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Dean Berkowitz Gives State of the School Address


This is excerpted from Dean Berkowitz’s state of the school address at Columbia Nursing’s Reunion on May 4, 2018.  


Columbia Nursing is an innovator. In every aspect we are redefining what is possible in education, research, and practice that benefits patients and improves health and healthcare in communities across the country and around the world.

We have built a legacy of meeting the growing demands in health and healthcare, not by following trends but by setting them. We do this through real-world application that prepares our graduates to be the best they can be in a constantly changing healthcare environment. Our school’s culture of curiosity and innovation are among the things that make me proud to be dean. At every turn, we are redefining what is possible.   


We are in the business of research because we know that the way we understand health and illness is by discovering and understanding the evidence that guides practice. We continually seek ways to engage our partners in discovery through science. A recent example is the establishment of joint appointments of our nurse scientists with health systems in order to increase the research potential of nurses within the clinical environment. Joint appointments allow faculty to spend their time conducting their own scientific investigations and mentoring clinically based registered nurses who want to improve patient care outcomes through research. Joint appointments are helping to change the way we look at patient care, and improving the way we deliver that care.


The success of these research-practice partnerships has led to a program we call LINK—Linking to Improve Nursing Care and Knowledge—which provides clinicians with the conceptual and logistical support they need to pursue clinical research that could improve patient outcomes. It has also led to the creation of the Academic-Practice Research Fellowship, a collaboration between Columbia Nursing and New York-Presbyterian health system, which is a competitive two-year program that awards clinical nurses with mentoring and other support they need—including a work sabbatical—to pursue research. A year after its launch, LINK is exceeding all expectations, not only for Columbia Nursing and our collaborators, but as a national model. And its promise for improving patient care is immeasurable. We currently have faculty in joint appointments at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and at New York-Presbyterian with more on the way.  


Our National Institutes of Health rankings for research funding demonstrates the school’s leadership among our peers. Columbia Nursing ranked fifth among all schools of nursing in NIH funding in 2017, up from 11th in 2016, reaching its historical high.


We have developed core competencies in a number of research areas including data science, health outcomes for the LGBT community, infectious disease, HIV prevention, and health policy. 


We are leaders in the education of master’s prepared RNs, advanced practice registered nurses, and PhDs. True to our tradition as an education pioneer, another of our recent innovations is how we utilize simulation education. Simulation isn’t new to Columbia Nursing or to nursing education—but with our new high-fidelity manikins and other state-of-the-art technology, we are raising the level at which we are preparing registered and advanced practice nurses. Investing in the technology and in the educational resources to support it we are giving our future nurses the tools and the confidence they need to serve their patients.


We have also recently launched a comprehensive palliative care program for students of all levels that integrates the basic principles of palliative care into the curriculum. The program reflects the recent development of competencies and recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. They have encouraged palliative care education for nursing students as we expect a significant increase in the number of individuals who will be living with one or more chronic illnesses. Our own program in palliative care speaks to the evolving role of nurses in the care of individuals with chronic and long term illness. 


We are creating opportunities across the globe for students to learn in international settings. We recently launched the Global Development Fund, the brainchild of Elaine Larson, which will expand our research capacity and our vision of improving health globally.


Our primary care nurse practitioner faculty practice is another way we are innovating. Primary care is a critical part of our health system and we believe that nurses in primary care will have an important impact on the health of individuals, families and communities. To meet this vision, we have expanded our nurse practitioner practice. We now have three faculty practice locations in New York City with increasing patient visits. We are preparing registered nurses to meet the challenges of delivering more complex and comprehensive care across an individual’s lifespan in a primary care role. Our Washington Heights facility offers specialties including a psychiatric-mental health, medication management, family healthcare, and LGBT care. Our recently launched house calls service, which provides primary care to the homebound in the Washington Heights community is growing.


We are creating a new generation of leaders, clinicians, scientists, and policy makers. Our Masters Direct Entry (MDE) program was designed to prepare nurses to meet the challenges of caring for individuals with complex health needs and we prepare our students to be leaders, to be capable of adapting to and meeting the changing demands of the profession. Moving forward, our advanced practice students will be prepared with a Doctor of Nursing Practice. We also prepare the next generation of scientists through our PhD program and through the recruitment of post-doctoral fellows. This year we had a record number of applications for our Doctor of Nursing Practice program. We also awarded the largest scholarship fund in the history of the school to our incoming MDE cohort.


I conclude by reflecting on the school’s physical environment as another testament to our aspirations. The artwork and the thematic story stations in our new building tell the story of the school and of our mission. Our environment is a reflection of our legacy of excellence and of our commitment to the community we serve. We will never stop innovating as it is our nature to see and understand the future and go boldly forward.