New Nursing Dean on a Mission to “Make People Whole”

Samantha Bronson, SMU News

After an extensive nationwide search, Samuel Merritt University has selected Lorna Kendrick, PhD, APRN, PMHCNS, as its new School of Nursing dean.

Kendrick, who started May 26, succeeds Audrey Berman, who served as dean for 15 years. Celeste Villanueva served as interim dean for the past 10 months.

“I am very excited about Dr. Kendrick joining the School of Nursing as our new dean,” says SMU Provost and Vice President Fred D. Baldini, PhD. “Dr. Kendrick has served in a number of roles at both private and public universities, and she brings a wealth of knowledge to Samuel Merritt University at this critical time in our history. She has already jumped right in and is having an immediate impact on our programs in nursing.”

Kendrick holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Loma Linda University, a master’s degree in child-adolescent psychiatric mental health nursing from Georgia State University, and a doctorate in nursing with a focus in nursing research from the University of California, Los Angeles. She worked for years in a neuro-surgical ICU and as an advanced practice child-adolescent psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist. She also maintained a private practice for the past 25 years in Southern California, providing individual, family, group, and play therapy to child and adolescent clients and their families.

Kendrick has conducted research with young African American men, focusing on untreated depression as a primary risk factor for early-onset cardiovascular disease. Her research interests connecting mental health with disease prevention and physical wellness have taken her to Europe, Argentina, Nigeria, and beyond.

A homecoming of sorts

She most recently served as dean of nursing for American Career College. Before that, she was professor and academic director for SMU’s San Francisco Peninsula campus during the 2018-19 academic year. It was then that she saw the power of SMU’s approach of caring for the whole person.

While teaching a community health class, Kendrick recalls, a student tasked with assessing elderly patients for Meals on Wheels deliveries was upset with having to visit a potential client in a wealthy neighborhood. The student discovered, however, that the widower had purchased his house 60 years prior, was living in poverty, didn’t have any help, and couldn’t navigate the stairs outside his house.

Dr. Kendrick listened afterward as the student explained what he’d learned: He would not stand at the bedside of a patient and make assumptions. Instead, he would view the patient as a whole person. Can this patient get to their home? Do they have stairs? Can they access their medication? Do they have help they can rely on?

“That story, hands down, tells what our nursing program is about,” Kendrick says. “That is what I wanted to be part of again. As a nurse, as a clinician, as an academic, that’s all I’ve wanted to do—make people whole, whether that’s at the bedside or in the classroom. I saw that put into action at Samuel Merritt unlike I had ever seen at another school.”

A school that sets the tone

As she looks ahead, Kendrick envisions making sure nursing students not only have the hands-on skills they need, but also the mindset to embrace, navigate, and lead changes in the profession.

“I want to prepare our nursing students for a future that some of us who are Baby Boomers can’t even imagine or envision yet,” Kendrick says. “I want us to be the school that sets the tone for moving the nursing profession to the next phase. How do we make sure their minds are open and teachable and able to move easily into the next generation of nursing practice? That overall vision sets the tone of everything we want to do within the school.”

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