Shirley Chater: A Legend Retires

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Shirley Chater: A Legend Retires

Posted 9/17/2012

Greensboro, NC – Shirley Chater, the first and, until now, the only national advisory committee chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF's) storied Executive Nurse Fellows program, stepped down from the post this weekend.  Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and dean of the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University, will take the position.


"Nobody replaces Shirley Chater," Fulmer said. "She is iconic and has created a program that will have an indelible impact on the future of nursing and the history of nursing."


RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows is a three-year, world-class program that strengthens the leadership capacity of nurses who aspire to shape health care locally and nationally. Each fellow receives coaching, education, and other support to strengthen their ability to lead teams and organizations that are improving health and health care.  More than 200 nurse leaders have participated in the program since it began in 1998.


Chater, PhD, RN, FAAN, helped develop the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program, working side-by-side with RWJF leaders.  She has been its chair since it launched.  Before that, she served as commissioner of the United States Social Security Administration under President Bill Clinton.  Chater is a former president of Texas Woman's University, and vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of California, San Francisco.  When she received her doctorate, Chater was one of just 64 nurses in the country to hold that degree.  The American Academy of Nursing honored Chater as a "Living Legend" in 2000.


"Shirley, you made the kind of career for yourself that few little girls of your era could have imagined," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, via video during a gala tribute to Chater on Friday evening. "You blazed trails, broke barriers, and rewrote the book on the type of career a nurse of your generation could have... You have inspired generations of nurses to be stronger and better, to speak out for their patients and their profession, to trust in themselves and each other. You helped countless nurses become leaders in their health systems, in their communities, and in our country."


The Foundation also named Chater one of the "Force Multipliers" it is saluting in this, its 40th year, for being a trailblazer in the nursing profession and a pioneering nurse of the future.


"This event should be a celebration of our 15-year program," Chater said at the tribute in Greensboro, which brought together fellows and nurse and health leaders from across the country. "The Executive Nurse Fellows program has always been the jewel in the [Robert Wood Johnson] Foundation's crown.  It's been a wonderful, wonderful experience for me."


Executive Nurse Fellows hold senior leadership positions in health services, scientific and academic organizations, public health and community-based organizations or systems, and national professional, governmental, and policy organizations. They continue in their current positions during their fellowships, during which each fellow develops, plans and implements a new initiative to improve health care delivery in her or his community.


"The fellows are the future of the profession," Fulmer said. "My commitment is to be there for them, with them, among them" as we transform health care in America.


The program is located at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), and co-directed by Linda Cronenwett, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Beerstecher Blackwell Term Professor and former dean of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and David Altman, PhD, executive vice president of Research, Innovation and Product Development at CCL.


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About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or Facebook