As I sat down to contemplate the past academic year, with its highlights and low lights, I can hardly believe all the change that we have endured. There have been plenty of transitions, a substantiative move toward growth in our academic programs, and progress on JEDI goals and competencies. I want to share with you some of, but certainly not all, the significant events of the 2021-2022 academic year.
While many things happened at the IHP over the last year, overlaying it all has been the continuation of COVID-19, a pandemic with a non-linear progression that has thrown uncertainty and unending influence into the lives of each one of us.
We had some encouraging months last summer when the positivity rate was low, allowing for an escape from isolation and an occasional group activity or event. But when the fall semester began, the positivity rate increased, and we returned to Zoom meetings and the postponement of in-person activities. When spring began, COVID positivity dropped but it was only a tease because by May, our masks were back on when the positivity rate jumped up again,
During the past year, we welcomed several new people in senior leadership positions. In July 2021, Dr. Ken White assumed the role of Dean of the School of Nursing. Ken came to us from the University of Virginia School of Nursing where he was the Associate Dean for Strategic Partnerships and is the current President of the American Academy of Nursing. In February 2022, Sean Hennessey joined us as Chief Communications Officer. Sean has brought new energy to the Office of Strategic Communications and is beginning to tell the IHP story successfully to the external community. He has rounded out his office hiring Kate Chaney and Carolyn Barrett to provide more coverage of our nursing and health and rehabilitation sciences schools, along with student accomplishments, research, and faculty expertise. And in March, we announced that Dr. Reamer Bushardt will be joining the IHP as our second academic Provost in August. All three of these leadership positions have and will shape the future of the IHP, and we are lucky to welcome these additions to our community.
In September, January, and May, we welcomed new cohorts of students into all our programs, eager to take the first step of their journey to become, or advance in their role as, health professionals. The arrival of these new classes is always an exciting time for the IHP. Each class brings a renewed optimism about the future of health care delivery and the role the IHP can play in leading important change and improving access and care for the most vulnerable and marginalized people.
We spent significant time working to rebuild our community and reintroduce the joy of working together, in person, as a team. One of the first events we held when we could gather was a retreat for senior leaders that focused on leadership. The room was electric because this was the first retreat bringing these leaders together since January 2020. The program was so well received that we decided to repeat it twice more for staff, who welcomed the sessions with equal enthusiasm.
The president’s office sponsored several activities including food trucks and our Holiday Celebration which was postponed from December until April. Our 1st Annual IHP Cornhole Tournament fell victim to COVID and has been postponed until September 14 – so mark your calendars. During this year, in-person classes were the norm for most, in-person faculty meetings resumed for some, and several of our educational seminars were held in person. Employee Appreciation Week was well received by faculty and staff and the lunch event culminating the week was one of the best ever – the engagement, the connections, the excitement, and the joy were all palpable.
This academic year also saw the IHP continuing to build our on-campus services for students, staff and faculty. We committed to the development of the Wellness Council and its work in improving the lives of the members of our community. Out of that came our commitment to Mental Health First Aid - which has been a very successful and highly subscribed program for faculty, staff, and students on addressing mental health issues on campus - and the launch of the Community Pantry in April, which addresses food insecurity by providing nonperishable food and personal care products. We look forward to more work from that council in the years to come.
Our growth initiatives have slowly started to launch and the major work of making that happen occurred during this year. Curricula were defined, courses were developed, and faculty and staff were hired. Our reorganizing of CIPSE and CPD into our new School of Health Care Leadership will position both areas as integral elements of the leadership curricula and support their future growth. Our new Education Collaborative Incentive Plan was launched and we are excited to work closely with Mass General Brigham in supporting the professional development of its 80,000 employees.
In June, we began saying our good-byes to an integral member of our community. Provost Alex Johnson’s last on campus day is June 30, at which time he will begin a well-deserved retirement. Alex has served the IHP with distinction over the last 14 years and we wanted him to know how much we cared about him as he leaves his role. About three weeks ago, we had a lovely celebration with the IHP community where his colleagues got to wish him well. Two weeks ago, we dedicated the Alex F. Johnson Academic Conference Room in the Shouse Building and unveiled a beautiful portrait of Alex. It was fitting that we named this room after Alex since he has made so many contributions to our academic programs. We know that the Alex F. Johnson Academic Conference Room will be the place where new academic ideas are born, innovations are created, and academic problems are solved – the very issues Alex successfully worked on as the IHP’s first academic provost. And just a week ago, with his family, friends, and colleagues, we celebrated Alex’s transition to retirement and gave him an IHP armchair with his name and dates of appointment. Alex will be missed but his legacy will have a lasting impact on the IHP.
As I think about the past year, I reflect on the many sacrifices our IHP community members have made to assure that we provide the excellent academic experience our students are expecting. I know so many of you are still working through the impact of COVID on you and your family. Your role in the family may have changed and the way your family functions might be different than it was 2 ½ years ago. Through it all, you have been committed, engaged, and focused on our mission. My heartfelt thanks go out to each of you. Let’s look forward to an even better 2022-2023 academic year.