In 2019, UHF saluted Eileen M. Sullivan-Marx, PhD, RN, FAAN—Dean, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, and President, American Academy of Nursing—for her leadership in advancing nursing and health care through policy, education, and clinical excellence.
Dr. Eileen Sullivan-Marx is one of the nation’s most distinguished nursing policy leaders, researchers, and educators, known for promoting innovative, team-based approaches to primary and geriatric care. She is a member of United Hospital Fund’s board and this month becomes president of the American Academy of Nursing, where she has been a fellow since 1997.
With more than 2,500 fellows from nursing education, management, practice, and research, the Academy advances national health care policy through leadership, research, and innovation. “Nurses are uniquely positioned to address the critical needs and concerns of individuals across the lifespan in the U.S. and around the world—and do so every day,” says Eileen. “I’m thrilled to be working with all of the fellows to promote nursing and patient-centered care.”
Eileen firmly established her leadership abilities in New York after becoming dean of Rory Meyers College of Nursing at New York University in 2012. Upon her appointment as dean, she made research a priority, helping the College earn a spot among the top ten research-intensive schools of nursing in the country.
She has also overseen a remarkable increase in applications at the undergraduate level. In 2019, the College received more than 2,000 applications for the traditional four-year baccalaureate program—four times larger than the applicant pool was when she began. As a result, the program’s acceptance rate has declined to an ultra-competitive seven percent. With a focus on innovation in education, the College boasts an advanced clinical simulation center in a state-of-the-art building on First Avenue—one of just a few in New York that prepares nurses in simulation for acute care, behavioral health, and community care.
“Among a very strong group of NYU deans, Eileen is an all-star,” says John Sexton, president emeritus of New York University. “She has brought the nursing school to an entirely new level, making it a national leader across practice, research, education, and interdisciplinary collaboration.”
Eileen’s career started in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where she practiced in emergency departments and community home care. After earning a master’s degree in 1980 from the University of Rochester as a family health nurse practitioner, she forged new roles for nurse practitioners in several practices, including nursing homes and a rural primary care practice in New Hampshire. With an interest in community care of older adults, she returned to the University of Pennsylvania in the 1990s to earn a PhD in gerontological nursing and became director of Penn’s adult health nurse practitioner program, where she transformed elder care at the institution.
In 2003, after being named Penn’s associate dean for practice and community affairs, she expanded Penn Nursing’s Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and integrated the program with the Veterans Administration—another first. Later, after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Eileen helped to expand PACE nationwide as a senior advisor to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “She focused on everything from developing ways to provide technical assistance to providers to identifying and addressing the barriers to expansion,” said Harold Pincus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and a national leader on health and aging.
Eileen also took on the daunting task of payment reform for nurses—she described the many hats she wore at the time as “models, mandates, and Medicare.” In 1992 she became the first nurse named to the American Medical Association’s committee for determining appropriate valuations for physicians’ work and served on the committee for the next 11 years, demonstrating through research that the work valuation of nurse practitioners and physicians can be accounted for equally. She was instrumental in changing national reimbursement practices that elevated the acceptance and use of nurse practitioners.
In 2012 she took on one of her greatest challenges, shortly after becoming dean of NYU’s College of Nursing. When she was only six weeks into the job, Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of New York, including NYU Langone Medical Center, and cloaked lower Manhattan in darkness. “We put together a disaster response team within 12 hours,” she recalls. The team went door-to-door in high-rises, bringing health care to those unable to leave their apartments. “We really made a difference, and it was great training for our students.”
The nursing profession and society owe much to Dr. Eileen Sullivan-Marx. UHF is proud to honor her with our 2019 Special Tribute for her nursing leadership nationally and in New York, and for promoting and elevating the profession of nursing.