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January Greeting from Dean Villarruel

Penn Nursing has long been a home for innovators in transforming health and health care. That innovative impact expands to wellness and self-care. Our School’s Edith Clemmer Steinbright Professor of Gerontology, Barbara Reigel, for instance, not only teaches about self-care at the graduate and undergraduate levels, she has devoted research to using tech to coach patients and their caregivers in self-care, among other areas.

I like to say, however, that Penn Nursing is not just #1 in the world; we are #1 for the world—and that includes wellness right here in Fagin Hall. Each new year brings with it new opportunities—and at Penn Nursing, we are intent on building a caring community that values wellness. It can be so difficult to pause when life gets busy and stress-filled, but as our spring semester begins, I hope you will do just that: pause and take a breath. Please join me in prioritizing engagement, joy, and kindness—not just in the way that we treat each other, but how we treat ourselves.

It is more critical than ever that we embrace the university’s wellness initiatives while developing innovative strategies for addressing our own special needs here at Penn Nursing. Over the last year we’ve seen the appointments of Dr. Benoit Dube, the first Chief Wellness Officer in the Ivy League; Erica Gross, Chief Operating Officer for Wellness Services; and Marc Lo, the first Executive Director of the Office of Penn First Plus Students.

These appointments are having a real impact on campus wellness, as will the launch of the Second Year Experience Program that aims to house all second year undergraduate students on campus, eliminating a great deal of stress for freshmen and building new support communities. Many Penn Nursing faculty serve as House Deans, and our own Lisa Lewis is Faculty Director of College Houses and Academic Services. Dr. Cindy Connolly, the Rosemarie B. Greco Term Endowed Associate Professorship in Advocacy here at Penn Nursing, has been engaged in efforts to examine the ABSN program to look for ways we can better address stress while continuing to achieve stellar learning outcomes. A similar effort will be undertaken to look at our BSN program. 

At Penn Nursing we’re building on all these efforts to be true change-makers in wellness, ensuring the success of our students, faculty, and staff. Every year we offer a professional development week for faculty and staff; this year the theme will be wellness—and we’re taking a holistic approach, with opportunities around financial, professional, and personal wellness. Our students had access to a range of opportunities last semester, including events around sleep and meditation, self-care and positive psychology, and more. This semester those exciting events will continue and expand. I’m particularly excited about an event coming up on February 13—the Nursing Story Slam, to be hosted jointly by Penn Nursing and Penn Medicine. It will be a great way to decompress and be present in and supportive of our Nursing community. The deadline for submitting your own story has passed, but I hope you’ll consider attending the event to hear the stories that were chosen.

We are exploring additional wellness options as well that will build a true community of caring at Penn Nursing. Stay tuned for new announcements throughout the semester and beyond.

There are so many things that are out of our control, but as people firmly rooted in the health and healthcare fields, we know that wellness and self-care is something we can control. But only if we take the time to pause, to breathe. Be kind to each other. Be kind to yourselves. Join me as we make Penn Nursing a place where we can succeed in all areas of our lives.