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Redefining Health

Healthy living and relationships are a central focus of nursing.

The issue of Penn Nursing magazine in your hands—colloquially referred to as “The Sex Issue” around Claire M. Fagin Hall—focuses on sex and health, and moves beyond archaic notions that sexual health pertains only to reproductive outcomes or sexually transmitted infections. Rather, reflecting our Innovating for Life and Living Campaign, The Sex Issue recognizes the broader and innovative ways that Penn Nursing is defining sex and sexuality to address issues related to our identities, feelings, and attractions, our interpersonal relationships with one another, and how society and the media represents us. We are pioneering novel ways to support healthy relationships through advocacy, research, education, and practice.

Our work as change-makers in the area of sexual health has a long history. As you will read in the feature article in this issue of the magazine, Associate Professor Emerita of Nursing Rosalyn Watts, EDD, FAAN, RN developed a unique standalone class on human sexuality here at Penn Nursing, which she taught from 1974 to 1999. This ground-breaking course brought our understanding of the broad expressions sex and gender as a part of sexual health, everyday life, and who we are to the forefront.

As practitioners, it is critical to consider sexuality as part of clinical encounters and to address all its components in a way that puts people at ease and acknowledges them as sexual beings. We continue to advance Dr. Watts’ vision by incorporating concepts related to human sexuality into our coursework and simulation labs, teaching students how to have open and inclusive discussions regarding sex and sexuality with patients of diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, and genders.

I am part of the Penn Nursing legacy related to advances in sexual health; promoting safe sexual decision making specifically among Latino youth has been central to my program of research. A whole cadre of Penn Nursing faculty and students are making critical advances in sexual health research, education, and practice as well, including Dr. José Bauermeister, Penn Presidential Professor of Nursing, who leads Penn Nursing’s Program on Sexuality, Technology and Action Research (PSTAR). PSTAR—one of the few programs of its kind in the country—reflects our vision by empowering faculty, staff, and students to advance research and intervention methods aimed at decreasing sexuality-related health disparities through innovative biomedical and behavior science, and community engaged approaches.

Roz’s class paved the way, and our Innovating for Life and Living Campaign continues to support and expand that work. Penn Nursing is the #1 nursing school in the world, but we must always be #1 for the world as well. We have raised roughly 75 percent of our $60 million campaign goal, and it is clear to see the promise of the campaign in our sexual health efforts and education, from developing evidence-based approaches to reduce risk and promote health, to creating a more comfortable atmosphere for all people, no matter their orientation or gender identity.

Thank you for being part of Penn Nursing and the groundbreaking work we do, whether in sexual health or some other area. Your support gives us the foundation to be leaders in health and health care as we forge ahead with innovative ideas to improve life and living.