Researcher retires after 32-year career

Dr. Vicki Conn has had an illustrious career spanning 32 years since her initial appointment as an assistant professor to the MU School of Nursing. She is a graduate of the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, first with a Masters in Adult Nursing in 1981, followed by a PhD in Social-Psychology of Health and Aging. Conn served as the Distinguished Potter-Brinton Professor since 1995 and as Associate Dean for Research since 2002. Evidence of Conn’s impact on the University of Missouri, the Sinclair School of Nursing, and beyond, is found among many sources, including successful funding of millions of dollars in faculty and school support for research, her nearly 230 peer-reviewed publications (Scopus), her leadership as editor-in-chief of WJNR, and her successful mentoring of students and faculty who are now having their own impact in the world. 

Greg Alexander congratulations Vicki Conn on her career and work as a researcher at the Sinclair School of Nursing.

On Monday, August 13 after faculty and staff lunch, the School of Nursing had a retirement celebration for Dr. Conn. Greg Alexander, Interim Associate Dean of Research compiled a list of remarks from Conn’s colleagues, junior researchers and friends. Here are just a few of the comments submitted about Conn:

1. “Vicki has been an outstanding mentor. She has helped form the foundation of my experience as a nurse researcher. When I was first applying to PhD programs so long ago, I received lukewarm responses to my emails. But Vicki was so quick to respond and was genuinely interested in hearing about my ideas and my goals. This connection attracted me to the Sinclair School of Nursing and brought me to this institution that is so dedicated to developing the next generation of nurse clinicians, scholars, leaders. And thank goodness, because I had such a fulfilling experience at this school! I often look back at those first emails and phone calls between teacher and student and think about how lucky I was to meet and be mentored by Vicki. I carry that experience with me because it defines the critical impact of mentorship that has helped to shape my career today. I hope that I, too, can excel as a mentor for future students.”  

Greg Alexander reads through comments he gathered from Conn’s colleagues and friends.

2. “I have been lucky to work with Vicki for so many years – first as teacher and student, and as a colleague, but all the while as mentor and mentee. I appreciate her wisdom and guidance when building my research program. I know I can always receive an honest appraisal of my work that will lead to an improved finished product. I have received sage advice from her over the years, and I really cannot thank her enough for working with me. I have enjoyed our conversations, whether it be about research, career development, or even beer choices and travel! I will miss our regular conversations, but am so glad that I had the opportunity to work with her as our relationship has evolved over the years.”

3. “During Vicki’s tenure as the associate dean for research the school of nursing acquired a national reputation in terms of the research productivity and quality.  Vicki was an excellent mentor to faculty as they developed their programs of research and achieved national funding.  She became an international traveler during her time at MU.  I remember the trip to Belgium which was one of her earlier international trips.  The dean at that time said to her, ‘Oh, you’ve never been anywhere’, that certainly isn’t the case any longer.”

Conn proudly displays a wall clock and shares with the crowd that her home office will have a Mizzou theme.

4. “Another one! After 40 it’s just ‘Patch, Patch, Patch!!!!’ Also reflective of her humorous approach to keeping life and health in perspective!! Enjoy retirement with your family, Vicki, you deserve that!”

 

Look for an extended interview with Conn in the upcoming fall issue of Mizzou Nursing magazine.

Sarah Thompson to lead Sinclair School of Nursing as new dean

University of Missouri Interim Provost Jim Spain announced June 11 that Sarah Thompson, associate vice chancellor of health professions and professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Colorado Denver, has been named dean of the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. Thompson’s appointment will begin Aug. 1.

“Dr. Thompson is a proven leader who has spent her career helping to shape the nursing profession as a nurse, a teacher, a researcher, an administrator and a member of national organizations,” Spain said. “Her experience in nursing and with the health care system is valuable as she leads the Sinclair School of Nursing in developing students who will be the nurses of tomorrow in the state of Missouri and throughout the world. We are fortunate to have attracted Dr. Thompson to Mizzou as the next dean of the Sinclair School of Nursing.”

