January 12, 2007

Cooper new state health chief

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Susan Cooper, M.S.N.

Cooper new state health chief

Susan Cooper, M.S.N., assistant dean for Practice at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, was named Commissioner of the state Department of Health by Tenn. Gov. Phil Bredesen this week.

When Cooper takes her oath of office on Jan. 20, she will become the first nurse to hold the position.

“Susan is a tremendous advocate for nursing and community health programs,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “Fostering partnerships to solve the toughest health care issues is her trademark and that will make her very effective in her new role.”

“We are delighted for Susan and for all Tennesseans,” said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., R.N., dean of VUSN. “Susan is a nurse at her core and tackles every challenge through a patient-centered lens. She will make a profound impact on the lives of all Tennesseans.”

Cooper joined state government “on loan” from VUSN in September 2005 as a health adviser and was instrumental in developing Tennessee's Health Care Safety Net.

She later assumed leadership of Project Diabetes, to help curb type 2 diabetes among young Tennesseans, and helped facilitate GetFitTN to promote healthier lifestyles statewide.

Before joining state government, Cooper was a faculty member and assistant dean at VUSN, where she also earned her Master's of Science in Nursing degree. Cooper began her career as a nurse specializing in emergency and intensive care.

“Susan's background makes her an ideal choice,” said Clifton Meador, M.D., executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.

“Her nursing experience is exactly what we need to address our public health problems — issues like excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, smoking and other harmful lifestyles — through prevention and education.”

“Governor Bredesen has given me a huge honor with this opportunity,” Cooper said.

“My goal is to continue fostering partnerships statewide that will improve the health of Tennesseans — especially among our young people.”

The Department of Health has a range of responsibilities, including administering several community health programs, licensing health care professionals and maintaining vital health records and statistics.

The department works closely with local governments and nonprofit agencies to monitor and improve community health, including a campaign created by Bredesen to improve infant mortality and birth outcomes in Tennessee.