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Rounds with Leadership: Accelerating Momentum for Change

Published July 28, 2021

Susan Bakewell-Sachs AACN Board Chair and Deborah Trautman AACN President and CEOWelcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

July 28, 2021 - Accelerating Momentum for Change

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recognizes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as critical to nursing education and fundamental to developing a nursing workforce able to provide high quality, culturally appropriate, and congruent health care.

AACN Position Statement (2017)

Launching the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Network earlier this week represents AACN’s latest step to serve as a primary advocate for advancing DEI-focused initiatives in academic nursing. Members of this network will help to distill the best thinking around how to prepare nurses to address health inequities and meet the care needs of communities of color.

Meet AACN’s New Chief Diversity Officer

Vernell DeWittyTo further enhance our impact in the area of DEI, AACN is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Vernell DeWitty to the new role of Chief Diversity Officer.  Dr. DeWitty joined the AACN staff in 2008 to lead the New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Scholarship Program, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. By the time this nine-year, $41 million initiative sunset in 2017, NCIN helped to support the academic success of more than 3,000 nursing students from underrepresented backgrounds at 130 schools of nursing. In her subsequent role as AACN’s Director for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. DeWitty has been instrumental in leading many of the association’s signature initiatives in DEI, including our work to advance holistic admissions review, the development of the Diversity Leadership Institute, launch of the annual Diversity Symposium, and hosting of the recent Advancing Nursing Workforce Diversity Impact Summit, which attracted more than 950 attendees.

In addition, Dr. DeWitty was recently appointed to serve on the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing, where she will work with colleagues from other leading nursing organizations to better understand the impact of systemic racism on nurses of color and develop strategies for leading change across the spectrum of education, practice, policy, and research.

Dr. DeWitty’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is having an impact within academic nursing and the larger healthcare community.  She was recognized by the American Nurses Association with the prestigious Mary Mahoney Award in 2014 and is also the recipient of the President’s Award from State University of New York, Downstate for her leadership in this arena.  Please join us in congratulating Dr. DeWitty on her new role at AACN.

Looking Ahead 

Academic nursing’s commitment to advancing DEI and combating structural racism is taking shape on several fronts. The newly endorsed Essentials calls for preparing new nurses with the competencies needed to address the Social Determinants of Health, serve diverse patient populations, and dismantle structural racism and systemic inequity. Our federal advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill will continue to focus in part on removing barriers to higher education for prospective students from underrepresented backgrounds, which is needed to enhance diversity in the nursing workforce. AACN’s programing this fall includes the second offering of the virtual Diversity Symposium in November and a new cohort for the Diversity Leadership Institute.  To help keep abreast of new developments in this focus area, we encourage all members to review the Diversity Digest – the next issue comes out tomorrow – and consider joining the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Network to get the latest information on innovations and advances in DEI.