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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Dean Susan Gennaro named to National Advisory Council for Nursing Research

by jane dornbusch

Connell School of Nursing Dean Susan Gennaro was appointed last spring to the National Advisory Council for Nursing Research of the National Institute of Nursing Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the primary federal agency that supports nursing research. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius named Gennaro to the 15-member council, which focuses on health promotion and disease prevention, improving quality of life, eliminating health disparities, and addressing end-of-life issues.

A passionate supporter of nursing research, Gennaro has long been involved with the institute, as both a grant recipient and a member of a study section doing initial grant reviews.

The Connell School dean “has been a leader in the field for some time,” said National Institute of Nursing Research Director Patricia A. Grady, Ph.D., RN, FAAN. “She is known to us because of her important research on women in the perinatal period and on the health of women and children.” Gennaro’s leadership in education and scholarship was a factor in her appointment too, said Grady. The dean, who holds a doctorate from the University of Alabama, came to CSON in 2008 from New York University, where she was the Florence and William Downs Professor of Nursing Research at the College of Nursing. She is also the editor of Sigma Theta Tau’s Journal of Nursing Scholarship.

Gennaro said that, although she has enjoyed her study section work, she looks forward to the new role. “It’s a different opportunity,” she said. “One is picking grants; the other is setting priorities and setting the course. It’s a broader view [of trends in nursing research].”

Among the research projects funded by the nursing institute are a screening program that can help identify new mothers at risk for postpartum depression; a study that looked at family support and asthma outcomes in adolescents; and a report describing how grandmothers involved in child rearing are at risk for high levels of stress and, consequently, poorer health.

“It’s helpful to see the direction in which things are going, to see the bigger picture of what helps to inform health care,” said Gennaro. “There is a difference between having an airplane view and a helicopter view of the future of the science. I think that this change in perspective—from my individual research or research in this field to the wider questions about what research needs to be encouraged—is important.”

That broader view, she said, could in turn inform her role at the Connell School, as she works to shape the course of nursing research at CSON and to secure funding for that research.

The council meets three times each year at NIH’s Bethesda campus to discuss grant applications, review the institute’s extramural programs, and make recommendations about its intramural research activities and grant funding.

The meetings involve “a lot of healthy dialogue,” said Gennaro, who attended her first in May. “All perspectives are heard, and there’s a lot of engagement. I find that very exciting. . . . It’s not a place where people come to battle for their answer. They come with perspectives to reach a shared vision.”

Serving on the national advisory council will demand much of the dean. The panel’s two-day meetings in Bethesda are “jam-packed,” Gennaro says, as is the preparation for them; each council member reviews dozens of grant proposals and reports on several applications. Additionally, she says, there is “a lot of thinking and reading that isn’t ‘assigned,’” per se, but that is essential to staying well informed.

Gennaro is certainly up for the challenge. “Doing new things, seeing new people—it takes a lot of energy. But it’s never boring,” she said. “Just like nursing.” ✹