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Suzanne Wright
By Amber Kennedy

After nearly 60 years of educating nurses at the highest level, Old Dominion University’s nursing program has its first dean and will operate as its own school.

Suzanne Wright assumed the new role of interim dean of the School of Nursing on Jan. 25. Wright, who joined ODU in 2021 as chair of the School of Nursing, previously served as a full professor and in leadership positions at Virginia Commonwealth University for nearly 20 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia and a Ph.D. in health-related sciences from VCU.

Wright is a fellow of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (FAANA), a Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) through the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, and a Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator (CHSE) through the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

Through her experiences serving at VCU, Wright gained experience in administrative leadership, commitment to excellence in teaching, and expertise in advanced clinical practice and patient safety-based research, fundraising and alumni engagement. Since coming to ODU, Wright has served as a member of the online task force and the EVMS/ODU integration Clinical Affairs committee and co-chaired the Strategic Planning Steering Committee.

Wright aims to accelerate the school’s reputation as a leader in nursing and scholarship; to advance upward mobility for faculty, staff and students; and to create innovative connections and collaborations with community partners.

“I will work with the amazing team in the School of Nursing and at ODU to make measurable progress on these goals by promoting faculty and staff, serving all students, respecting our industry partners for their role in our success, and establishing an outreach plan to connect with alumni of our undergraduate and graduate programs,” she said.

In an announcement to campus, Austin Agho, provost and vice president for academic affairs, noted Wright is known for her “longstanding commitment to student satisfaction and success, to diversification in the health care workforce and to nursing workforce development that leverages community and corporate partnerships.”

“Since 1967, ODU has been a leader in training highly skilled nurses,” he added. “As the profession has changed, our programs have evolved to offer the most cutting-edge technology and innovative teaching methods. As its own entity and with Dr. Wright at the helm, the School of Nursing will be well-positioned to deliver an exceptional workforce to meet the increasing demand.”

The School of Nursing prepares graduates at a time when nursing shortages have constrained the workforce. In 2022, Wright authored a chapter of the Dragas Center for Economic Impact’s “State of the Region” diving into the causes of nursing shortages across the nation. In higher education, colleges are challenged to fill the demand for faculty and to provide applied experiences.

ODU’s School of Nursing has responded to those challenges with entrepreneurial, community-based solutions. Through the Center for Telehealth Innovation, Education & Research (C-TIER), the school is at the forefront of innovation in delivering health care and improving access. C-TIER offers certification in telehealth, and collaborates across the University to research cutting-edge technologies, including applications of remote patient monitoring and autonomous system solutions.

The School of Nursing’s ODU Community Cares program matches students who need experience with underserved communities that need health care. Project I-Hear offers free primary care for patients who are underserved in Virginia Beach, helping fill gaps in public health while giving students a chance to work directly with the community. This month, the School of Nursing will launch a mobile health van to serve Southampton County.

As of fall 2022, ODU had 1,013 declared and intended undergraduate nursing majors. Its graduate programs enrolled 279 students, seeking certifications, masters’ degrees in nursing and doctor of nursing practice degrees. In the 2021-22 school year, ODU awarded 222 undergraduate degrees and 113 graduate degrees.