BUFFALO, N.Y. – Marsha L. Lewis, who has led the University at Buffalo School of Nursing through 10 years of growth in its core mission of education, research and community service, will retire from UB at the end of the academic year.
The announcement was made Friday in a university-wide memo from A. Scott Weber, provost and executive vice-president for academic affairs, and Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“An excellent dean and university leader, Dean Lewis has significantly advanced UB’s research, education and engagement missions. She will leave the school well positioned to continue building upon its strength and reputation,” Weber and Cain said in the memo.
In her decade of leading the School of Nursing, Lewis has championed creating a culture that exemplifies the school’s values of accountability, respect and excellence while promoting collaboration, diversity and inclusion.
“My 10 years with the University at Buffalo’s School of Nursing have been the best of my 50-year nursing career,” Lewis said. “I am so proud of the great strides we have made together as a school and as a university. Seeing our faculty and staff grow and thrive, our students succeed in their academic programs and careers, our alumni lead and shape the future of nursing and health care, and our generous donors support the school’s important initiatives has been immensely rewarding. It is a great honor to be part of UB and the Western New York community.”
She created and implemented strategic plans that focus on improving health and quality of life through collaborative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship; delivering excellent nursing education programs including advancing clinical simulation, telehealth and interprofessional education; and expanding community partnerships and collaborations.
These efforts coincided with significant improvement in the school’s reputation. In U.S. News & World Report, the school is ranked among the top 20% of undergraduate and graduate schools of nursing, and its online RN-to-BS program, as well as its Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Anesthetist program, rank among the top 10 nationwide. As a result of these successes, the school has seen significant enrollment growth in several of its programs.
As dean, Lewis has been committed to building the school’s national and international reputation for research — from discovery to translation — that improves health care delivery, outcomes and equity, Weber and Cain said, adding that she increased administrative support for faculty scholarship through the Center for Nursing Research and focused on recruiting faculty with excellent research portfolios.
“During her time as dean, national recognition of faculty has grown, research proposals have steadily increased and the school has more than doubled its research expenditures,” Weber and Cain said.
In the past 10 years, seven School of Nursing faculty members have been inducted as fellows into the American Academy of Nursing. Faculty have also been named fellows in the Gerontological Society of America, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, International Academy of Addiction Nursing, American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, and the Sigma Theta Tau International Researcher Hall of Fame.
Recognizing that nursing is an increasingly global profession, Lewis has focused on internationalizing the school, providing students with a global perspective and unique learning opportunities that empower them to address complex health challenges. For example, the school has offered a variety of opportunities to provide health care and medical screenings to underserved populations around the world, including Haiti, Ghana, Senegal, Belize, the Philippines; refugee camps in Greece; and rural areas of the United States.
Lewis also built partnerships within UB and the local health care community to expand clinical opportunities for students and increase the school’s impact through community-based research and education.
The school received grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand clinical sites for students, improve nursing services to Native American and other underserved populations, and enhance its curriculum. It expanded its dedicated education units, an innovative, clinical education model designed for nursing students to gain one-on-one learning experiences in acute care and community-based settings. And the school built on its position as a national leader in interprofessional education (IPE) by helping establish an excellent IPE program for UB’s Academic Health Center that prepares UB students across the health sciences to be collaborative-practice ready.
Her leadership during the pandemic helped ensure nursing students continued to receive safe and high-quality education.
Internally, Lewis created in 2015 a School of Nursing task force to focus on issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and she appointed an assistant dean for diversity and inclusion. The task force is now a standing committee named the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, and in 2021 the school appointed a new assistant dean and unit diversity officer.
In partnership with Greater Buffalo United Ministries and Millennium Collaborative Care, the school joined the Million Hearts initiative in 2016, which aims to combat heart disease and stroke, especially within communities of color. The school is also working with UB’s health sciences schools and community organizations to eliminate health disparities among communities of color through the African American Health Equity Task Force and UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute.
The school also renovated several spaces in Wende Hall, including conference rooms and classrooms, which were outfitted with new technology and software to enhance virtual conferencing and increase collaboration.
A fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and an internationally recognized scholar and leader in academic nursing, Lewis is a specialist in psychiatric-mental health and nursing education, with expertise in curriculum and instructional systems. She is the developer of the Savvy Caregiver training program for caregivers of people with dementia, which was heralded as one of the nation’s top evidence-based programs for caregivers by the U.S. Administration on Aging.
A search for her replacement will begin in the spring semester.