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Michael V. Relf portrait
Michael V. Relf Photo by Chris Hildreth

Michael V. Relf

Interim Dean, School of Nursing

By MICHAEL V. RELF, Interim Dean, School of Nursing

Happy anniversary, Duke University!

For more than 90 years, specifically since January 1931, the Duke University School of Nursing – DUSON – has been a proud contributor to the mission of the university.  As I reflect on the School of Nursing’s history, I am proud of its legacy in preparing leaders, embracing innovation, and looking toward the future. 

Over the decades, Duke Nursing has had several firsts. In 1958, under the leadership of Thelma Ingles, DUSON established the first clinical nurse specialist graduate program in the United States.  In 1965, Virginia Stone guided the school’s development of the first master’s program in nursing focused on caring for older adults.  In 1970, Wilma A. Minniear established the first quality assurance in nursing program in the U.S. at Duke University Hospital. 

Fast forward to 2024, as we continue to embrace innovation and look toward the future by transforming nursing education, clinical practice and science.  Today, DUSON is the only school of nursing in the U.S. to offer specialties in HIV, orthopedics and endocrinology. The American Assembly of Men in Nursing has honored us – for nine consecutive years – as a best school or college for men in nursing.  We are one of just a few schools of nursing in the U.S. to be designated a National Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing in the categories of advancing the science of nursing education, enhancing student learning and professional development, and promoting pedagogical expertise of faculty. Over the last decade, our educational programs have consistently been ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. 

While these past and contemporary firsts and recognitions are a small symbol of Duke Nursing’s leadership in the field, they are not what drives the school’s work. Our work is guided by our mission to focus on advancing health equity and social justice.  As such, our educational programs integrate the social determinants of health as a mechanism of understanding health inequalities.  Our research focuses on testing nurse-led models of care to lower health care costs, increase access to person-centered care, and mitigate the negative impact of the social determinants of health. Our community and global partnerships afford the members of the DUSON community the opportunity to exchange knowledge and to learn from one another.  These partnerships also help our students understand nursing’s important place in the global health care structure. 

 As a member of the Duke Nursing community for more than 15 years, I am proud of our collective accomplishments.  But what I am most proud of is the people who make up the School of Nursing community. As in any organization, it is the people that bring an organization to life.

The people of DUSON – the students, the staff, the faculty, the alumni, and the friends – are dedicated to making the world a better place.  Let me start with our students: They are intellectually curious, passionate, committed individuals who challenge the faculty to excel.  They are eager to use nursing as a platform for making a difference in their communities, and the world.  In turn, the faculty are expert clinicians, ardent educators and brilliant scientists. Likewise, the staff are talented professionals who keep the school running.  At more than 9,000 strong, DUSON’s alumni are loyal ambassadors of the school and help us bring our mission to life across the nation and the world.  And the school’s friends – preceptors, donors, volunteers – help our students learn and provide time, talent and resources to help us fulfill our mission. 

As our nursing community celebrates Duke’s Centennial, we also remain steadfast in fostering a sense of belonging so that all persons, including those historically marginalized and underrepresented in nursing, not only feel welcome but also feel embraced and can flourish.  Thus, our commitment to fostering inclusive and equitable systems and structures so that we can fulfill Duke’s core values remains a priority.

On behalf of the entire School of Nursing community, happy 100 years Duke University!