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OHSU Names School of Nursing Interim Dean From Rural Oregon

Saundra Theis, Ph.D., R.N., has been appointed interim dean of the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing, announced OHSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lesley Hallick, Ph.D.

Theis has been the associate dean for the OHSU School of Nursing, Ashland and Klamath Falls campuses since 2000. She replaces Kathleen Potempa, D.N.Sc., R.N., F.A.A.N., who was appointed dean of the University of Michigan School of Nursing, effective Oct. 1. Theis begins Aug. 1 to allow for an orderly transition.

"We are delighted that Dr. Theis is willing to take on this important position," Hallick said. "Her past experience in leadership roles and her recent role as associate dean for Ashland and Klamath Falls campuses provide her with a wealth of experience and the ability to implement the comprehensive set of exciting programs and curricular changes under way and to continue the development of the statewide Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education program."

Theis has been a leader in the development of the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education, a partnership of OHSU and several community colleges in Oregon designed to offer a single nursing curriculum leading to the baccalaureate degree in nursing.

"I look forward to continuing the initiatives that Dean Potempa and the faculty have begun, in addition to helping the school transition to new leadership. I believe that the role of the interim dean is a unique and important one for OHSU to remain one of the top schools of nursing in the country," said Theis.

Potempa points out that "Dr. Theis is a national leader in nursing education and brought her expertise to rural Oregon in 2000 when she joined OHSU as the associate dean for the Ashland and Klamath campuses. But she soon became a statewide leader here in many School of Nursing programs, including the acclaimed Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education. I know Dr. Theis will continue to move the school of nursing forward and contribute to the university as a whole in her positive and forthright manner. I know I am leaving the school in the best of hands."

Theis received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Ohio State University, her master's in nursing from the University of Colorado, and her doctorate from Northwestern University. She has taught nursing most of her career, first in the Evanston Hospital School of Nursing in Evanston, Illinois, then at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing. Her specialties are medical-surgical nursing and gerontology. While at UIC she taught the beginning nursing course, medical-surgical nursing, and graduate courses in gerontology and nursing education. Her research area is family caregiving, specifically the use of respite care for families with a frail elder, and she has presented and published several papers in this area. She was co-principal investigator on a National Institute for Nursing Research funded study related to caregiving. She was associate dean for academic programs at UIC from 1995 to 2000.

Theis came to Oregon Health & Science University in 2000 as associate dean for the Ashland campus. Since that time, the role has expanded to include the Klamath Falls campus, which is now considered the Southern Region. She also has served on the Oregon Nursing Leadership Council as president. She has been on the Oregon State Board of Nursing since 2003 and is its president.

Theis will be appointed for a period of 18 to 24 months. A national search for a permanent dean will be initiated in the fall 2007.

Potempa, who has been the dean since 1996, leaves a healthy, innovative and successful School of Nursing. Under her leadership, the school built a mature research program, moving from $2.3 million in national funding in 1996 to $7.8 million last fiscal year. The school is ranked sixth in the country by U.S. News & World Report. She also brought OHSU's rural research program, with Theis, to a level of maturity through the formation of the Center for Rural Research, which is based on the OHSU School of Nursing, Ashland campus.

The size of the school's faculty has grown from 68 members in 1996 to 179 members today. The school's graduate programs also have expanded through the regional campuses, as well as to programs in Bend and Lane County.

The school expanded its clinical presence under Potempa's leadership with six-fold practice revenue growth of during the last 10 years, to $6 million this last fiscal year. The school has been innovative in its relationship with the clinical side of the hospital and works as a team player with the entire institution. The school's corporate wellness program began in 1997 and has grown to a nearly $700,000 program this year. The school also has taken the lead in the innovative Homeless Infirmary Project in which its faculty and students provide care to qualified homeless residents in collaboration with The Salvation Army. The school's endowment has increased four-fold to $11.3 million in May 2006. At the same time, the school has experienced deep cuts in its state funding, but in spite of these challenges, has maintained and enhanced the quality of its programs. While the school is ranked as the sixth-top school overall in the country, its midwifery program is ranked first, community health is ranked second and its gerontology program is ranked third.

Among Theis' new responsibilities will be the planning for the March wellness center, which will open this winter in OHSU's Center for Health & Healing in the OHSU Commons located at the South Waterfront.

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