Skip Navigation and Go To Content
News from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Stories from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston)

Navigation and Search


A New Generation of Leadership

Lab coats for Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston
Employees gathered for a group photo in 2017.
Employees gathered for a group photo in 2017.
Class of 2016 graduates of the Nurse Anesthesia program.
Class of 2016 graduates of the Nurse Anesthesia program.

Cizik School of Nursing moved into the “twenty-teens” propelled by momentum in educational programs and research funding. As Patricia L. Starck wound down her 30 years as dean, she left her successors well prepared for the future. The school celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012 with other long-time faculty members approaching retirement as well.

Helping address the nursing shortage by growing the faculty became Starck’s top priority in her last decade as dean. She led the effort to raise $2 million in philanthropic gifts that provided full-ride scholarships and stipends to the 10 PhD students admitted for fall 2010 to the Patricia L. Starck Accelerated PhD Scholars Program. The newly minted Doctors of Philosophy in Nursing were among 22 full-time faculty members added in 2013. The second cohort began in fall 2013. Several of the graduates of the accelerated PhD program continue to serve as Cizik School of Nursing faculty members today.

The growing need for nurses at the bedside also prompted changes at the undergraduate level. The Pacesetter Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program accepted its first 50 students in fall 2010. This fast-paced program enables full-time students to prepare for RN licensure exams in 19 months. The program now admits approximately 140 students per semester who have completed prerequisites at other institutions or who hold bachelor’s degrees in other fields.

The first two years of the decade also saw the creation of an early decision program enabling associate’s degree nursing students at Houston Community College and Lone Star College to seamlessly transition into Cizik School of Nursing’s RN to BSN program.

In 2016, thanks to the efforts of Associate Professor Bridget R. Pullis, PhD, RN, an additional program was founded to help U.S. Armed Forces veterans transition into the BSN program by providing support services and up to three hours of academic credit for military training and experience.

The school’s Ambassadors Program also launched that year, offering professional development opportunities to an initial group of five outstanding Pacesetter BSN students. Another enhancement opportunity for undergraduates, the Joan and Stanford Alexander Fellowship in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, selected its first cohort of four students in spring 2018 to develop skills and sensitivities for working with special needs populations. The project was developed and is directed by Assistant Professor Allison P. Edwards, DrPH, MS, RN.

The trend toward transitioning advanced practice nursing education from the master’s to doctorate level also took hold in the teens. The Nurse Anesthesia program – consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report – was the first at Cizik School of Nursing to offer a BSN to DNP option. The nurse practitioner programs followed suit in 2019, with students now able to pursue four different specialty tracks.

The state’s only Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) program also expanded to serve more students across the state. Established in 1994 by Professor Elda Ramirez, PhD, RN, FAAN, and the late Frank Cole, PhD, the post-master’s certificate program received the first in a continuing series of educational grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2010 to expand access to ENP education throughout the state using online didactic content. This support continues today.

Ramirez, her teaching colleague Assistant Professor Deborah McCrea, EdD, MSN, FNP-BC, EMT-P, and countless other faculty, staff, and students would once again step up as volunteer care providers, flood rescuers, and muck shovelers when Hurricane Harvey broke rainfall records over several days in August 2017.

Research programs continued to grow in the teens as well. Notable nurse scientists making important discoveries during the decade included Terri Armstrong, PhD, FAANP, who secured a $2.4 million R01 grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research to study personalized cancer treatment by looking at toxicity associated with anticancer therapies. She went on to become deputy chief of the Neuro-Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research.

The next generation of leaders at Cizik School of Nursing stepped forward amid great progress, facing the challenges of nursing’s future with enthusiasm. During Lorraine Frazier’s time as dean from 2015 to 2018, Cathy Rozmus, PhD, RN, FAAN, was promoted to vice dean for academic affairs, and noted health informatics expert Constance Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, came from Duke University School of Nursing to serve as associate dean for research.

Cizik School of Nursing’s influence extends far beyond Houston and Texas, with alumni educating future nurses at universities across the nation. The school’s fourth dean would join those ranks, and colleagues bid farewell with a mixture of pride and sadness when Frazier accepted the position of dean at Columbia University School of Nursing.

Fortunately, another rising star followed in Frazier’s footsteps. Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, RN, FAAN, may not have expected the call when UTHealth Houston President Giuseppe Colasurdo, MD, asked her to serve as dean ad interim in 2018, but she welcomed the challenge.


  • The school partners with Houston Community College’s John B. Coleman, MD College for Health Sciences on early decision BSN admissions for associate degree nursing students.
  • The Patricia L. Starck Accelerated PhD Scholars Program admits 10 students for the fall semester.
  • The new Pacesetter BSN option is also offered for fall.


  • Dean Starck becomes UTHealth Houston’s Senior Vice President for Community Affairs.
  • A $500,000 gift endows the Huffington Foundation Chair in Nursing Education Leadership to be held by the dean.
  • The school agrees to early decision BSN admissions through the Lone Star College System.


  • MD Anderson’s Houston Main Building, the nursing school’s home for 30 years, is imploded on Jan. 8 prior to final demolition.


  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs approves the new BSN to DNP degree in Nurse Anesthesia.
  • A second group of accelerated PhD students is admitted for fall, after a successful $1.3 million fundraising initiative. All 10 members of the 2010 cohort are hired as assistant professors.


  • In February, Dean Starck announces plans to step down as dean at the end of the year.


  • Lorraine Frazier, PhD, RN, FAAN, becomes dean on February 1.
  • The Nursing Informatics track in the post-master’s DNP program admits its first students in fall 2015.


  • In the spring semester, the Veterans’ BSN program begins facilitating the transition of U.S. Armed Forces veterans into professional nursing.
  • U.S. News & World Report cites the DNP program as the highest-ranked in Texas and No. 24 nationwide. The Nurse Anesthesia program is ranked No. 8 nationally.
  • The Ambassador Program is established.


  • On Nov. 15, in recognition of their landmark gift of $25 million, the school is renamed “Jane and Robert Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston.”


  • The school’s original documentary, “Caring Corrupted: the Killing Nurses of the Third Reich,” wins a Platinum award in the prestigious Worldfest film competition.
  • Frazier concludes her 3 ½ year deanship. Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, RN, FAAN, is appointed dean ad interim, effective Aug. 20.
  • A tribute wall honoring the Ciziks’ gift is unveiled on Oct. 24.


  • The BSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner degree program is approved by the THECB for fall 2019.
  • Robert Cizik dies June 4 at age 88.
site var = uth