Janet Rodgers Lectureship: Nursing's Past, Present and Future

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science honored its late former dean, Janet Rodgers, PhD, RN, FAAN, with a lectureship event Feb. 22 in the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre.



The program opened with a photo slideshow of the nursing school throughout the years, which surely brought back memories of those who attended the nursing school while Rodgers served as nursing dean from 1987 until her retirement in 2002. Rodgers initiated many of the school's academic programs including the first doctoral program in nursing science at a Southern California university.

Jane Georges, interim dean of the nursing school, provided a touching remembrance, too. "I'm glad we're all here to honor the late Janet Rodgers. I would like to think that Janet is with us tonight in spirit. Dr. Rodgers was a vibrant, gifted nurse administrator who made so many contributions to our school as dean. Janet truly took our school to the next level of academic excellence. Anyone who encountered Janet remembers her warmth and radiant smile."

Alumni Panelists Reflect

The lectureship program consisted of a theme of looking at the nursing school from past, present and future perspectives.

A four-person alumni panel with USD graduates between 1997 and 2016 was introduced by Georges. Panelists were Daniel L. Gross, DNSc '97, RN, executive vice president for Sharp Health Care; Othello Childress, PhD '06, a recently retired nurse who was a school nurse for the nation's second-largest public school district, the Los Angeles Unified School District; Retired Major Linda Stanley, who served 20 years in the military — six Army, 14 Air Force — received an MSN as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in 2013. She's a nurse practitioner at the VA PTSD in La Jolla; and Jenna McKnight Stromsoe, who graduated from the Master's Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) in 2016 and is a 2008 USD international relations undergrad alumna. She is an RN at Rady Children's Hospital.

Each panelist spoke for a few minutes about their experiences, accomplishments, challenges and how their USD nursing experience put them on a path to fulfill their passion to care and serve others.

Gross was a clinical nurse with Sharp Memorial Hospital in 1979, but when he went to USD for the doctoral program, it served him well as he moved up the executive ladder. "It was enriching to escape the service setting to the academic setting to really think more broadly. To think critically, create networking and collaborative relationships and having that power of the collective versus the individual was very meaningful. The power of having the doctoral degree enhanced my career."

Childress, who retired in 2017 after 36 years as a nurse, did the PhD program at USD while commuting from Los Angeles. "It was four years of driving back and forth, but the relationships with staff and students are what I remember most about USD. There were other students who commuted from Palm Springs and Long Beach to USD so I wasn't the only one. I learned the ins and outs; we supported each other, hugged each other, cried together and rejoiced together on the day of our graduation." Her professional experience includes working at LA County-USC Medical Center, as a field public health nurse for the LA County Public Health Department, the LAUSD and she did a needs-assessment and implementation of a Nurse-Family Partnership.

Stanley’s most vivid nursing experiences came through her military assignments. She was a trauma nurse when the married mother of three was deployed to Iraq in 2006. Landing in emergency, she and her fellow medical staff members saved 92 percent of those who came through. She also went to Korea to take charge of primary care and mental health needs. But it was there that Stanley began having nightmares at night, couldn't sleep and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stanley, who had Willow, a service dog at her side on the stage while she spoke, became an advocate and activist. She came to USD in 2010 for the MSN degree. She has participated in "Storm the Hill," three times, first time while at USD, which is a leadership program that has U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans meet with national leaders in Washington D.C. "USD helped me make a difference and this showed me that I could do things on the outside and in the political arena. I'd never been a political person, but I did want to help make changes for veterans." Her work has been felt on bills that support service dogs and female veteran issues. Her work at the VA emergency psychological clinic is with new veterans that are suicidal and have addictions. "My passion is helping these veterans. I had two friends, a nurse and a surgeon, who killed themselves after their deployment. I don't want to see that. If can help one veteran then I feel I'm making a difference."

Stromsoe is part of the new crop of nursing graduates. The MEPN program is for individuals with a baccalaureate degree or higher in another discipline. It's a program designed for people seeking a new career in nursing. As an undergrad, Stromsoe had a personal goal to work toward becoming a United Nations diplomat. She went to Kyrgyzstan with the Peace Corps to be an English teacher and then went into the nonprofit sector. In 2012, she contemplated nursing as a career and after taking some pre-requisite courses, entered USD's program in 2014. Twenty-one months later, she graduated and quickly landed her current job at Rady Children's Hospital. She's learning every day on the job, but she's been successful, even receiving an award as a top newcomer. She appreciates USD, not only for her two degrees, but also her wedding photos were taken at the Garden of the Sea behind the KIPJ. She gained skills and grew personally and professionally via USD's influence. "I feel USD is a very special place, one where we talk about important issues in our community, we care for people and know that whatever you're doing, you do it with passion," she said.

Mack ’08: Healthcare Informatics is the Future

Jonathan Mack is a 2008 PhD alumnus of USD and associate clinical professor and coordinator of USD nursing school's Graduate Health Care Informatics Program. Mack has been a leader for the school's entry in this field. USD offers a graduate certificate program and two master's degrees in Health Care Informatics.

“Effective delivery of medical care increasingly requires information technology to harness and systemize a storehouse of knowledge," USD's website states. "The emerging field of health care informatics allows scattered ports of information to be pulled together and provide quicker, more comprehensive and accurate care."

Says Mack: "I feel our school and our program is really cutting edge. Technology changes so rapidly that I spend a great deal of my week reading to stay current so that our content can be as fresh as possible as we prepare our students to help them manage the technology side."

Nursing School Dean Defines What the School is ...

Georges returned to the podium for a final reflection: "People ask me 'What is your School of Nursing like?' I think the themes that came out here are what we're like. We view things from a nursing lens, we undertake things that are worthy endeavors, we practice nursing with holism and bring healing to those who need it most. We're passionate about nursing and we believe in the future of nursing."

— Ryan T. Blystone