Aug. 20, 2008 -- The University of Virginia School of Nursing welcomed its new dean, Dorrie Fontaine, on Aug. 1 in the first official event in the newly occupied Claude Moore Nursing Education Building.
A happy gathering of faculty, staff, alumni and guests applauded her arrival. She brought laughter when she responded to their enthusiasm by proclaiming this as one of the happiest days of her life – right behind her wedding day and the birth of her son.
She also recalled that it was almost exactly a year ago that she toured U.Va. with her son, who was considering colleges. At the time, she was so impressed that the thought occurred to her that this would be a very appealing opportunity whenever Jeanette Lancaster might decide to retire as dean.
Fontaine’s appointment, announced in early May, followed a nationwide search for a successor to the highly respected Lancaster, who stepped down after 19 years as dean.
Fontaine said the school's reputation, staff and talented students drew her to U.Va. "My passion for creating and sustaining healthy work environments in clinical and academic settings will be one of my guides as I enthusiastically look forward to working with the university community," she said.
In 2003-2004, Fontaine served as president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), the largest specialty nursing organization in the world, and has been presented with its Lifetime Member Award. She was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 1995, has received the Presidential Citation from the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society. Her alma mater, Villanova University, recognized her with a Medallion for Contributions to the Profession in 1999.
She came to U.Va. after six years at the University of California San Francisco, where she was associate dean for academic programs and clinical professor. Previously, she held associate dean positions and taught at Georgetown University School of Nursing.
Fontaine received her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Villanova University, a master's from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 2006, she completed a Management and Leadership in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate Institute of Higher Education.
Her teaching has centered on issues related to critical care, including sleep promotion, pain relief and family presence at the end of life. Most recently, she has investigated strategies to promote nursing education partnerships, diversity and inter-professional education in university settings.
The School of Nursing is at a time of great change," she said. "Changes in ‘place’ with our beautifully appointed, state-of-the-art facility -- the Claude Moore Nursing Education Building -- and the soon to be renovated McLeod Hall; and changes in top leadership with a dean transition.
"I hope the faculty and all our alumni and friends know how seriously Dean Lancaster and I took this 'hand off' -- to use a patient safety term."
Additional resources: www.nursing.virginia.edu.