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A Personal Reflection on Pat Lussier Duynstee, Faculty Emerita

June 30, 2020
Pat Lussier-Duynstee leads the 2008 Commencement precession.
Pat Lussier-Duynstee leads the 2008 Commencement precession.

Dr. Patricia Lussier-Duynstee is among four School of Nursing faculty who are being named emerita this year. After working closely with Pat, Dean of Student and Alumni Services Dr. Jack Gormley has written a personal note of gratitude to Pat as she begins her retirement:

Amid multiple pandemics being felt globally and in our own MGH Institute community, there are many spotlights being shone. Some shine on the suffering and the violence while others serve as a wake-up call or a beacon. As we mourn loved ones and honor health care heroes, we reflect on our challenges and yearn for safety and peace despite ongoing contagion and injustice. Americans of every identity and demographic look to our leaders for guidance and we recall that some leaders and some beacons are right here in our midst. 

I invite you to shine a warm, friendly spotlight on an Institute leader about to make a major transition in her life. On July 1 of this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Dr. Patricia Lussier-Duynstee, Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, retires and takes on a new chapter as an emerita faculty member. We must celebrate and thank Pat for her outstanding service and for all she has given to the IHP – students, faculty, staff, alums, leaders, trustees, all of us. 

Before we all pivoted to a new virtual normal (corporate lingo that I imagine Pat will never use in her retirement or otherwise), Pat agreed to offer remarks at the Institute’s annual Student Leader Appreciation awards ceremony. I was scheduled to introduce Pat, and she was to knock our socks off with words of wisdom – and no doubt kindness, generosity, and inspiration. It may seem a small loss but missing this opportunity to publicly thank and lift up a trusted colleague and a champion of the underdog with our student leaders struck me as a major loss. So, with Pat’s consent to revise and extend my introduction, please join me in celebrating Pat and working to learn from her example.

Pat Lussier-Duynstee represents – objectively and evidence-based, as she would teach – the best of the MGH Institute and of the health professions as a whole. She is committed to excellence, though humble and approachable; she is accomplished yet prefers to help others accomplish their goals. Called in many directions, Pat remains focused, strategic, and responsive. Pat is an innovator whose critical thinking and concern for students fuel a virtuous cycle of inclusive excellence perhaps best seen in the School of Nursing’s pinning and hooding ceremonies.

The MGH Institute is blessed with many Emeritae/i leaders from all corners of health care. We should celebrate them all. Not just with medals and writings, but by learning from their example and heeding their counsel as we work together. If we forget, for instance, that Pat Lussier-Duynstee served on the front lines of America’s HIV/AIDS epidemic … that as a community nurse, Pat fought to support addicts and their families long before opioid became a household word … if we forget that Pat, like so many other women leaders, balanced family responsibilities with her own educational and professional goals … then we shall have forgotten why the IHP is a special place. Let’s remember also that Pat has gone out of her way to share the insights she has gained, the wisdom she has earned, with her colleagues over the years. We are well positioned to hold on to Pat’s wisdom, but this does not happen without intentional and collaborative effort. As we support student success and fight multiple pandemics and whatever else the future holds, we should ask: What would Pat do? 

Personally, I’m holding on to the enormous, gleaming smile that Pat sent me the very first time we met. I was a candidate for the dean role then, and Pat was one of many earnest, highly accomplished folks interviewing me. Pat’s smile that day came through her eyes. It was like nothing else I experienced across that wonderful (long!) day. It was a message, coming from Pat – or perhaps through Pat from the universe – to me. The message was clear: this is not easy, but you can do it. You belong here. I’m glad you’re here. I have since learned that this is Dr. Lussier-Duynstee’s message to our students and our community every day. My understanding of Pat’s message that day has expanded, and I have come to know that everyone I met during those anxious interviews had remarkably similar messages of support. Just ask yourself how many times has your day been brightened by Pat’s smile? How many times have you heard these messages of support from Pat? Too numerous not to mention!

Pat has played a critical role advising students who, for various reasons, have not found immediate success in their studies, including those for whom significant challenges have required significant detours on the path to Commencement. In these moments, when grading policies and essential skills cannot and must not be altered, Pat is at her best (and pulls the Institute to meet our ethical and educational obligations). For students and colleagues alike, Pat advises gently yet firmly and logically; she explores all options and considers all perspectives. She simultaneously promotes aspirations and concrete study aids – urges self-care and self-awareness. A line I’ll proudly take from Pat: I may not be able to solve your problems, but I am glad to help you sort them out so you can start solving them. I encourage the entire IHP community to find your own way to thank and learn from all the emerita/us giants on whose shoulders we stand. When I spoke with Pat about being named emerita, she simply said, “I’m really happy about it. 

The IHP is my academic home.” 

Please join me in sending Pat a virtual smile, and a heartfelt thank-you for sharing her many gifts with us, her academic home – where her example of inclusive leadership continues to shine as a beacon of hope and positivity.