Healthcare in this country is only getting more complex. Every part of the industry is struggling to respond to challenges like an aging population with rising numbers of chronic conditions. Attempts to integrate new solutions, technologies, and community-level initiatives can have a steep learning curve. On top of all that are rising costs of insurance and pretty much all things medical. Being a patient isn’t easy.

Who will be willing—and qualified—to stand beside the patients at the center of all these forces and make sure they get the right care and the best possible health outcomes? The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation says it’s nurses. The funder recently created a new academic fellowship program at the nursing school at the University of California, Davis, to give the profession’s most senior scholars and its most experienced workplace leaders the money and an academically grounded space to develop and test new approaches and solutions.

Established by Moore’s $37.5 million grant, the program will fund research by these nursing professionals and thinkers to study and develop innovations in nursing-science research, practice, education, policy and entrepreneurship.

“A Hub of Medical Care”

"We know that nurses are already seen as coordinators and we want to formalize that role as a hub of medical care," said Susan Song, Program Officer for Patient Care at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. "The fellowship will go beyond what they receive in a traditional academic degree program and provide them with the skills and tools to fulfill leadership roles more effectively.

The program will operate as a partnership between the Betty Irene Moore School of  Nursing and the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, the better to help fellows develop organizational leadership skills necessary to drive system-wide change.

"The (Moore) foundation is taking the long view about building capacity rather than going after a particular problem," said Heather Young, professor and Dean Emeritus of the UC Davis nursing school. "This program focuses on creating a cadre of people ready to lead and innovate in nursing."

The fellows selected for the three-year scholarship will be drawn from all over the country, not just the UC Davis academic community, and will come from all walks of nursing—education, patient care, and business. They’ll convene at UC Davis periodically during the three-year fellowships.

Nurses have always filled multiple roles in healthcare, and over the decades their training and responsibilities have grown considerably, so the notion that they’re well-positioned to spot problems and develop solutions makes complete sense. It makes sense for another reason: with 3 million nurses in the country, it’s the largest of the health care professions, and according to at least one poll, the most trusted of healthcare practitioners.

Philanthropy and Nursing

The Moore foundation’s leadership and innovation fellowship initiative is reminiscent of the focus on nursing by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, another funder that sees health from the public health perspective. As Inside Philanthropy wrote back in 2015, RWJF shifted more of its budget into the development of nurses as leaders and agents of change.

It is perhaps most notable that these major funders are focused here on the types of systemwide and practical solutions that, for most patients, are where the rubber meets the road. We’ve been more likely to see individual philanthropists and foundations with substantial resources take on major diseases, funding very expensive research for cures that may not yield results for decades.

And while such research is necessary, increasingly lessons learned about real patient outcomes and patient satisfaction with the medical profession seem to suggest that a strengthened focus on care and practical considerations within reach today is a path to significant health gains. This is likely especially true for the people with complex, chronic conditions—including older people—who are unlikely to be cured, but still deserve the care that can provide them with the best possible lives.


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