By Robert C. Jones Jr.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 4, 2016) — Nilda (Nena) Peragallo Montano, who fostered monumental growth and significant improvement in the curriculum, facilities, and programs of the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies during her 13 years as dean, will step down at the end of the fall 2016 semester.
An internationally recognized nursing scientist, Peragallo Montano will become dean of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Nena’s leadership and the contributions of the school’s outstanding faculty led to many significant accomplishments,” said Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM’s executive vice president and provost, noting that Peragallo Montano “has elevated the School of Nursing and Health Studies into the ranks of the nation’s best.”
Recalling how she was welcomed into the University family in 2003, Peragallo Montano said, “I came here with a vision: to leverage the singular strengths of the School of Nursing and Health Studies to elevate its national and global standing, promote academic excellence, and prepare health care leaders for the 21st century. Through the remarkable dedication, talent and generosity of our students, faculty, community partners and friends, we have achieved this dream. I leave the U with great pride and a firm confidence in the spectacular future that lies ahead for the School of Nursing and Health Studies.”
During her tenure, Peragallo Montano helped usher in a new era for the nursing school, leading its transition from a small, cramped World War II-era building located on the edge of the Coral Gables campus to a modern 53,000-square-foot, four-story facility with smart classrooms and a clinical simulation and research area where students now practice real medical crises on high-tech patient mannequins that can register a heartbeat and other vital signs and even sweat.
Today, the M. Christine Schwartz Center for Nursing and Health Studies, a building for which Peragallo Montano helped raise the remaining funding needed to make it possible, houses the school’s faculty, staff, and students under one roof.
Long a proponent of simulation-based scenarios and the benefits such activities offer in preventing mistakes before nursing students work in live clinical situations, Peragallo Montano pushed for the creation of a Simulation Hospital at UM. Next year, the school will open such a facility, bringing her efforts to fruition.
Stepping into her role as dean at a time when an acute shortage of nurses at the state, national, and global levels began to affect the health care sector at alarming rates, Peragallo Montano instituted new programs to address the crisis. Under her leadership, for example, the school launched an Accelerated B.S.N. Program that allows students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields to earn a nursing degree in a year.
She spearheaded expansion of the school’s curriculum in other areas as well, introducing Doctor of Nursing Practice and Bachelor of Science in Health Science programs as well as Florida’s first B.S.N.-to-D.N.P. in nurse anesthesia track and South Florida’s first Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree.
During her deanship, the school’s student enrollment tripled, its M.S.N. and D.N.P. programs are now ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best Graduate Schools, and it emerged as a leading recipient of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants—it is No.1 in Florida and 22nd nationwide in NIH funding among nursing schools.
Peragallo Montano ramped up the school’s academic and clinical practice standards, which led to record passing rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. In 2012, 98 percent of UM’s nursing graduates passed the exam on their first try.
With a career devoted to improving the health status of minorities and other underserved populations, she expanded the school’s prominence in the global health arena, leading the 2007 birth of its Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research, or El Centro, made possible by a NIH grant of more than $7 million. In 2012, El Centro received renewed NIH funding through 2017, and the nursing school was re-designated a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety.
Peragallo Montano is an inductee of the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame of the Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society and a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She also is on HispanicBusiness magazine’s list of the nation’s 100 Most Influential Leaders.
LeBlanc will appoint a committee to conduct a national search for her successor.