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Setting the gold standard for nursing

50 years of nursing excellence

BSN students on steps
Dean Diane Santa Maria
Dean Diane Santa Maria

Greetings from Dean Diane Santa Maria

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston, I stand in awe of our predecessors who set such a high bar for nursing education, practice, and discovery. I am also honored and humbled to lead a magnificent team that carries on their legacy of innovation and excellence.

On August 28, 1972, the first 98 undergraduate students enrolled in Houston’s brand new The University of Texas nursing school. Since then, we have conferred 13,487 degrees and certificates, with current enrollment exceeding 1,600. Our rankings among nursing schools receiving National Institutes of Health funding is on the rise, and U.S. News & World Report continues to rank our Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees first in Houston, second in Texas, and among the top schools in the nation.

More important than these numbers is the impact our graduates make as they build on a foundation of educational excellence. They serve as chief nursing officers within countless health care systems in the Texas Medical Center and beyond. They educate future nurses as faculty members and deans at universities across the nation. They make meaningful advances in nursing science, and they provide compassionate, high-quality health care for all at the bedside and in our communities.

Groundbreaking advancements of the past led to many of today’s successes. For example, our faculty developed gerontological nursing as a center of excellence in the 1980s, and our nurse scientists today use our Smart Apartment to test technologies to help older people live independently. UT Health Services, founded in 1991, grew to become a model for nurse-managed clinics run by academic institutions. Its new location in the heart of the Texas Medical Center improves accessibility for Houston’s diverse patient populations. The PARTNERS organization, founded in 1994 and solely devoted to supporting our school, has contributed more than $15 million to scholarships, research grants, and endowed professorships. The forward-thinking technology incorporated into our building, which opened in 2004, enabled “distance education” of the day and positioned us well to facilitate hybrid educational models.

Along the way, our faculty and staff pioneered doctoral programs, offering the state’s first DNP degrees and transitioning the early Doctor of Nursing Science to a Doctor of Philosophy in nursing. This year, for the first time, we are giving nurses with bachelor’s degrees the opportunity to apply directly to our PhD program, and we have expanded DNP admissions to twice a year to help meet the growing need for advance practice health care providers in Texas and beyond.

In this issue of Cizik Nursing, you will read more about these milestones and how we are continuing the journey. I am particularly proud of the many ways we are identifying and addressing the needs of diverse and undeserved populations through educational programs such as the poverty and vaccine hesitancy simulations staged this year. Also, our participation in the Texas Development Center for AIDS Research is expanding with multiple faculty members leading innovative HIV research studies.

The 50th anniversary of Cizik School of Nursing gives us a golden opportunity for reflection and renewal of our commitment to advancing high-quality health care for all. Here’s to the next 50 years! I cannot wait to see what we accomplish together.

Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, RN, PHNA-BC, FSAHM, FAAN
The Jane and Robert Cizik Distinguished Chair
Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair in Nursing Education Leadership
Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston

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