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
Dr. Lin Zhan
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
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”:
Begging to be heard
Burst into telling
Now and different stories
We will hear all voices
10. Outside of work, you enjoy photography and gardening. What do you love most about
“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.”