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DECEMBER 2011 UPDATE HOME
More December Features:

Graesser receives Award
Profile: Dr. Lin Zhan
Entrepreneurs take note
Phantom production
Scates Hall’s history revisited
UMAR silent auction Dec. 13
TIGUrS garden initiative projects
Names in the news

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Profile: Dr. Lin Zhan
Dr. Lin Zhan
Dr. Lin Zhan
In the next several issues of Update, we will profile the deans of our colleges and schools. This issue, we profile Dr. Lin Zhan, dean of the Loewenberg School of Nursing

1. You have been an international visiting or honorary professor for 10 Chinese universities. From your worldly perspective of nursing, what do you bring to the students at the University of Memphis? 

“I came here in August 2010. Since then, we have already established a formal collaboration with the Jining Medical University, located in the northern part of China. I really want our faculty and students to have an international/global experience. Meanwhile, Chinese students and faculty will come here in a teaching and research exchange program. We are excited about this collaboration and we’re going to send two faculty members to China in 2012 for faculty development in teaching. Hopefully, our students are interested in study abroad in China in addition to visiting the World Health Organization and Internal Council on Nursing. Our students should be provided an educational opportunity to know the world so that they are prepared to act locally and think globally.”

2. What is the most difficult aspect of being a dean?

“In nursing, I think the most difficult part is the faculty salary compression. We know about shortage of nurses, but the worst shortage is of nurse educators. Masters-prepared or doctorate-prepared nurses are paid a much higher salary if they work in a hospital or a practice setting than those working in academia. Market values of nurse educators should be weighted accordingly. I am very grateful for the support from Provost Ralph Faudree and President Shirley Raines for using the American Association of Colleges of Nursing salary data as we hire new faculty and reach at least 50th percentile of the benchmark. I’m very appreciative of our faculty who teach the students because they know thousands of qualified applications are being turned away from our nursing program simply because there is a shortage of nursing faculty. There is no magic answer for this issue, but I am trying my best to support the faculty and to provide better working conditions for them. Also, a lack of space is a huge issue in nursing.”

3. What do you enjoy the most about being a dean?

“One of the things I enjoy most is working with faculty, staff, students and community leaders to advance nursing. It is an exciting time for nursing to lead the way and advance health, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Intellectual capital is here in the form of talented faculty, staff and students. My role as dean is to engage, empower and enable them. Our faculty and staff are dedicated and amazing. I have sent kudos when faculty’s abstracts are accepted or whenever they have something wonderful to share. I take that as a moment of joy. One faculty wrote to me saying, ‘Dr. Zhan, you are so busy. Are you really having time to do this?’ I said, ‘This is one thing I love to do, which always gives a sense of joy when faculty are doing well.’”

4. What about the Loewenberg School of Nursing drew you to the U of M?

“When I came for the interview, I was really struck by the people I met. The search committee asked excellent, yet challenging questions. I was impressed by the community leaders. The president of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital was on the search committee, and one question she asked made me think. She said, ‘Could you just tell me how academia and the practice side can collaborate?’ That gave me a sense of the desire for community engagement and collaboration, which was wonderful. You want to go to a university that prepares dreamers, thinkers and doers. A gulf of health disparities exists in Memphis, and the number of minority populations is medically underserved. Memphis is ground zero for nursing to promote health.”

5. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, which is the highest honor in the your field, what are your duties?

“The Academy has a tremendous role for each fellow. I was honored to join the Academy in 2001. Since then I have been on an expert panel on aging, so we write white papers and strategize in terms of what are the best knowledge-based practices for nursing in terms of gerontology. That has been my research and scholarship for quite a long time. Also, as an Academy member, I mentor new fellows. I was mentored by two wonderful nursing leaders. The Academy meets once a year and now we focus on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine for the future of nursing. The Academy provides visionary leadership that serves the public and nursing profession by advancing health policy and practice through the generation, synthesis and dissemination of nursing knowledge. The Academy is like a think tank to discuss what is the role of nursing and how can we lead in a way to advance health. To put it in simple words, ‘What do we do in the Academy? Make a difference.’”

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?

“I wanted to be an attorney. I like to reason, debate, inquire and put pieces of the puzzle together. When I was in middle school, I told my parents I wanted to be an attorney. My mother asked why and I said because I wanted to spend my whole life fighting for justice. I thought attorneys fought for justice, but only after I came over here did I find that wasn’t exactly true. Later when I was going to pursue a PhD, I was debating whether I would go to law school or to a PhD program. I had really grown passionate for nursing, so I went for a PhD.”

7. What is the best advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

“My best teachers were my parents. My mother always said to me, ‘Never ask somebody to do things you don’t want to do.’ That, I think, also helped me in terms of leadership. My father always said to me, ‘Understand before being understood. Do not try to make others understand you first.’ That has helped me a lot, too.”

8. What is the best advice you’ve ever given to a student?

“When I was a professor teaching community health, my challenge was to prepare students to be mindful about major health issues in the community (health promotion and disease prevention) and find ways to address these issues as the students had been told only about working in a hospital. Some students wrote to me by the end of the semester saying, ‘This course raised my social consciousness.’ Nursing cares for an individual, a family and the population. During my teaching, I also brought global perspectives to students. One of my advices to students was that many people at their age do not have access to education, so do not take things for granted. Take good opportunities and make the best of your college life. Students really appreciate that.”

9. What is the most memorable event of your tenure at the U of M?

“I’ll never forget when I first came here, I met a group of students. I wanted to listen to them and their learning experiences on this campus. They taught me that they don’t want us to instruct them — they want us to educate them. They don’t want us to be rigid, but they want us to be flexible and enable them to learn well. We have not taught if our students have not learned. Listening to students goes back to what my father told me about understanding before being understood. I wrote a poem in one of my books “Asian American voices”:

Voices
Begging to be heard
Burst into telling
Now and different stories
Echoing somewhere
Perhaps
Perhaps someday
We will hear all voices

10. Outside of work, you enjoy photography and gardening. What do you love most about being outdoors?

“I walk or run. Running along the Mississippi River is so ‘cool.’ Every day when I am with nature, the sound of a river, wind or birds gives me a different perspective. I had been in Boston for 25 years, so my first vacation here was to hike in the Smoky Mountains and I loved it. I took a lot of pictures. The reason I like taking pictures is because it makes you pay attention to details. It’s not just about the landscape of nature; it is about that particular flower, bird, insect, rock, grass or water. It gives you a different perspective, which reminds me of dialectical thinking. If you come at something from a different angle, you get a different view. This way of thinking helps me in my daily job because if something isn’t good, stay on the positive side; if something is so wonderful, say how I can do better. That’s part of the dialectical thinking. And, when birds are singing, I, for sure, smile; it is music to my ears.”

11. What else makes you smile?

“At work, we smile and laugh regardless of challenges or problems. It is an attitude. You either feel miserable or feel positive. It is so wonderful to work with staff on a daily basis. My assistant, Everlena Smith, and I work so well together. Sometimes between her Southern accent and my accent, we just look at each other and smile. My business officer Alicia Stires is just so delightful to work with. My staff is superb. Every Monday morning we get the staff together for a meeting and we laugh. People should feel happy when they come to work; my goal is to build a healthy workplace.”

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