Event to commemorate 150th founding of former MGH nursing school shows how bond with MGH Institute continues

Nursing education connected to Massachusetts General Hospital has a bright future, thanks to the strength of the relationship between the MGH Institute of Health Professions and the MGH Nurses Alumni Association (NAA).

That message was part of weekend celebration that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the 1873 founding of the hospital’s three-year diploma school. More than 160 people gathered on the IHP campus on September 23, the first day of the two-day event.

“They are our legacy,” Barbara Dunderdale, the event’s chair, said of the Institute’s work in carrying on the educational mission of the diploma school. “It’s really a very rich heritage.”

The Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing was among the first created in the country and graduated more than 7,000 nurses by the time it closed in 1981 as the country’s oldest continuously operating nursing school.

The closure was promoted by a changing education market that was moving towards educating and hiring baccalaureate-prepared nurses. From that, though, came the decision to launch the MGH Institute in 1977, whose academic offerings included one of the country’s first direct-entry nursing master’s programs.

Over the past four-plus decades, the bond between the NAA and the IHP has only become stronger. Today, the NAA awards five annual scholarships to MGH Institute nursing students to help them carry on a tradition of excellent nursing care that continues with the scores of NAA members who still provide patient care. The organization also helps fund the Institute’s annual gala.

It’s a connection that leaders at the Institute don’t take lightly.

“We know we have big shoes to fill,” Institute President Dr. Paula Milone-Nuzzo told the audience. “I hope you are proud of the work we have done.”

Dr. Kenneth White, Dean of the Institute’s School of Nursing, acknowledged the excellence of the former hospital’s nursing graduates, which was warmly received by the many NAA members in attendance and the IHP faculty and staff who also attended.

“They have the legacy of what it meant to be a Massachusetts General Hospital nurse,” he said. “And when you are a Massachusetts General Hospital nurse, it meant having the highest standards.”

The audience also heard from nursing students Erika Koh, BSN ’24 and Thong Ta, MS-NU ’25, and alums Tara Harris, BSN ’23, and Jennifer Duran, DNP ’23, who is also an instructor and clinical lab coordinator in the SON. They discussed such things as why they decided to become a nurse and their education at the IHP. “We not only learn from our faculty, we learn from each other,” said Koh. “Everyone wants you to succeed.”