Thompson received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Oklahoma, and she received both her master’s degree and doctorate in nursing from the University of Kansas. She joined the University of Colorado Denver in 2012 and has served as a professor, dean of the College of Nursing, and associate vice chancellor of health professions.

“I am excited and honored to be selected to lead the Sinclair School of Nursing, a program with a national reputation for excellence in research, preparing the next generation of nurses and providing health care leadership,” Thompson said. “I am looking forward to getting to know the students, faculty, staff, alumni and our many partners as we chart a course for the future while affirming our commitment to education, practice, research, service and extension.”

During Thompson’s five-year tenure as dean at the University of Colorado Denver, grants and contracts grew by 69 percent, including support from the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and private foundations. Faculty at the College of Nursing grew from 87 to 150, and clinical revenue increased by 68 percent.

“Sarah brings a comprehensive understanding of health care systems and is passionate about the future of nursing,” said Kathryn Chval, dean of education at MU and chair of the search committee for the new dean of nursing. “She recognizes that nurses have the capacity to be innovators in health care and improve health care systems for the people and communities they serve. I have no doubt Dr. Thompson will play a critical role in expanding partnerships and collaborations with clinical providers, physicians, therapists, and social workers, to name a few.”

Thompson is a member of several organizations, including the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Nursing and the Western Institute of Nursing. She also has served on several task forces for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and she was the chair of a national task force appointed by AACN to examine the implementation of the Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has received numerous honors for her research and leadership, having been named a John A. Hartford Institute Geriatric Nursing Research Scholar, a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and a Niedfelt Distinguished Professor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The Sinclair School of Nursing, a leader in nursing education since its founding in 1920, has been led by Interim Dean Roxanne McDaniel since the beginning of the year.

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Roxanne McDaniel who graciously came out of retirement to serve as interim dean while we conducted this search,” Spain said. “Her dedication to students and passion for the University of Missouri and the School of Nursing is obvious. The school has long history of success, and that high level of excellence continued under Dr. McDaniel’s leadership.”

Excellence in Online Facilitation Award

Donna Otto and Lynelle Phillips received the Excellence in Online Class Facilitation Award from MIZZOU Online for their work in the N4970 Nursing in Communities course for the RN to BSN Option. The award was presented at the University of Missouri Celebration of Teaching awards ceremony on Wednesday, May 16.

Pictured are Lynelle Phillips, Laura Foley (instructional designer) and Donna Otto. The award was presented by Kim Siegenthaler, Director of Mizzou Online.

Distance Learning

Whoever said there aren’t enough hours in the day clearly didn’t know Julio Loya. The senior nurse manager for the Trauma Progressive Care Unit and Abdominal Transplant/Surgical Oncology Intermediate Care Unit at Banner University Medical Center Tucson Campus in Tucson, Arizona, Julio works full time at the only Level 1 Trauma Center for Southern Arizona. By day, he is responsible for the supervision of nursing staff and, ultimately, the delivery of safe, efficient patient care, which includes being available on the units to support nursing staff, helping administer medications to patients, attending meetings where decisions that affect unit workflow or environment are made and much more.

“I think the largest part of my job consists of being flexible and being present as different situations develop,” he says.

But that’s just his day job. At night and on weekends, Julio — who’s worked as a nurse for more than 13 years — switches into what he refers to as “student mode,” when he studies and completes assignments toward his PhD in nursing through the MU Sinclair School of Nursing’s online program.        

Finding his path

Although Julio’s passion for nursing is evident from his career and educational pursuits, it’s not the path he started out on. In fact, his academic journey began at the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in general biology.

“After realizing that I did not want to be a biologist, I did not really know what to do next,” he says. “At the suggestion of my brother, I decided to check out nursing school. Due to my looming graduation and pending engagement to my now-wife, I decided to enroll in a program that would start right away.”

Julio went straight from the University of Arizona to Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona, where he earned an Associate of Applied Science in nursing. Soon after graduation, he began working at Banner University Medical Center.

“After being a nurse for approximately three years, I took a leadership position as an assistant manager on my unit,” he says. “Since having a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) was a job requirement, I started an online RN-BSN program in 2008, and I obtained my BSN in 2010.”

It was during those undergraduate courses on professional nurse development that Julio realized he wanted to pursue a graduate degree, and after extensive research on programs across the country, he landed on the Sinclair School of Nursing (SSON). 

“I originally enrolled in the Master of Nursing in Leadership program in the Sinclair School of Nursing as a part-time student since I thought that I wanted to continue on a leadership path in the acute care setting,” he says. “Through coursework completion, I came to the realization that I really enjoy research.”

With the encouragement of program mentors, including Dr. Maithe Enriquez (current SSON faculty), throughout his classes in the MS(N) program, Julio decided in 2014 to change gears again, this time to enroll as a full-time student in the SSON’s PhD in nursing program.

“Once I started interacting with faculty and completing some of the requirements for courses, I realized that I made a great decision by enrolling at Mizzou,” he says. “The decision to apply to the PhD program was made really easy due to the support and encouragement from the faculty and also through the quality interactions I had in the virtual classroom with my fellow students.”

Distance and self-discipline

Although Julio’s daily schedule is an ambitious undertaking in and of itself, he’s quick to point out that the SSON program has been flexible enough to fit in among the rigors of a full-time job.

“One of the striking differences from my past experiences in school is that everyone at the SSON really takes the time to listen and to help you achieve your goals,” he says. “As a busy working professional, there are times where life has happened, and the faculty and staff at the SSON have been extremely supportive.”

The online aspect of the program is a benefit as well. Today, Julio lives in Marana, Arizona, just north of Tucson, with his wife of 13 years, Krista; their black Lab, Luna; and cocker spaniel, Shadow. But he says the 1,300+-mile commute between home and school isn’t a problem.  

“While the experience of being in a distance-mediated program requires self-discipline and self-motivation to meet deadlines, the faculty and staff are always willing to meet virtually if you’re not on campus,” he says. “Whether it is email, a Skype session or a telephone call, faculty and staff respond quickly to any inquiries.”

Next steps

On track to graduate with his PhD in December 2019, Julio hopes to secure a faculty position at a research-intensive university with a dual role as faculty and researcher.

“The PhD program at the SSON continues to prepare me to assume that role upon graduation,” he says. “The rigorous coursework along with the mentorship offered by both faculty and my PhD committee chair and members have made an enormous difference.”

The program has impacted his present work as well.

“As a PhD student, you are becoming one of the world’s experts on a very narrow aspect of a topic,” Julio says. “As I have advanced through the PhD program, I am now able to make connections and analyze and interpret data in ways in which I was unable to before. Pursuing my PhD through the SSON has cemented my belief that the science of nursing requires an evolving way of thinking to ensure nursing delivers on the promise of providing evidence-based care to individuals and communities.” 

Click here for more on the Sinclair School of Nursing’s Ph.D. program.

RSVP today for the 28th Annual Award Banquet & Alumni Reunion

The Sinclair School of Nursing and the MU Nursing Alumni Association cordially invite you to attend our upcoming events:

Awards Banquet
Friday, April 20, 2018
6:00 p.m.
Country Club of Missouri
1300 Woodrail Avenue
Columbia, MO 65203

Alumni Reunion
Saturday, April 21, 2018
8:30 a.m.
University Hospital

RSVP TODAY!

This event wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors! Thank you!
Platinum-level sponsors: MU Health Care and Truman VA 
Gold-level sponsor: CoxHealth
Silver-level sponsors: Boone Hospital Center, Citizen’s Memorial Healthcare, and SSM Health