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Pamela Stewart Fahs, interim dean of the Decker School of Nursing, is seen at a Decker training facility in Academic Building B.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Decker dean’s goal: Alumni connections
December 7, 2015Tweet
Strengthening the Decker School of Nursing’s connections with alumni is Pamela Stewart Fahs’ priority as interim dean.
“We want to increase our fundraising, but we also want people to feel more connected to the school and to the University,” she said. “It’s wonderful when you see alumni and students (connect).”
Fahs, who has served as the Dr. G. Clifford and Florence B. Decker Chair in Rural Nursing, became interim dean on July 1 when Dean Joyce Ferrario left the position to return to teaching and research.
A faculty member in the Decker School of Nursing since 1985, Fahs specializes in cardiovascular disease in rural populations. She has taught in the school’s graduate and undergraduate programs and has also served as an associate dean in Decker.
Fahs said she was honored to be asked to take on the position of interim dean.
“This is a great school and I am excited about the opportunity,” she said. “I was grateful that Dean Ferrario brought me in as an associate dean (in 2014). You don’t get to see all of the necessary pieces as a faculty member. It’s a different view – a broad picture of what happens at the school.”
Fahs, who described her first semester in the position as “enjoyable” and “hectic,” has already reached out to Decker alumni. She has made off-campus visits with the assistance of the Division of Advancement. Decker also played host to a Homecoming 2015 breakfast for alumni, which included 73 doctoral graduates. The October event featured a “simulation” contest in which students, faculty and alumni teamed up for a patient-safety activity.
“It was a lot of fun with a lot of laughs,” Fahs said about Homecoming. “We had people who had not been back in 20 years.”
Fahs and a committee are also working with Communications and Marketing to develop an annual Decker print magazine tentatively titled “Connect.” Harpur College, the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Management, and the College of Community and Public Affairs all have magazines.
Building the alumni bonds is a natural fit for Decker, as connections have long been at the school’s foundation.
“We deal with people on a level in which you connect,” Fahs said. “The client needs us to be connected. I think that nurses do that well. … We have faculty who are nurses, so there is compassion. That’s a trait you see a great deal of in people who work in the healthcare system.”
Community connectivity is also vital for Decker, Fahs said. Students and faculty are involved in many local and regional community agencies, hospitals and primary care clinics.
“We could not run the school without our connections throughout the community,” she said. “Healthcare is delivered in many different places and in many different ways. You might first think of a hospital, but you also have community health, school clinics and primary-care settings. Our students are out in the community, connecting with people.”
In the long term, Fahs said she is excited about Decker’s future move to the proposed Southern Tier Health Sciences and Technology Park. The Johnson City healthcare campus will link Decker with the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, forming a medical base with Wilson Hospital.
“(Decker) will have more space, which is a real need here,” Fahs said. “We have outgrown Academic B.”
The new complex will not only allow Decker to increase the scope and size of its simulation efforts, but will provide the school with opportunities to collaborate on teaching and research projects with the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the College of Community and Public Affairs. For example, Fahs envisions courses that bring nursing, pharmacy and social work together.
“We are looking at ways to do more inter-professional education,” she said. “When you are in practice, you have a healthcare team. It’s not one person taking care of a patient – it’s a team of people. The more familiar and comfortable our students can become with that concept, the more comfortable they will be in practice.”
The University is now conducting a search for a permanent dean. But Fahs has an idea in mind for when the campus community looks back at her time as interim dean.
“I hope they will say that I have maintained the level of quality and grown (the school) in a way that reflects the needs of the future,” she said.