Elon University is searching for its next dean of the School of Health Sciences, where Stephen Folger is serving as interim dean.
Rebecca Neiduski, the former dean, left Elon earlier this year and began a new role in July as Wartburg College’s first female president.
Ann Bullock, dean of the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education since June 2016, is the chair of the search committee. Bullock said those on this committee are “advocates for and have relationships with the School of Health Sciences.”
Bullock said the position was advertised, including qualities of an ideal candidate. People then applied, sending information related to the criteria. An evaluation round was held, followed by semi-final interviews on Zoom and then three finalists were brought to campus.
The search committee, Bullock said, is looking for “somebody who has a background in health sciences, someone who has leadership experience and leadership abilities. Someone that supports DEI efforts and has experience with that. Someone who understands about health equity, because that is one of the things that is important to the School of Health Sciences here at Elon.”
The first of three final candidates for Elon’s School of Health Sciences Dean, Maha Lund, presented to the Elon community Nov. 28.
Lund, doctorate of health sciences from NOVA Southeastern University, presented on her experience as the current program director for Emory University’s Physician Assistant program. Lund said one of her main focuses would be on health equity and creating partnerships with local health providers to make that happen.
“I believe that if we work together and hear everybody's voice then the outcome will always be better than if one person only makes decisions,” Lund said. “Making the difference in their community, however big, however small that community is, however you choose to define your community, but making a difference. I believe that with the privileges and education that we receive, we have responsibilities to the people around us.”
Lund said based on the Boldly Elon Strategic Plan and Elon’s five year strategic plan, she is excited for the possibility of working at Elon and feels a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is very important. According to data from the World Health Organization, only 20% of modifiable social determinants of health are determined by clinical care. Lund said with this data, it is impossible to ignore the other 80% of social determinants and that racism needs to be addressed.
“Racism is a structural and social determinant of health,” Lund said. “So if we put it in that context, we can't ignore it, and we have to talk about it and we have to teach our students about recognizing it and working against it. I believe that diversity is a tool to address social determinants of health, and that is diversity in many shapes or forms.”
Lund also presented on data from the World Health Organization and talked about how as an educator, focusing on mental health is important to her. She said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated issues within the medical field that were not as talked about. This includes students' mental health and she said a large mental health issue according to the World Health Organization that students face is burnout.
“Fifty to 80% of health professional students, and those were actually primarily didactic year students are at risk of burnout, which can lead to depression substance use suicidal ideation, decreased empathy and patient satisfaction, and then the increased likelihood sub-optimal care and medical errors,” Lund said. “So we need to protect our patients, which means we need to address this with our students. We cannot, we cannot be silent. We need to talk about this and normalize mental health concerns.”
The second candidate, Kristin Landis-Piwowar, is from Oakland University in Michigan and presented on campus Nov. 29. Landis-Piwowar, doctorate of philosophy in cancer biology from Wayne State University School of Medicine, is currently the interim associate provost for Accreditation and Quality at Oakland.
Landis-Piwowar spoke about her experiences, values and how she views excellence in the health sciences.
“I consider excellence to be bringing my best efforts to a situation, not to be better than, in any situation, but that I will personally bring my best effort and sometimes that best effort will lead to failure sometimes, it won't,” Landis-Piwowar said. “But so long as I know that I brought my best, then I know that that's OK. And when I think about health, I think about being open and listening to other people and taking in their ideas.”
During her presentation, Landis-Piwowar said she sees many opportunities for the School of Health Sciences to expand, grow and collaborate with the other schools across campus. One example she provided was creating a specific graduate program for certified registered nurse anesthetists, which she said would be an accredited program.
“I see this as a particularly good pathway for Elon, because there is not a direct competition between the physician assistant program and a higher level nursing program,” Landis-Piwowar said. “These would be professionals who have a very specific role in nurse anesthesia and a very important role in patient's lives ... and since physician assistants can also work in anesthesia and pain management and physical therapists have a critical role in pain management … this brings everybody together for interprofessional education and an opportunity to collaborate, to learn together and from each other by having such a program.”
Landis-Piwowar spoke on Elon’s teacher-scholar model and said it aligned with her values because it was the same path in her trajectory toward full professor, which she completed in 2020. She said that this model allows for collaboration and new opportunities.
Landis-Piwowar referred to the second theme of Boldy Elon, Thrive, which includes“cultivating a culture of health and well-being on a vibrant residential campus,” according to the university’s website.
“I get the sense that this is kind of student focused, that particular term but I also think that it should be very much aligned with the faculty and staff in the School of Health Sciences,” Landis-Piwowar said. “You all have opportunities to thrive and building that really strong community that's based on transparency and trust will be really important elements for that community building.
The third and final candidate, Leigh Cellucci was on campus Dec. 7.
Cellucci, doctorate of sociology from the University of Virginia, serves as associate dean for Academic Affairs from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, spoke provisionally on “The Triple Aim” and “The Quadruple Factors.”
“Leaders in educating future health care professionals,” Cellucci said. “We need to understand not only the training needs of our students, but the external environment while promoting and this is very important health equity and ethical and professional values of our students,.” ” Cellucci said.
Cellucci, like the other candidates, spent time with the campus community leading up to the presentation in Clohan Theatre. She said throughout the day, she heard a lot about diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
“I believe we need to have health care providers provide for a diverse society,” Cellucci said. “Very, very simple statement and we've been talking about it for many years.”
Cellucci also nodded to Elon’s Anatomical Gift Program and said it is one that “teaches humbleness and ethics and professionalism.”
The growth and suggestions proposed by Cellucci are not ones she said can happen immediately.
“The School of Health Sciences and executing the strategic plan must be well considered, incremental and collaborative, basing program, balancing program needs and in the context of the larger university mission,” Cellucci said. “That’s my vision for your school.”