Former NHS Dean and Longtime Georgetown Professor to Retire at the End of June

Posted in News Story

May 18, 2021 – More than 25 years ago, Dr. Patricia Cloonan first joined Georgetown’s School of Nursing as a part-time faculty member in public health nursing.

Over the past quarter century, Cloonan has served as a faculty member, as chair of the Department of Health Systems Administration, and as dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

“The focus of my work – whether that be as dean, as chair, or in the classroom – has been driven by the overall commitment to engage students in the extraordinary domain of health and health care within the context of Jesuit values,” said Cloonan, who will be retiring at the end of June.

Dr. Patricia Cloonan in a portrait-style photograph outdoors with a brick wall and plants behind her.
Dr. Patricia Cloonan, who served as the dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies and chair of the Department of Health Systems Administration, is retiring after more than 25 years on Georgetown’s faculty, including service as chair of the school’s Executive Faculty.

Focus on Formation

During her years at Georgetown, Cloonan has taught graduate and undergraduate students on a range of topics including health care delivery systems, public health nursing, care across the continuum, and health policy. 

She has also developed – often in collaboration with clinical and community-based organizations – experiential learning opportunities for students through co-curricular internship and residency programs. 

“For me, it’s all about the students,” she said, “creating opportunities for them to engage with new perspectives and try on new ideas.”

‘A Broad Perspective’

In the late 1990s, in response to then-current directions in health care, Cloonan was a leader in the creation of a master of science program at the school focused on integrated health systems. 

The idea of the program, which was also grounded in themes of her PhD dissertation on care coordination, is how does a complex system of care ensure the patient experience is as seamless as possible.

“The master’s program was intended to give students a broad perspective about how one thinks about designing systems that are integrated across sites and disciplines,” said Cloonan, who noted the master’s program had a track for students interested in clinical care coordination and another for students interested in new models for designing and managing complex systems.

The program she helped found preceded the current master of science degree in health systems administration.

New Undergraduate Opportunities

Cloonan also worked to help her undergraduate students develop their awareness about the complexities of the patient experience. 

For instance, she annually invited an older couple to her class to describe their experience in the health system, often navigating among specialists and facilities without much support from the formal system.

Additionally, in the latter half of the 1990s, Cloonan was among the faculty at the School of Nursing whom then-dean Dr. Elaine Larson asked to help conceptualize new health-related undergraduate programs to offer in addition to the bachelor of science in nursing.

“We wanted to give students who share a common interest in health the opportunity to dig deeper in their interests and disciplinary perspectives while not losing sight of the integration among them,” Cloonan recalled.

Since then, the original bachelor’s major in health studies has grown into three distinct majors in global health, health care management & policy, and human science.

‘Mission Drives It All’

As dean, Cloonan developed strong relationships with alumni. “I loved engaging alumni with the work of the school” said Cloonan, who enjoyed hosting yearly Reunion events, attending alumni receptions, and celebrating the achievements of the school’s graduates.

During her years in the leadership role, new programs launched at the master’s and doctoral levels, applications to the undergraduate program grew to a then-record level, and prominent leaders – Professor Maria Gomez, Dr. Patricia Grady, and Dr. Mary Wakefield – joined the school as visiting distinguished professors.

Georgetown University Medical Center, in 2014, conferred upon Cloonan the Outstanding Service Award, and four years later, the National Association of Health Services Executives awarded her the organization’s Distinguished Healthcare Leader Award. (Read a 2019 letter from President DeGioia about Cloonan’s service as dean.)

Thinking back over these and other aspects of her Georgetown career, Cloonan explained during a recent conversation, “The mission drives it all – always has.”

And with Healy Hall in the background and soon-to-be graduates in academic gowns taking photographs, the longtime professor said, “It really is quite a wonderful place, full of promise and possibilities. It’s been an extraordinary honor to have participated in the students’ formation – and transformation.”

By Bill Cessato