McSweeney, Rusch Named Graduate School Faculty of the Year

Jean McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N., Dean of the Graduate School Robert McGehee, Ph.D. and Nancy Rusch, Ph.D.

June 23, 2014 | The UAMS Graduate School named Jean McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N., professor and associate deanfor research in the College of Nursing, and Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, as Faculty Members of the Year.

Faculty members are nominated for the award by their students and peers.

McSweeney has been at UAMS for 20 years. She earned a doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990 and was on faculty there for four years before coming to UAMS.

Rusch has been at UAMS for nine years. She was previously a faculty member at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She earned a doctorate degree at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

McSweeney said she saw UAMS as a chance to expand on her research area of women and heart disease.

“I certainly had a lot of potential subjects here, because heart disease is the number one cause of death in Arkansas,” McSweeney said. “I liked the entire campus atmosphere as it is very supportive of research.”

McSweeney helped develop the doctoral program for the UAMS College of Nursing and has been the director of the program for almost two years. She served as chair to the first student who graduated from the program, and has served as a dissertation chair for many students. Many of her students have received predoctoral funding from agencies such as NIH and John A. Hartford.

“The students are so much fun to work with, and it’s so rewarding to watch them learn and grow and get excited about their research,” McSweeney said. “I really enjoy assisting the students to identify a problem area in their practice setting and develop a research proposal to address the problem.”

McSweeney also has been honored with several other accolades during her career including the Katharine A. Lembright American Heart Association Nursing Council Award, which recognizes and encourages excellence in cardiovascular research by established nursing scientists internationally. She has served on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Nursing Council and the NIH Council of Councils, becoming only the second nurse to ever serve in that capacity. She is also a previous recipient of the UAMS Chancellor’s Teaching Award.

Despite all her previous honors, McSweeney was surprised to find out she was a recipient of the Graduate School Faculty Member of the Year.

“There are so many good people who teach in the graduate school, so I am very honored,” she said.

Rusch said she was pleased to be chosen. “I was very honored, because there are a lot of great mentors on campus.”

Her research area is cardiovascular pharmacology, particularly hypertension mechanisms and drugs that treat hypertension. While she teaches various topics within the graduate school, she mainly teaches cardiovascular pharmacology.

“I teach both graduate students and medical students,” Rusch said. “I have several graduate students in my laboratory. I mentor Ph.D. students and serve as their primary thesis advisor and also serve on the thesis committees of other students.”

Rusch is extremely proud of the work her students have done in the lab and sees this award as affirmation. “All my students have been funded from outside sources. They have competed for training grants to support their stipends.”

She has also been honored with a Chancellor’s Teaching Award and many awards and grants from the NIH to support the laboratory and students. She said it is rewarding to see her students achieve success.

“The main reason I’ve stayed in academics my entire career is that I really enjoy training students,” Rusch said. “I’ve been training graduate students since 1987, and some of my students are professors or heads of institutes now. One of the real benefits of coming to UAMS is that we have great graduate students. I’m proud of the faculty, staff and students we have here and proud to be a part of the campus.”

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