Chancellor Names School of Nursing Dean

Stephen J. Cavanagh an Innovator for Improved Health

Quick Summary

  • He’s recognized for workforce development and building advanced-practice opportunities
  • His experience and perspectives mirror the recommendations of a California commission’s report, “Meeting the Demand for Health”
  • His appointment comes a week after announcement of new dean of the School of Medicine

Stephen J. Cavanagh, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been appointed dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis by Chancellor Gary S. May, effective July 22.

Cavanagh is recognized for developing the health care workforce, maximizing the use of advanced-practice nurses in clinics around the region to advance access, and educating the next generations of clinicians and scholars. He brings extensive experience in collaborating across the entire campus of a university to create innovative programming for students and new forms of interprofessional education — one of the core values of the School of Nursing.

Stephen J. Cavanagh mugshot

“On behalf of Chancellor May and the entire UC Davis community, I am extremely pleased and honored that Dr. Cavanagh has accepted the nomination to be our dean for the School of Nursing,” said Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “I am confident he will lead the next phase of growth for the School of Nursing in a manner that serves our students and our community well.”

Cavanagh has published more than 40 scholarly papers and reviews for nursing research journals, and generated more than $16 million in external federal, state and foundation funding to develop nursing practice arrangements, support diversity in health care and increase the nursing workforce. He says expanding advanced-nursing practice is critical to improving the health of our communities.

New models of nursing and medicine

“I was attracted to UC Davis because of the opportunity to improve the health of Northern California with new models of nursing and medicine collaborating together to improve health,” Cavanagh said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to find new ways to engage communities, new technologies to prepare our students and new opportunities for science to improve lives.”

His research also explores the understanding of innovation within the almost unique regulatory framework in which nursing operates, and the need for innovation within nursing education due to projected nurse shortages, a growing elderly population and the rise of technology in health care.

Cavanagh has been a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow, a Johnson & Johnson/UCLA Health Management Fellow and a Penn-Macy Fellow. He was recently elected to the nominating committee for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“Dr. Cavanagh has proven experience and a demonstrated passion for developing a workforce that is both prepared and positioned to serve people where and when they need it,” said David Lubarsky, UC Davis Health vice chancellor and chief executive officer, to whom Cavanagh will report. “His perspectives will complement my vision for where we need to grow capacity at UC Davis Health and how team-based education and practice can build the workforce of the future.”

An ideal partner’

Cavanagh’s experience and perspectives mirror the recommendations recently unveiled by the California Future Health Workforce Commission. The blueprint aims to eliminate the projected shortfall of primary care health providers, nearly eliminate a severe psychiatry shortage, and bolster the pipeline of students and health workers to deliver care in underserved communities — all by 2030. Among the commissioners authoring “Meeting the Demand for Health” was Heather M. Young, founding dean and now dean emerita of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

“One of UC Davis Health’s fundamental missions is to bring the best care available to underserved communities, and as an academic health system, we’re working to lead the way in training the primary care providers that California needs,” Vice Chancellor Lubarsky said. “Dr. Cavanagh will be an ideal partner in this endeavor.”

In 2016, Cavanagh was named one of the 30 most influential deans of nursing in the United States by Mometrix, a Texas-based test preparation company. He wrote Orem’s Model in Action, exploring a person’s biological, psychological and social systems for self-care in nursing — a book that has been translated into four languages.

From Wayne State to Amherst

Prior to his Amherst appointment in 2011, Cavanagh served as professor and associate dean for academic and clinical affairs in the College of Nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit. He also served as the chief executive officer and board chair of the Nursing Practice Corporation at Wayne State and as a grant review chair for the Bureau of Health Professions’ Division of Nursing. From 1994 to 1996, Cavanagh was professor and CEO of the Birmingham and Solihull College of Nursing and Midwifery in the British National Health Service.

Cavanagh joins a nursing school ranked among the top 50 graduate nursing programs in the country. Since its founding in 2009, the School of Nursing has graduated more than 400 alumni, cultivated a faculty numbering more than 40, launched a research program, established 48 endowed scholarships, nurtured more than 350 community and clinical partnerships, and opened the 70,000-square-foot Betty Irene Moore Hall.

As of today the school has 302 students in its five programs: Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Health Services-Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Science-Family Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science- Leadership and Master of Science-Nursing. A Doctor of Nursing Practice-Family Nurse Practitioner program is under development.

Cavanagh will work closely with Allison Brashear, named last week as the new dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine. The deans will jointly develop models for integrated care delivery and the advanced practice of health care for both disciplines. Faculty members from each school practice at the UC Davis Medical Center and its regional clinics. The UC Davis Medical Center is the only nationally-ranked hospital in Sacramento and it is regularly ranked in the top 50 of all hospitals nationwide.

Praise for interim dean

Debbie Ward, clinical professor, has been serving as the interim dean of the School of Nursing since August 2018 and will continue in this role until Cavanagh’s arrival. “Dean Ward’s dedication and leadership has ensured the school’s continued success, serving as a bridge between Founding Dean Young and Dean-Designate Cavanagh,” Provost Hexter said. “Her health care expertise and collaborative spirit elevate the nursing school’s role within the university and she has helped to position it for great things to come.”

Cavanagh earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Austin School of Nursing, a Master of Public Administration and Master of Science in health care management from the University of La Verne (California), and a Bachelor of Arts in nursing from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Polytechnic in England. He completed an Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from the MIT Sloan School of Management to deliver on great ideas and successfully drive innovation throughout an organization.

He is fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Royal Society for Public Health, and the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Cavanagh and his wife, Lindy, have three grown children, Andrew, Benjamin and Bethany.

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