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Published in Health Care

Inaugural Calvin School of Health dean seeks to grow partnerships with local health systems

BY Thursday, June 30, 2022 03:03pm

The first dean of Calvin University’s new School of Health seeks to expand academic offerings and further build partnerships with local care providers.

Deeper partnerships with BHSH System (formerly Spectrum Health), Trinity Health Saint Mary’s, University of Michigan Health-West, and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services are a top priority for Dr. Adejoke Bolanle Ayoola, who starts Friday as dean of Calvin’s School of Health.

Dr. Adejoke Bolanle Ayoola. COURTESY PHOTO

Educators and care providers through partnerships continue to learn from one another as health care evolves, and the university can assure that “our education is relevant” and graduates are “well-prepared to walk into hospitals” and other care settings, Ayoola said.

“To be relevant, we have to start with our partnerships right here in West Michigan, strengthen (them) and know what is needed,” said Ayoola, a registered nurse who’s been on the Christian liberal arts university’s faculty since 2007 and has chaired Calvin’s nursing department.

“I believe that practice will inform academia, and that academia should also inform practice. That’s why all those partnerships are very important,” she said. “We cannot work in isolation. We believe that we need to know what is happening in the practice setting and we need to know what is happening in the community.”

Calvin formed the School of Health last fall with the support of a $15 million gift — the university’s second-largest ever — from an unnamed donor. The gift will fund academic programming and support leadership, academic personnel, labs, and undergraduate and graduate training.

A search committee selected Ayoola from a pool of candidates to become the School of Health’s inaugural dean.

Ayoola has worked as a practitioner, researcher, educator and administrator. She served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar from 2012 to 2015, and in 2020 was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She holds a doctorate from Michigan State University and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria.

“The School of Health will be a transformative initiative for Calvin as we live into our vision of a liberal arts university and trusted partner in education,” Noah Toly, Calvin’s provost and a member of the search committee, said in a statement. “Dr. Ayoola has been a leader in the areas that will distinguish the Calvin University School of Health, including community, global, and employer partnership.”

In leading the School of Health, Ayoola will emphasize a team-based approach to care for students to learn, saying she looks at health from a holistic perspective. Her vision for the school is “to prepare students who will be well-rounded health professionals.”

School of Health graduates will enter a profession as “patient-centered professionals that will be able to walk collaboratively with all of the professionals to care for and give their patients the best care in that holistic way,” Ayoola said.

“When I think about our graduates, I’m hoping when they graduate they will have a strong interprofessional focus,” she said.

Creation of the new school within the university will generate greater coordination and collaboration between existing health programs in nursing, kinesiology, speech pathology and audiology, and public health.

The present programs combined have 600 undergraduate and more than 75 graduate students studying health-related fields, plus dozens more in pre-professional tracks such as pre-medicine and pre-dentistry.

“The School of Health will really help us to bring all those programs together to strengthen what we are doing and to strengthen our focus,” Ayoola said. “The School of Health will allow us to intentionally bring all of the programs together to promote interprofessional education, prepare our students (so) when they graduate they will be able to work promoting team-based care.”

In envisioning the future, Ayoola wants the School of Health to branch into more graduate-level programs. She wants to strengthen the school’s new master’s in public health and further build nursing programs.

One new area of particular interest is mental health, which is “an area we are really exploring more” and could build through partnerships with local providers in Grand Rapids, Ayoola said. She sees potential for a post-graduate certification course for nurses working in hospital medical and surgical units that will better enable them to identify patients who may also have a behavioral health issue.

“There are lots of new programs we’re exploring and we are hoping that in the next five years we’ll have more graduate-level programs,” Ayoola said. “We’ll also have more relevant programs at the postgraduate level.”

As many health care professions face talent shortages, she hopes to increase enrollments in School of Health programs while also creating greater diversity.

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to promote diversity so that eventually, as is the goal of most health programs now, that health professionals will truly reflect the population that it cares for,” Ayoola said.

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