Elaine M Wallace: Fostering Academic Excellence and Research

Elaine M Wallace, Dean, Nova Southeastern University (NSU)
Elaine M Wallace | Dean | Nova Southeastern University (NSU)

Healthcare system across the globe is continuing to improve, innovate and change under the leadership of successful leaders that are pioneering the healthcare system. They are coming up with new and innovative ways to automate and ease the delivery of best-in-class healthcare solutions to the maximum number of people. Ensuring the holistic care of patients is more important than ever as sound body is the product of a sound mind. Education is one of the most important ways through which best future healthcare professionals are created.

To create the best healthcare professionals that are highly skilled for delivering the best healthcare solutions is an important task of all educational institutions by offering diverse array of academic programs and educational opportunities. The healthcare leaders who foster academic excellence and research related to Healthcare are more valuable. Elaine M Wallace is one such healthcare leader who is Dean at Nova Southeastern University(NSU).

Leader in Research and Holistic Medical Care

Elaine began her journey at NSU as the Liaison to the development of international medicine and the chair of the Department of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine. Within 6 years, she returned to her previously held position (in Kansas City) as the Executive Associate Dean, under Anthony Silvagni, DO. Five years ago, she became Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and has shepherded a time of expansion and growth within her college.

Since Elaine’s initial deanship, the college has started and is responsible for 4 Bachelors programs (Public Health, Nutrition, Biomedical Informatics, Health and Wellness Coaching), 5 Masters Programs (Public Health, Nutrition, Medical Education, Disaster and Emergency Management, Biomedical Informatics), a Registered Dietician program, a post-baccalaureate program, and it has expanded the DO program by 150 students on a second campus. It also has assimilated the program in Couple and Family Therapy, with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development, a master’s Degree in Family Therapy and two Doctorate programs in Couple and Family Therapy. The college has nearly tripled in size since Elaine’s deanship and is a leader in research and holistic medical care on campus.

Driven by Core Values

Located on a beautiful 314-acre campus in Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University has more than 22,000 students, is the largest, private, selective, research university in Florida, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. It also has 8 regional campuses, throughout Florida and Puerto Rico. NSU’s core values are: Academic Excellence, Student-Centered, Integrity, Innovation, Opportunity, Scholarship/Research, Diversity, and Community.

Being a private, not-for-profit, institution, the mission of Nova Southeastern University is to offer a diverse array of innovative academic programs that complement on-campus educational opportunities and resources with accessible distance learning programs to foster academic excellence, intellectual inquiry, leadership, research, and commitment to the community through engagement of students and faculty members in a dynamic, life-long learning environment.

The pandemic, as with all crises, offered opportunities and challenges. The greatest challenge has been the denial of the validity and respect in medical knowledge that grew as a result of NSU’s national leadership. Never in Elaine’s 12 leaders been so doubted. Never in her life – including the polio crisis – have vaccines been so doubted. It is a tremendous threat to science when politics enters into a process that should – by definition – be free of partisanship. Despite this tremendous schism in-country, the pandemic demonstrated new and accelerated methods for the development of vaccines. This is a technology that may be applied now to the development of cancer drugs and other breakthroughs in medicine.

Additionally, governmental money for the development of treatments for chronic COVID-19 will propel the medical field into new futures, and as NSU evaluates responses to this pandemic in the setting of public health, its systems of care may be revitalized and its responses on a global level also stand to be improved and developed.

Reaching Underserved Communities

One of the other unexpected benefits of the COVID 19 pandemic has been the challenge that it has afforded NSU to telecommunicate. This has accelerated the growth of telehealth – allowing greater reach into underserved communities and has allowed educators to teach students from afar – seamlessly now on zoom. Zoom has allowed greater proficiency in meetings and has provided a new platform for innovation.

Taking Care of the Whole Patient

Osteopathic Medicine has always been about taking care of the whole patient, mind – body – and spirit. This concept of holism has seen advances, on all levels in USA, in recent years. The development of bachelors programs within the college are all dual admit programs, meaning that when a student enters into an undergraduate bachelor’s program run by its college, if s/he excels and maintains a GPA of 3.5 and scores at a high range in the MCAT examination, s/he has a seat reserved for him/her in the Osteopathic Medical school. This program demonstrates how higher education stands to improve medicine. Traditionally, students in medicine are from backgrounds of chemistry and biology. However – with these new programs, Osteopathic Medical school is admitting new matriculants who will focus on nutrition, and informatics, and public health. Their views and backgrounds will change, as will their focus for the health, product development, and medicine of the future.

Robust Research and Treatment Center

NSU-KPCOM is a leader in research on campus and is the #1 grant-funded research college on the campus. KPCOM has robust research in Gulf War Syndrome, Neuroimmunology, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, HIV psychology in youth, and Health Disparities. Recently, it has received a 4.5-million-dollar grant from the CDC for patient education of COVID 19, and it has just submitted over $30 million in requests to the federal government to become a pandemic Research and Treatment Center for the long term COVID 19 as well as other pandemics.

The grant mentioned above for Treatment and Research of pandemics includes individuals from 4 other colleges. Two of NSU’s bachelor’s programs are joint programs with other colleges as well. In fact, many of its research projects include researchers from other universities. This reflects NSU’s belief in a collaborative approach.

Serving the Community in Maximum Possible Ways

NSU is recognized as a collegiate leader by the PEW foundation in service to the community. Of all the colleges at NSU, KPCOM is the #1 college in community service.

A part of the ethos of KPCOM is to develop servant leaders. Its mission is to serve the medically underserved. In this vein, the college requires 40 hours of community service from students in year one and 40 hours of service in year two. These service projects include medical health fairs, tutoring, participation at camps for children with disabilities, work with the homeless and many other projects. The college is also a national leader in international outreach programs, as Osteopaths see the entire world as its community. Its students participate yearly to medical missions in Jamaica, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and India. It did a medical student training program to Cuba just prior to the pandemic, and it served Puerto Rico, twice, post hurricanes. Its students also do three months of rural or urban underserved medicine as part of the third-year curriculum, serving communities of great need in Florida. Health fairs, for all students in year one and two and all faculty, occur twice during the academic year and serve patients in the community health centers. KPCOM also has well over 70 student clubs, many that are directed towards service within the community.

Research at KPCOM is robust. It has just submitted a 29- million-dollar grant for the development of a Treatment and Research Center for long-term COVID 19 care and for other future pandemics. If Elaine could change one thing about research, it would receive this grant and be able to further serve its community and country with cutting edge scientific research.

Treating Patients World-wide

KPCOM was just named #20 by US News and World Report – for medical schools (Osteopathic and Allopathic) that turn out the most students in primary care and serve the underserved. It is the philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine – to treat the whole patient and the whole patient system – that gives a great foundation for treatment of patients world-wide.

Elaine mentions that when any individual seeks to render care to a patient who is underserved, he or she needs to study why the patient is underserved – and fix that problem as well as the patient, or s/he would have only a well patient and a sick system. KPCOM’s unique attention to Osteopathic Medicine, Public Health, Medical Informatics, Couple and Family Therapy, Nutrition, Health and Wellness Coaching, and its solid foundation in research, make KPCOM a college well equipped to tackle the challenges of equity health care here in the United States, and worldwide.

Thinking Outside the Box

Elaine’s always advises budding healthcare and Higher Education leaders aspiring to venture into the medical industry to follow one’s passion. “It is only when you love your work, and it is no longer a job, that you have the ease and comfort to think outside of the box and to take risks,” she asserts.