YSN Interim Leadership and Dean Search

September 15, 2022

Dear Members of the Yale School of Nursing Community,

As I announced in July, Dean Ann Kurth will step down from her leadership role at the Yale School of Nursing at the end of this semester and assume her post as president of the New York Academy of Medicine in January 2023. I am grateful to Dean Kurth for her exceptional service to the school and Yale. In partnership with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, she has expanded YSN’s global reach, increased access, and further enhanced the excellence of the school’s research and teaching programs.

Over the past few weeks, I have consulted with Dean Kurth and Executive Deputy Dean Carmen Portillo about the best strategy to guide the school, particularly its critical research and education initiatives, while the university conducts a national search for the next dean. Incorporating their recommendation, I have asked Professor Holly Powell Kennedy, an internationally renowned midwifery investigator and educator, to delay her retirement for one year and to serve as the interim dean, effective January 1, 2023, pending approval by the board of trustees. Professor Kennedy will work closely with Professor Portillo, who will head the transition team. Professor Portillo’s leadership at the school is instrumental to the success and progression of many programs, including faculty, curricular, organizational, and clinical partnership work, and I appreciate deeply her willingness to guide the transition.

In 2009, Professor Kennedy joined the Yale community as the university’s first Helen Varney Professor of Midwifery. She brought to Yale decades of experience leading research initiatives and clinical practice, teaching future practitioners and scholars, and informing health policy decision-making. Building on her contributions to the fields of nursing and midwifery, she shaped a research program at Yale that studies and provides solutions to challenges in maternal-child health care in the U.S. and across the world.

Professor Kennedy is focused on addressing the prevailing lack of trust in clinical care and fear of childbirth. She has found linkages between “how” care is provided during pregnancy and birth with clinical and social outcomes. Her work has contributed to numerous policy and clinical practice changes. For example, she developed a conceptual framework of midwifery care that reflects the relationship between the woman and the midwife and enables the midwife to create an environment of care to meet the woman’s needs. She helped establish the concept of “optimality” in maternity care, which maximizes the health outcomes of the mother and child with minimal obstetrical and medical interventions that can lead to complications or prolonged recovery periods. She also played a leadership role in developing the Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework, an evidence-based scope of care to improve health outcomes.

As a globally recognized leader, she has received many honors and served in a number of organizations, including as a past president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the professional association representing Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Midwives in the U.S. In 2016, she received the highest honor bestowed by ACNM.

Prior to coming to Yale, Professor Kennedy was on the faculty at the University of Rhode Island and University of California, San Francisco. In 2008, she was a visiting faculty member at King’s College London as a distinguished Fulbright Fellow. Earlier in her career, she served over thirty years in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (active and reserve) and is a retired colonel.

I am grateful to Professor Kennedy for accepting the interim leadership position as we search for the next dean of YSN. I have formed a search advisory committee to advise me about potential candidates who can succeed Dean Kurth. Stephanie Spangler, vice provost for health affairs and academic integrity, will serve as the chair. I also have engaged Spencer Stuart, a search firm, to assist the advisory committee. The other members of the committee are as follows:

  • Jessica Illuzzi, Deputy Dean for Education and Harold W. Jockers Professor of Medical Education
  • Joan Kearney, Professor of Nursing
  • Diane Kelly, President of Greenwich Hospital
  • M. Tish Knobf, Professor of Nursing
  • Soohyun Nam, Associate Professor of Nursing
  • Michelle Nearon, Senior Associate Dean and Director of the Office for Graduate Student Development and Diversity
  • Rafael Perez-Escamilla, Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences)
  • Carmen Portillo, Executive Deputy Dean and Professor of Nursing
  • Lois Sadler, Professor of Nursing and Yale Child Study Center

The advisory committee will conduct outreach to YSN faculty members, staff, students, board members, and alumni. If you would like to write to the committee with recommendations regarding potential candidates or the qualities and qualifications that should be considered in the search for the next dean of YSN, please use the webform.

The committee and I welcome your input during the search process, and we hope you will not hesitate to send us your suggestions.


Peter Salovey
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology