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

Goals and Growth

An active duty military officer, father of six and doctoral student in MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, John Rossi is the walking definition of balance. Not only does he serve as a full-time military nurse, but he’s also an incredibly involved parent, sharing homeschooling duties with his wife, Nancy, for five of their six kids. Although some days can feel more chaotic than others, John has been a hard worker and goal setter for his entire adult life. So when he set his sights on finding a highly ranked graduate nursing program that would fit into his busy life, MU’s SSON climbed to the top of his list.

“Since I’ve started, I’ve seen nothing but excellence,” says John, who’s working toward his doctorate in psych mental health and family practice, with a minor in education. “Every experience has been a fulfilling one so far, and everything that I’ve been involved with at the university has allowed me to advance the next step in achieving my ultimate goal.”

Although John’s journey to the DNP program was a practical progression in hindsight, it’s a long way from where he started nearly two decades ago. John joined the military right out of high school in 2001 and spent nine years as an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy as a helicopter search and rescue swimmer. He enjoyed a successful career and a lot of opportunities, but the repeat deployments were becoming more and more difficult with his growing family at home.

“When it all came down to it, I didn’t want to deploy and be away from my family anymore,” says John, whose kids are now 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 and 1. “So I separated from the military and went back to school at Brigham Young University.”

It was at Brigham Young where John earned his nursing degree — a Bachelor of Science in nursing and gerontology.

“I quickly realized that life isn’t as simple as you think,” John says of deciding what was next after graduation. “I had always wanted to be an officer in the military, though, and now I had the ability. So I applied for commission in the Air Force to be a nurse.”

That was three years ago. Today, John is stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just east of Dayton, Ohio, where he works full time as a nurse at Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

Back to school

It wasn’t long after starting his first full-time nursing position that John realized he wanted to return to school for his doctorate degree, which probably didn’t come as a surprise to those who know him well. John and Nancy, who have been married for 15 years, homeschool their children, with John teaching science and history and Nancy teaching the rest. Nancy also recently went back to school for her bachelor’s degree.

“Besides the military, we’ve been nothing but education and full steam ahead,” John says. “My ultimate goal is to retire in eight years from the military; then I’d like to have a small practice of my own and have my primary job be working as an educator who teaches at the university level.”  

John says the structure of SSON’s program itself has been a big factor in his ability to balance his various responsibilities — both the expected and unexpected.

“The DNP program is set up in such a way that it allows me to accomplish my goals in the time I need to do it in,” John says. “For me as a military member, my life can change at the drop of a hat, and the school as been nothing but supportive in this endeavor, making sure that if I deploy or something happens, we have a plan for what we need to do and, more importantly, a plan for what I can do when I get back to continue seamlessly with the program.”

He also notes a difference in his approach to nursing since beginning at MU.

“It really has focused my abilities and added emphasis to my previous education by giving me more content to work with,” he says. “I can already see what a better nurse I’ve become because of what I’ve learned through the program.”

‘The first step is starting’

John’s balancing of a full-time workload with family life and school means there are no 18-credit-hour semesters in the cards, and the path to the finish line is slow but steady. Taking a course or two at a time, he’s on track to graduate in May 2022. But it’s not a race — it’s about the end goal.

 “A graduate degree doesn’t happen overnight, but you take it one day at a time,” he says. “Commit to it, and then start the progress. You can figure out the ABCs and XYZs later. The first step is starting.”

Click here for more on the Sinclair School of Nursing’s DNP program, including entry pathways and areas of study