Legacy of Leadership

As the UAB School of Nursing celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2010, one of the major themes is the school’s legacy of leadership in education, research, and health care: a quality exemplified by these three nursing alumnae. Each reflects the pioneering spirit that has helped the school redefine the nurse’s role in the workplace—and the world.


Kathleen "Kay" Gainor Andreoli

Joanne Disch

Charlie Jones Dickson


Sharing in Learning

Kathleen Gainor Andreoli

In 1979, Kathleen “Kay” Gainor Andreoli, D.S.N., R.N., FAAN, received her Doctor of Science in Nursing and became the first graduate of the UAB School of Nursing’s first doctoral program—which also was the first of its kind in the Southeast. Today she continues to lead through volunteer service, illustrating the impact that nurses can make even in retirement.

“I wanted to give back to society by using what I had learned in my career,” Andreoli says. And it has been quite a career: In 2005, she retired from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where she was vice president for nursing academic affairs and the John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of Rush University College of Nursing. A fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, Andreoli was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She received the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s Distinguished Alumna award in 1984 and the UAB School of Nursing’s Distinguished Alumni honor in 1991. Andreoli also received the Melanie C. Dreher Outstanding Dean Award from Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society in 2003 and the 2009 GE Health-AACN Pioneering Spirit Award.

Andreoli has shared her knowledge in critical care/cardiovascular nursing and experiences as a clinical nurse specialist in a classic textbook, Andreoli’s Comprehensive Cardiac Care. She contributed to the book’s initial editions, and her name was added to the title by author/editor Marguerite R. Kinney, D.N.Sc., a retired UAB School of Nursing faculty member, and Donna R. Packa, D.S.N., a graduate of UAB’s nursing school.

Today, Andreoli is Emeritus Kellogg Dean of the Rush University College of Nursing—and “as busy as I was before retiring, just in different avenues.” She serves on the board of directors of the world-renowned Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which conducts research to help individuals who have lost limbs. One current focus, she says, is “men and women who have been injured during military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

She also was elected to the board of governors of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago, which focuses on the health status of local citizens. And as a member of the strategic planning committee of the Chicago Patient Safety Forum, she works to help individuals understand their health problems. “We want them to use that knowledge in accessing the health-care system,” says Andreoli.

In addition, she serves on an advisory board for Nursing Spectrum magazine and holds a part-time job recruiting health-care executives for a search firm. “And I enjoy the opportunity to watch my 10 grandchildren grow up,” she adds.

Andreoli praises the quality education she received at UAB’s School of Nursing. In particular, she thanks her mentor, Jean A. Kelley, Ed.D., who headed the school’s graduate programs when Andreoli was enrolled. “Dr. Kelley inspired me to do many things that might not have ever happened if I had not met her.”

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Exploring the Issues

Joanne Disch

The nursing profession has seen a rapid increase in responsibilities and influence over the last 25 years. For Joanne Disch, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, two of those new roles—public-policy advocate and political leader—are a natural fit.

In May 2008, Disch wrapped up a two-year term as board chair of AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), one of the country’s largest and most significant interest groups. That tenure was a highlight of a career that has included a master’s degree in cardiovascular nursing from the UAB School of Nursing, the school’s 1994 Distinguished Alumni Award, and memberships on the board of the American Academy of Nursing and several committees with the American Nurses Association. Disch is now director of the Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership at the University of Minnesota.

In 2002, Disch joined the AARP board, putting her in the thick of two heated national public-policy debates—the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 and the proposed privatization of Social Security in 2005. Though AARP supported the former and opposed the latter, both plans were controversial among the organization’s membership. “AARP is an issues-oriented organization,” Disch explains. “It’s not about supporting a party or candidate.”

More recently, AARP worked with the 2008 presidential candidates on crafting workable strategies for health-care reform. And despite the general perception of AARP as being an organization for seniors, Disch says the group continues to increase its focus on issues affecting people younger than 50. “With seniors being the fastest-growing segment of the population, many younger people end up as the primary caregivers for their elderly parents,” she says. And that issue works both ways, she adds. “Around four million grandparents are the sole providers for their grandkids, for example, so the rights of grandparents, which obviously affect grandkids, are a real concern.”

In addressing such issues, Disch relies on the invaluable organizational and consensus-building experience she gained as a nurse. “Nurses are very skilled at quickly assessing situations in a short time frame, coming up with possible solutions, getting along with a wide variety of people, and seeing what’s going to work for the average person,” she says. “It’s like running a bunch of small businesses all over the place. Even those of us who no longer take care of patients use those skills in so many different ways.”
Disch says she is pleased to see UAB’s School of Nursing sharing those vital skills. “I can tell that the students are taught to see things through that ‘nursing lens’ and that they’re learning how to skillfully apply those skills to other situations,” Disch says. “What is happening at UAB now is very impressive.”

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An Alabama Pioneer

Charlie Jones Dickson

When Charlie Jones Dickson, Ed.D., R.N., FAAN, offers nursing advice, it’s a good idea to listen up. She has spent her career expanding the reach and enhancing the quality of nursing education programs throughout Alabama.

A retired faculty member of UAB’s School of Nursing, Dickson recently served on an external review committee for the administration of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health at Tuskegee University. She says she enjoys being connected with the historic institution, home of the first baccalaureate-in-nursing degree program in Alabama. Founded by nursing-education pioneer Lillian Holland Harvey, Ed.D., during a time of rigid segregation in the South, the Tuskegee program brought unprecedented new opportunities for African-American students in Alabama.

“I have great respect for Dr. Harvey,” says Dickson. “For example, she had to go outside the Deep South to find clinical experiences for her students.” Dickson was one of those students, earning her nursing baccalaureate degree from Tuskegee; she later joined the program’s faculty as one of its long-distance nursing educators, teaching students in Maryland.

On the advisory committee, Dickson collaborated with four other nursing leaders. All four began their work by participating in an external assessment of Tuskegee’s nursing education program that included Doreen C. Harper, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, dean of UAB’s School of Nursing.

In offering advice, Dickson says she relies upon her rich experience in preparing nurses for successful careers. She founded the nursing education program at Lawson State Community College and was part of UAB’s nursing faculty for nearly three decades. For 15 years, she served on the Alabama Board of Nursing, which governs the education and practice of nursing in the state.

Dickson’s tenure on the state nursing board was a pioneering—and busy—one. She was the board’s first African-American president, and later she became a member of the board of directors of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. She helped preserve the Alabama board’s autonomy and conducted many site visits as the number of nursing education programs in the state increased. Dickson pushed for the development of reasonable rules and regulations for Alabama’s first mandatory continuing education program in conjunction with nurses’ licensure renewal. And she helped develop a program to address substance abuse among nurses.

For her hard work and achievements, Dickson was named a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 1994. In 2003 she was inducted in the Alabama Nursing Hall of Fame, and in 2008 she was elected to the Academy of Nursing Education Fellows in the National League for Nursing.

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