After leading the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing since 2011, Mary E. Kerr has announced she will resign as dean effective June 30 of next year.
Kerr, an alumna of the school and former official at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said she elected to step down both for personal reasons and to give the school’s next leader the opportunity to be directly involved in decisions relating to its transition to the Health Education Campus (HEC) in the summer of 2019.
“I’ve accomplished many of the goals I set for the school at the start of my tenure as dean almost seven years ago. As the school readies to move in 2019 into its new home on the Health Education Campus, I realized that the HEC timeline and my personal timeline are not congruent. I now plan to focus on my personal goals, especially spending more time with my husband of 42 years,” Kerr said. “The school needs someone at the helm who will lead the School of Nursing not just into the HEC but for many years to come.”
An accomplished researcher of issues involving traumatic brain injury and other areas of critical care, Kerr has authored or co-authored more than 100 scholarly publications. After a sabbatical during the 2018-2019 academic year, she will return to the School of Nursing’s faculty full time.
“Mary has done an outstanding job of strengthening the nursing school’s research portfolio, national recognition, and philanthropic support,” Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III said. “Her decision to ensure her successor has the opportunity to be part of the move to the HEC demonstrates her exceptional professionalism and deep commitment to the long-term interests of the school.”
Kerr, a native of greater Pittsburgh, joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh after earning her doctorate from Case Western Reserve in 1991. Over the next 14 years, she served first as director of the university’s Center for Nursing Research, and then as associate director of the Clinical Core of its Brain Trauma Research Center. In 2005, she joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as deputy director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, managing a budget of more than $140 million and advocating for increased interdisciplinary research.
During Kerr’s time as dean, the school:
- grew NIH funding to the highest level in its history;
- improved U.S. News and World Report rankings for the Master of Science in Nursing (now at No. 11) and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (now at No. 8) programs;
- increased PhD program enrollment by 67 percent, to 58 students; and
- established accreditation for all of the school’s degree programs.
In addition, the school established the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing in honor of a 1954 graduate who pledged $2 million to support the program. After Ebersbach died, trustees for her estate added $2.7 million to the commitment. In 2014, the school opened the nation’s first critical care transport helicopter for flight nurse training as part of the Ebersbach center.
The nursing school also secured funding to support interprofessional efforts, among them a $265,000 federal grant to support the CHOMP (Collaborative Home for Oral Heath, Medical Review and Health Promotion) program, in which nursing and dental students collaborated to provide health screenings as part of oral health exams.
In 2016, meanwhile, the school’s health screening program for thousands of Cleveland schoolchildren won the Innovations in Baccalaureate Population Health Curriculum Award from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. This past August, the school won a $1.5 million federal grant to provide loan forgiveness assistance for doctoral students in nursing.
“It has been an honor to lead the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing over the past several years,” Kerr added. “I am grateful to our outstanding faculty, staff and students for the opportunity, and am committed to working effectively with the school and university during this transition.”