Department, and John Valenza, D.D.S., Dean of the UTHealth School of Dentistry; or, to Executive Recruiter Linda Muyskens (call 713-500-3139).

The position description has been posted on the UTHealth Human Resources website, and external ads are being placed. Interviews with appropriate applicants will begin next month, and the search committee will recommend a list of potential candidates, unranked, for consideration by President Colasurdo.

As my responsibilities and commitments as Dean wind down, it is gratifying to know that the institution of UTHealth and its various stakeholders are so strongly committed to ensuring that the School of Nursing will continue to prosper, grow and innovate into the future.

As a famous playwright once said: “Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

On to the next adventure!

– Dean Starck