January 23, 2009

Unified approach key to public health programs: speaker

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Martha Hill, Ph.D., R.N., spoke as part of the School of Nursing’s yearlong Centennial Lecture Series. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Unified approach key to public health programs: speaker

Today's health care system needs to bring different professions together to focus on common goals and measures of success, said Martha Hill, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, as she addressed the audience at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Centennial Lecture Series.

Known as a pioneer for her efforts in blood pressure research and as the first and only nurse to hold the office of president of the American Heart Association, Hill took a close look at the major factors that drive the academic engine, such as university commitment, teaching innovation, research and scholarly activity, talented faculty, motivated students, supportive infrastructure and effective partnerships.

She encouraged everyone in the academic arena to ask themselves: “Are we delivering on the promise?”

At the same time, Hill discussed some real-world limitations. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 36,400 nursing students were turned away from entry-level baccalaureate programs in 2007, due in large part to significant shortages of nursing faculty.

On the other end of the career span, she referred to the “silver tsunami,” the large percentage of nurses expected to retire in the next 10-20 years.

Hill tied all of these issues together by sharing a personal example as project investigator for a study of blood pressure interventions among a group of economically disadvantaged African-American men in inner city Baltimore — one of the most difficult subject groups to engage.

Hill illustrated how the study was built on public health nursing's approach in the community and how colleagues in other disciplines also used the previously hard-to-reach subjects for additional studies. Meanwhile, students ranging from public high school students to nursing and medical students participated and were mentored to reach new personal goals.

“Martha Hill believes nurses are in a pivotal position to enhance health care, remove barriers to high quality care and reduce health disparities,” said VUSN Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D. “In her view, and in mine, it all starts with shaping students to become leaders.”

The School of Nursing Centennial Lecture series will take place throughout the academic year. The next speaker is Tom Scully, J.D., former head of Health Care Financing Administration, now CMS, who will discuss health care market reform and universal health care coverage on Feb. 12.