A History of Nursing Excellence and Determination

The UCI Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing has a rich, deep history. Its existence is the realization of a vision that began decades ago.

It is the story of a very special brand of perseverance, teamwork, pragmatism, and commitment to excellence that exists among the best of nurses, nurse educators, and especially the Orange County nurse community.

It has been a long journey with great forward progress, thanks to the individuals who took leadership along the way.

The history of the school exemplifies precisely the values that guide the school today:

  • Determination in the face of adversity
  • A focus on excellence in clinical practice, nursing science research and education
  • Individuals working together for something bigger than themselves.

We would like to thank every person who has sacrificed, persevered, and contributed to who we are today.

1986: Graduate Nursing Education Arrives in Orange County

Ellen Lewis, as senior associate director at UCI Medical Center, establishes an onsite graduate program in nursing administration at the medical center in partnership with UCLA’s Graduate Nursing Program. Three cohorts of approximately 15-18 students complete this program and receive a Master of Nursing degree.

1990:  UC Irvine Recognizes Need for Nursing Education Infrastructure   

UCI Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences, Walter Henry, MD, establishes the UCI Office for The Advancement of Nursing & Allied Health. Ellen Lewis is appointed assistant vice chancellor of Nursing & Allied Health. The goals established for this office are to:

  1. Develop a business plan for a nursing education program within the Health Sciences. More than 100 data sources were used to obtain information regarding the supply and demand for nurses at the local, state and national level. A local task force of campus and community members were recruited to advise this effort.
  2. Establish a Nurse Sciences Program within each of the planned institutes in the Health Sciences at UCI.

1992: Establishing a Nursing Pipeline in California

California Strategic Committee for Nursing (CSPCN) is established. The objective is to establish a forecasting model and collect data for a database on the supply and demand of nurses in California using trends, expert opinions and intention to hire.

The CSPCN model has since been adopted in whole or in part by several other states. Ellen Lewis served as project director and Dr. Karen Sechrist was project investigator. Professor E. Alison Holman, PhD, a graduate student at the time, also worked on this project. Later, in 2001, Dr. Karen Sechrist would earn the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) National Health Workforce Research Achievement Award for her work related to this project.

1993: UCI Leadership Requested at the State Level

Gov. Pete Wilson appoints Ellen Lewis to the Statewide Council on Primary Care Training, Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The goal of this committee is to help ensure that there will be an adequate number of primary care providers (physicians, family nurse practitioners and physician assistants) to meet the needs of all Californians.

1995: Launch of FNP Certificate Program

The first class of UCI’s FNP certificate program begins within the UCI School of Medicine. Mary Knudtson, MSN, FNP, PNP, serves as the first program director. This first cohort graduates in 1996.

2002: Continued Growth of Nursing Education

2005: First Step Toward a School of Nursing: Program in Nursing Science

Ellen Lewis leads the proposal to UC Regents for the Program in Nursing Science (PNS), and earns approval for the BS Nursing Science (BS) Program at UCI. The establishment of a PNS is a first step towards a School of Nursing.

2007: Program in Nursing Science Launched

This team of inaugural faculty taught all the classes and ran the clinical practice.

Ellen Olshansky, with help from Ellen Lewis and Susan Tiso, began working on a proposal for a Masters in Nursing Science Program.

2009: Tremendous Growth in Academic Programs

  • Masters in Nursing Science Research program launches
  • First class of BS graduates
  • Ellen Olshansky submits proposal for a PhD program in Nursing Science Research. It receives approval.
  • Program in Nursing seeks for approval from the UCI Senate for a School of Nursing, but no funds are available. It is the Great Recession.
  • The Program in Nursing continues to grow, brings in more clinical faculty and develops a leadership structure.
  • The Suzanne Renée Leider Lecture Series begins.

2011: Program in Nursing Science Moves to Berk Hall

2012: PhD Program Approved

UCI Program in Nursing Science receives approval for a PhD program, and begins recruiting students.

2013: The PNS Looks Like What it Aspires to Be

The Program in Nursing how has BS, MS, FNP, and PhD programs. At this point, the program and its faculty look like a School of Nursing without the status of a school. The remaining challenge is to receive approval from UC Irvine Senate and UC Regents. A lack of funding remains.

2014: A Year of Change

  • June: Dr. Ellen Olshansky steps down from her position as Director of the Program in Nursing Science to start a Nursing Department within the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California (USC). Dr. Olshansky is retired professor emerita.
  • Dr. Alison Holman is named interim director of the Program in Nursing Science.
  • Meanwhile, UCI Vice Chancellor for Advancement, Gregory Leet, learns of donor interest in supporting nursing science at UCI.

2015: PNS Experiences a Turning Point

As Interim Director of the Program in Nursing Science, Dr. Holman continues building toward the PNS goal of someday becoming a School of Nursing. She hires Dorothy Tu and Tracy Molidor. Together with Julie Rousseau and Alison Holman, they create a proposal for a professional School of Nursing, and share it with Gregory Leet to share with potential donors.

2016: UCI Nursing Clinical Practice is Profitable

Under Dorothy Tu’s leadership, PNS has now established a revenue-generating clinical practice, the only one in the UC system.

The PhD Scholarship is established under Ellen Olshansky’s name as founding director of PNS.

2016: The Dream is Realized

  • January: The William and Sue Gross Family Foundation announces a gift of $40 million to finally establish a School of Nursing at UCI.
  • Summer: proposal for SON approved by UCI Senate, and a search for a founding dean begins.

2017: But UC Irvine Nursing Doesn’t Rest

  • January: UC Regents approve proposal for a School of Nursing at UCI.
  • Dr. Adey Nyamathi joins the school as founding dean.
  • Dr. Julie Rousseau launches the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) in response to a community need.
  • Research funding in FY17 reaches $1.5 million, a growth of 129% over FY16.

2018: DNP Program Established

  • Drs. Susan Tiso and Susanne Phillips write a proposal for a Self-Sustaining Graduate Program, a Doctor or Nursing Practice (DNP). It is approved by the UCI Senate.
  • Research funding in FY18 reaches $1.92 million, a growth of 27% over FY17.

2019: UCI Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing “Firsts”

2020: A year of more growth