History of the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science

Pursuing the heart and science of nursing since 1973.

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science began with bright minds and big dreams. While we’re looking forward to the future, here are a few of our favorite milestones thus far.


Inspired by gratitude.

Philip Y. Hahn fell ill and was deeply impressed by the nurses who cared for him so well. In gratitude, he committed an endowment of $1,000,000 to establish a School of Nursing at the University of San Diego in September of 1973.


Founded with vision.

After consultations with national, regional, state and community nursing experts, the Board of Trustees accepted Mr. Hahn’s endowment and the Hahn School of Nursing was founded. USD President Author E. Hughes helped shepherd the school into fruition. We are indebted to Provost Sally Furay, RSCJ, for championing the value of compassion, and to Founding Dean Irene Palmer for channeling her vision for a nationally ranked school of graduate nursing.


First master’s degrees awarded.

Historically, nursing had been undervalued as a “women’s profession.” The early pioneers of the Hahn School of Nursing were determined to change that perception, and devoted their lives to educating nurses to the highest standards. The school awarded its first Master of Science in Nursing degrees to an inaugural class of 14 graduate nursing students.


First doctoral students.

In spring 1985, five students enrolled in the Hahn School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Science degree program—one of the very first doctoral nursing programs in California.


First nurse practitioner students.

The nurse practitioner profession emerged in response to a shortage of primary care providers. It was during those early years that Dean Palmer and faculty created the nurse practitioner program at the Hahn School of Nursing.


The PhD launches.

As it continued to grow in enrollment and national notoriety, the Hahn School of Nursing added more pioneering graduate nursing programs—including a PhD in Nursing in 1999.


The MEPN program launches.

At the time, there was no other nursing program in San Diego for people who had undergraduate degrees in other areas but who wanted to become a nurse. USD Nursing answered the call and, by popular demand, developed the MEPN program.


The DNP launches.

First enrolling students in 2008, our DNP program continues to prepare nurses to translate evidence-based care into clinical practice.


Dickinson Nursing Simulation Lab opens.

This cutting-edge facility was made possible by a generous donation from Bob and Betty Beyster after an ill family member received outstanding care from a graduate of Hahn School of Nursing. Featuring realistic patient hospital rooms, this simulation lab also gives students the opportunity to interact with professional actors who convincingly recreate health issues.


Shaping the future of nursing.

The Hahn School of Nursing currently enrolls over 450 graduate students in our master's and doctoral programs. Our graduates are change-makers in leadership positions across the country and the globe. We’re especially proud of our diversity—47% as of 2019—and our engagement in underserved communities. As we embrace the future, we continue seeking news ways to advance the world of nursing from our corner of the world.