Azita Emami named dean of Yale School of Nursing

Azita Emami (Photo courtesy of University of Washington School of Nursing)
April 3, 2023

Emami is an internationally recognized nursing leader who has called attention to the key role nurses can play in improving care in underserved communities.

Azita Emami, an internationally recognized nursing leader and investigator who has called attention to the key role nurses can play in improving care in underserved communities, will become the next dean of the Yale School of Nursing, President Peter Salovey announced today.

Emami, currently the executive dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Washington (UW), brings to Yale a dedication to fostering wellness and more than two decades of experience shaping research and teaching, advancing the role of nurses in clinical practice, and improving health care equity and access, Salovey said.

She begins her new role on Aug. 1.

“[Azita Emami’s] career is distinguished by a commitment to expanding the role of nursing within the global health care ecosystem and transforming the ways nurses are deployed, trained, and involved in decision-making about clinical care guidelines and practices,” Salovey wrote in a message to the university community. “More specifically, she has brought focus to the critical contributions of nurses in identifying and addressing social determinants that create barriers to health and wellness.”

In her work, Emami has underscored the central role nurses can play in providing primary care so that underserved areas — urban and rural — have equitable access to health care, Salovey said. From 2018 to 2020, she led the U.S. Nursing Now” initiative, a global campaign associated with the International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization. In 2021, she spearheaded the U.S. “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” campaign as part of a broader United Nations initiative.

“I am honored to be joining the Yale community,” Emami said. “I very much look forward to working with the faculty, students, alumni, and staff in the School of Nursing to envision the future of healthcare and the role of nursing in achieving that vision.”

In her current role, Emami oversees teaching, research, and clinical practice across three accredited campuses that graduate more than 1,000 nurses annually with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees. A trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she advocates for increasing educational, clinical practice, and policymaking opportunities for nurses worldwide.

Under Emami’s leadership, the UW School of Nursing has consistently been recognized as one of the top public university schools of nursing in the country, Salovey said. Emami has led a number of transformative initiatives to support faculty research, teaching, and practice, and to increase educational opportunities for students.

“Notable efforts include the redesign of the UW School of Nursing curriculum to place an emphasis on population health and health equity,” Salovey wrote in his message. “Additionally, she led the creation of the countrys first Center for Antiracism in Nursing; contributed to the establishment of the UW Center for Global Health Nursing; and collaborated with local public health authorities to implement Best Starts for Kids’ to improve the health outcomes of children in Seattle.”

As chair of the UW Board of Health Sciences Deans, she has facilitated interdisciplinary education and research initiatives and played an instrumental role in the creation of the Health Sciences Education Building, which bridges multiple fields of teaching and practice, Salovey said. At the regional level, she fostered a relationship between the UW School of Nursing and Premera, the Washington State Blue Cross organization, to create the Rural Nursing Health Initiative. This program is developing a pipeline of primary care providers in critically underserved rural areas in Washington State and has been expanded to strengthen the role of nurse practitioners specializing in mental health care.

Holly Powell Kennedy, Yale School of Nursing’s interim dean, said Emami brings to Yale “a history of visionary leadership.”

“In her letter to the search advisory committee,” Kennedy said, “she noted, ‘True leadership — inspiring leadership — is about being visible and seeking solutions for systemic problems that result in dysfunction yet are deeply embedded and recalcitrant to change. Racism is such an issue for nursing.’ Her work with the University of Washington community (students, staff, and faculty) fostered consensus, not coercion, resulting in a framework for their strategic plan and a Center for Antiracism in Nursing. It was an example of the many recalcitrant challenges she successfully navigated during her numerous leadership roles.

“We truly look forward to her joining the YSN community during our centennial year and leading us into the next century!”

Emami earned her R.N. and Ph.D. in medical sciences from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. She conducted research, taught, and cared for patients there and at hospitals and research centers in Sweden. She was also head of the Division of Nursing at Karolinska Institutet and director of a joint doctoral program with multiple institutions in Iran. She moved to the United States to take on the role of dean of the College of Nursing at Seattle University, serving there until 2013, when she joined UW.

Emami has authored more than 80 papers in peer-reviewed journals on a wide range of topics, including cross-cultural care, elder and dementia care, the development of cultural competence, and treatments for various diseases and conditions. For her contributions to nursing research, teaching, and advancing the role of nurses, she has received the Washington State Nurses Association’s Honorary Recognition Award, the University of Washington Woman of Courage Award, and numerous other honors. She is also an elected member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences.

Emami and her husband, Massod, have two adult daughters and six grandchildren who, Salovey noted, “are happy to occupy her ‘spare’ time when they visit from Sweden.”

She will succeed Interim Dean Kennedy, whose service began on Jan. 1, 2023, after former Dean Ann Kurth stepped down to accept a new position as president of the New York Academy of Medicine.

In his message to the community, Salovey expressed his gratitude to the YSN community for its “unwavering commitment to improving the health and well-being of all people” and to Interim Dean Kennedy for her leadership of the school during the transition. He also thanked members of the search advisory committee, which was chaired by Dr. Stephanie Spangler, vice provost for health affairs & academic integrity and clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services, and to colleagues and students who shared their insights during the search process.

“It has been a great pleasure and a privilege to participate with my colleagues on the president’s advisory committee in the search for the next dean of the Yale School of Nursing,” Spangler said. “I have worked closely with the School of Nursing during my years in the provost’s office and watched with admiration as it has built upon its rich history to grow in achievement and distinction.

“During the search process, many members of the School of Nursing community generously shared with me their aspirations for the school’s future. I am delighted that Azita Emami will bring her own remarkable skills and record of accomplishment to Yale to help make those aspirations a reality.”

Said Emami: “The legacy of excellence at Yale defines all that higher education can and should be. It is a privilege to now be a steward of and contributor to that legacy.”

This story first appeared on Yale News.