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ASU nursing dean receives health care innovator award

September 06, 2006

It didn’t take Dean Bernadette Melnyk of the ASU College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation long to make a splash in the Phoenix community and Arizona.

After just 20 months on the job, Melnyk has been named Health Care Hero Innovator of the Year. The award was presented Aug. 24 at a program sponsored by the Business Journal of Phoenix.

An independent panel of health care executives chose Melnyk based on leadership in launching education, research, and evidence-based practice solutions to improve health care systems, as well as for her involvement in the local community.

Melnyk became dean of the college and Distinguished Foundation Professor for Nursing in January 2005 after serving as the associate dean for research at the University of Rochester College of Nursing.

In the time since joining ASU, she has implemented many new initiatives designed to make the College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation one of the top nursing schools in the United States.

“I am honored to be chosen for the Health Care Heroes Innovator Award, but the real winners are our faculty and staff,” Melnyk says. “One person can not implement our ambitious strategy without the superb team with which I have been blessed.”

Among the accomplishments cited for Melnyk’s award are:

• Recruitment of 26 faculty members at a time of a shortage of nurse educators.

• Launch of the first dedicated master’s degree program in health care innovation in the nation.

• Formation of partnerships with Mayo Clinic, Banner Health, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Nursing College of Dublin (Ireland) City University.

• Establishment of ASU as a national leader in evidence-based practice (EBP) through the establishment of the Center for Advancement of Evidence-Based Practice, and leadership that facilitated the first statewide consortium of health care providers to advance EBP.

• Creation of research centers dedicated to improve health outcomes for children and teens, as well as older and aging adults.

• Development of a research infrastructure that helped generate a 270 percent increase in grant applications to the federal government.

“I love to create and be innovative,” she says. “This is the right place at the right time for me.”

Melnyk’s interest in health care began as a “candy striper” in a local hospital in Pennsylvania, when she was a high school freshman. Her commitment deepened at age 15 with the death of her mother, followed by the loss of a cousin, her grandmother and then her father in a four-year span.

“That was a very difficult period of my life that deepened my passion and commitment to be in a position to really help other people,” she says.

Melnyk is no stranger to major awards. In 2003, she received the Audrey Hepburn Award from the nursing honorary society Sigma Theta Tau International for substantially improving the health of children globally. She also received the Jessie M. Scott Award from the American Nurses Association in 2004 for accomplishments demonstrating the interdependence of practice, education, and research in significantly improving nursing and health care.

Melnyk, a registered nurse and a child psychiatric nurse practitioner, also founded and directs KySS (Keep your children and Yourself Safe and Secure), a national mental health promotion program for children and teens sponsored by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

In addition to her demanding task as dean, Melnyk also continues to conduct research, and she still finds time to mentor doctoral students and nurses committed to delivering better health outcomes from an evidence-base practice approach.

Terry Olbrysh, terry.olbrysh@ 602-496-0877