Healthcare Equality & Access to Care: Q&A with Dean Safiya George, PhD

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By Cross Country Nurses

March 18, 2021

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Academia, Healthcare Equity, and Access to Care: an Interview with Dean Safiya George, Ph.D., MSN

This article was provided by Cross Country Nurses.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Safiya George, Dean, and Professor of Florida Atlantic University’s College of Nursing. Dean George shared about her pathway to nursing academia and how we can all encourage equity in healthcare and diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

This Q&A with Dean George further enriches our ongoing partnership with FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. In collaboration with FAU, we co-host an engaging webinar series covering topics like promoting diversity in nursing, overcoming compassion fatigue, using technology in healthcare, and battling COVID on the frontlines. In addition to the webinar series, we’ve also established The Cross Country Healthcare Scholarship Fund, which provides annual scholarships and helps fund educational and research opportunities for students attending the College of Nursing for a minimum of four years.

Healthcare Q&A with Dean Safiya George, PhD

Q:  How did you get started in academia?

A:  As a young girl, I was interested in teaching the neighborhood kids in my mock classroom in my backyard, and then in college, I thoroughly enjoyed tutoring chemistry. My name means wisdom, so I have always felt the responsibility of doing my best to share my knowledge with others. After completing my Ph.D. at Emory University and Postdoctoral Fellowship at Duke University, I was eager to join the nursing faculty at Emory University. Since then, I also taught at the University of Alabama before joining our beloved Florida Atlantic University.

Q:  We heard a rumor that you are one of the youngest deans in the country! Can you confirm? How does this make you feel?

Well, I’m fairly confident that this was true when I assumed the deanship in 2019 at 40 years old. However, by now, there might be other 40-year-olds now beginning their deanships, so I am not sure. I continue to be humbled by this opportunity and the strengths, skills, and talents that I have been blessed with that have enabled me to be very successful throughout my life and career. I started nursing school at age 15, completed my BSN at age 18, and became a registered nurse at age 19, so by now, I am used to being among the youngest in academic and professional settings. It keeps me humble and grateful.

Q:  Recently, the conversation within many organizations has been about equity and inclusion, and the things that we’re doing to encourage it. How do you think these conversations could impact the profession, for example, by potentially increasing the number of African Americans and other underrepresented groups within the healthcare profession?

A:  I believe that by now, most leaders in the healthcare field/industry recognize that there is a dire need to have a healthcare workforce that resembles the population that we care for. There are many benefits to the patient for doing so, including helping to close the gap in health disparities and inequities in access to healthcare and healthcare delivery. The conversation is one thing, but the results are definitely doing and will only be achieved if funding and investment are also part of the comprehensive effort.

Q:  Do hospitals have a role in promoting equity? Do nurses? How can they help promote equity?

A:  Yes, hospitals have a role in promoting equitable access to high-quality healthcare for all patients, equity in position opportunities, and compensation and equity in who gets invited to a seat at the table where important decisions are made.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on the lack of diversity in the CNO role? Do you have any perspective on what the industry can do to encourage nurses of color to consider this as a career path? (Source: https://www.advisory.com/en/daily-briefing/2020/06/25/black-cno)

A:  I don’t really have a definitive perspective other than the lack of diversity in the CNO role mirrors the lack of diversity in upper administration in most sectors in our country. More scholarships to support educational attainment for nurses of color in nursing, advanced practice nursing, healthcare administration/nursing administration, and mentorship programs to prepare for nursing management and CNO roles would likely be helpful and encouraging.

Q:  Any words you would like to share about Black History Month?

A:  I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts and perspectives, especially with Cross Country, who is a great partner, supporter of nursing education, and stellar example of an organization helping to address the nursing shortage.

About Dean Safiya George, Ph.D.

Safiya George, Dean of FAU’s College of Nursing, earned her Ph.D. and MSN degrees from Emory University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University in religion and health. She is only the third dean to be appointed in the college’s 40-year history. George previously served as a member of the faculty at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing until she was recruited in 2015 to the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama, where she has served as assistant dean for research, director of the Office of Scholarly Affairs, and a member of the advisory board of the Alabama Life Research Institute. She also has served as faculty in the Honors College and faculty-in-residence for residential honors students at the University of Alabama.

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