February 4, 2005

Lauderdale to head VUSN diversity efforts

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Jana Lauderdale, Ph.D., R.N.

Lauderdale to head VUSN diversity efforts

For more than a decade, the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has been committed to cultural diversity — from recruitment to grant writing, program development and other efforts. Now, the school has created a new position to focus more closely on the issue. Jana Lauderdale, Ph.D., R.N., has been named the school's first assistant dean for Cultural Diversity.

“She will help us to create an environment here that is comfortable for people with diverse backgrounds. We want to look at diversity from several standpoints, not just cultural, but economical, by gender, and other areas,” said Linda Norman, senior associate dean for Academics at VUSN.

She said Lauderdale has worked with VUSN for a number of years as an advisor on cultural diversity issues that affect nursing education, and will continue to build on the work that has already been taking place. “Over the last 12 years or so, we've seen an increase in minority students and an increase in minorities within our faculty population, and this continues today,” said Norman.

Fifteen percent of master's students and 19 percent of doctoral students at VUSN are minorities, representing Asian, African American, Native American, Hispanic and several other ethnicities. VUSN is also home to 10 international students from seven different countries.

“Because of the changing demographics nationwide, we need to increase our content for our students and highlight cultural diversity so our students can be better prepared to address the needs of their future patients,” Norman said.

Lauderdale, a Native American, has a Ph.D. in transcultural nursing. She has extensive experience working with Native American populations and program design focusing on minority nursing education issues.

“I believe my experience, along with the already strong foundation in place here at VUSN, will enable us to move to the next level, allowing us to strengthen our existing programs, build on established collaborative relationships, support professional development of both students and faculty in the area of cultural diversity, and enhance recruitment and retention strategies for our underrepresented students,” said Lauderdale.

“Ultimately, the creation of this office will allow us to focus and intensify our efforts to increase diversity in our health care workforce in order to reflect the communities in which we provide care.”

Lauderdale has already begun several projects, including working with the VUSN Admissions Office to enhance existing minority recruitment, creating a new home for prospective minority students on the VUSN web site, and developing a faculty workshop series to begin this spring.

Norman said Lauderdale will also be charged with revising the nursing curriculum related to developing cultural competence. “We want Jana to review our curriculum to get a better feel for what we are teaching, how we are teaching it, and how we can do it better,” said Norman.

Lauderdale will also work closely with other programs across the Vanderbilt campus. “We want to increase our minority students' comfort level. They typically tell us they feel isolated,” said Lauderdale.

Norman said that doesn't come as a surprise to many people at Vanderbilt who have been working on the issue. “This has been a strategic initiative of the University. Many non-minority students say they come from a more culturally diverse environment than they are part of during their time at Vanderbilt. So we are all working on creating an atmosphere for cultural diversity,” Norman said.

George Hill, Ph.D. Levi Watkins Jr. Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and associate dean for Diversity in Medical Education, has already begun working with Lauderdale to coordinate programs offered by the schools of Nursing and Medicine. “I look forward to continuing to work with Jana Lauderdale and the Vanderbilt School of Nursing to further increase diversity in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and in particular to jointly promote ways in which we can continue to build upon our institution's ongoing efforts to enhance cultural competency,” Hill said.

Before coming to VUSN, Lauderdale was an associate professor and department head of Family Nursing at Louisiana State University College of Nursing.

She has experience working as a reviewer for the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), and was the former project director of the American Indian Nursing Student Success Program at the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing.