May 2, 2008 — Dorrie K. Fontaine, who has dedicated much of her 36-year nursing career to advocating for better care for critically ill patients, will become dean of the University of Virginia's School of Nursing on Aug. 1. Fontaine currently serves as associate dean for academic programs at the University of California-San Francisco School of Nursing.
University President John T. Casteen III made the announcement this afternoon in McLeod Hall, the heart of the nursing school, where he spoke to a gathering of students, staff and faculty.
Fontaine succeeds Jeanette Lancaster, the University's legendary — and longest-serving — dean. Lancaster will step down in July after 19 years at the helm of the Nursing School.
Casteen credited Lancaster's "superlative leadership," both at the University and in the national arena, for helping to attract a robust pool of applicants vying to succeed her.
"In selecting Dorrie Fontaine, the University has chosen a most worthy successor," Casteen said. "She is an accomplished scholar, dedicated clinician, and collaborative and innovative administrator who has succeeded in her every endeavor."
He added that Fontaine's recent work at UCSF aligns closely with the themes of the University's Commission on the Future of the University. "Dorrie led UCSF's efforts to promote interprofessional education across the schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy, while keeping a close eye on her own scholarly research interests," Casteen said.
Fontaine's research focuses on comfort for critically ill patients, pain relief and family presence at end of life. Another key interest is promoting healthy work environments for nurses and hospital colleagues. A leader in developing the national Standards for a Healthy Work Environment with the American Association of Critical Care Nurses in 2005, she believes that one of her great strengths will be to bring those values to the academic setting of the University. Fontaine served as president of AACN, the largest specialty nursing organization in the world, in 2003-04.
"I was first attracted to the University of Virginia because it is a world-class university," Fontaine said. "But what really excites me is its strong reputation for and success in bringing together undergraduate education and research."
Fontaine, a career registered nurse who received her first degree in 1972 from Villanova University, also cites the challenges of the nursing shortage as an area on which she plans to focus. "The health care crisis is currently fueled by a chronic shortage of nurses," she said. "Being at such a high-profile institution with such an outstanding School of Medicine and medical center, I believe that we will have the opportunity to work together to do great things in nursing for Virginia, the nation and the world."
In laying out Fontaine's goals for the next five years, Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., the University's executive vice president and provost, said that she will be charged with creating a model that brings together all members of the health care community to enhance the coordination and delivery of patient care. "Given Dorrie's track record and her passion for the subject, I feel confident that she will solidify the University of Virginia's position as a national model for interaction of health professionals in practice, teaching and development of new knowledge."
Fontaine, who has written and spoken extensively on health care issues, currently is the primary investigator on a $9.7 million grant to implement an accelerated doctoral program in nursing. She also has continued to teach a course on leadership and for the past four years has delivered classroom lectures on the importance of family to patients near death.
In her early career, Fontaine, 57, often found herself in dual roles, balancing clinical work with teaching. She spent 15 years at the University of Maryland School of Nursing before joining Georgetown University, where she spent nine years moving through the ranks before becoming associate dean for student and academic affairs, and finally associate dean for undergraduate studies. In 2002, she became associate dean for academic programs at UCSF.
Throughout her career she has been active in numerous professional organizations as well as public service and diversity initiatives at the institutions she has served. She has been a member of the UCSF School of Nursing's Diversity Task Force for five years, during that time researching the curriculum to address diversity.
"We are currently implementing a series of modules on curriculum and diversity to be taught in a teaching seminar series over the academic year," Fontaine said. "I am surrounded by diversity in every way and use these perspectives on a daily basis."
After receiving her bachelor's degree from Villanova, Fontaine received her master's degree in nursing at the University of Maryland at Baltimore (1977) and Ph.D. at The Catholic University (1987). In 2006, she attended the Harvard Graduate Institute of Higher Education, Management and Leadership in Education Program. She was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 1995.
Fontaine will be joined by her husband, Barry, and their son, Sumner, 17, a rising freshman at Villanova.