A few weeks ago, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) introduced our new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO), Dr. Geraldine Young, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, CDE, FAANP. Dr. Young has practiced for 20 years in the nursing field, and advocating for diversity and inclusion in nursing education has been at the forefront of her work. She holds a DNP from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in addition to an MSN from Alcorn State University and a BSN from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“It is truly an honor and a pleasure to be selected as the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Frontier Nursing University!” said Dr. Young.
We sat down with Dr. Young to learn about her passion for diversity and inclusion, her strategy for enhancing these initiatives at FNU, and the challenges she expects to face in her new position as CDIO.
What has been your career path so far and how has it led you to your current role as chief diversity and inclusion officer?
I hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, an MSN from Alcorn State University, and a BSN from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. I am a board-certified family nurse practitioner (FNP) and a certified diabetes educator.
My distinguished career, spanning 20 years, has demonstrated a great passion for improving health outcomes, especially in disenfranchised populations. An early career trajectory began with five years as a registered nurse; this led to 15 years as a family nurse practitioner, 10 of which have been spent as one of the first DNPs in Mississippi and nursing faculty, nine as a certified diabetes educator, and five as family medical practice owner.
I made an effortless decision to migrate to Kentucky to become the inaugural Director for Graduate Nursing Programs at Kentucky State University to expand the ability to help others in rural, underserved areas. Before leaving Mississippi, FNU was introduced to me by a fellow colleague. As an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), the thought of FNU (a nursing university that exclusively focused on graduate level nursing education for APRNs and founder of my degree pathway as a family nurse practitioner) was instantaneously intriguing. When the opportunity presented itself, there was no hesitation to seize the chance to be employed at FNU!
How has your professional background influenced your passion for diversity and inclusion?
Serving as a leader in improving diabetes outcomes in the southeastern United States has been a career pinnacle. Leadership in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Disparities Collaboratives and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) Mississippi Health First Project transformed the model for healthcare practices and diabetes self-management education (DSME) in Mississippi for minority and underserved populations. This leadership led to recognition from the CMS and the American Association of Diabetes Educators for program excellence in DSME.
My firm commitment to clinical-practice excellence is evidenced by developing a private practice in Mississippi. This practice focused on improving health outcomes and diabetes management and had over 2,500 visits annually, 10 percent of which are for veterans and 30 percent of which are for underserved populations. Direct clinical outcomes were not the only benefits of this practice. In a dynamic partnership with Jobs for Mississippi (a program that provides at-risk youths with positive work experiences to prevent them from becoming dropouts), this practice also provided professional role modeling, culminating in its participation in the AmeriCorps job-placement service, which specifically targets at-risk youth. This practice attained state and national recognition, including a joint telehealth project with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to increase access to quality care.
Where did your passion for diversity and inclusion begin?
My passion for diversity and inclusion emerged in the role of family nurse practitioner, serving various patient populations in underserved, rural areas in Mississippi. During this time, the belief that “no patient is noncompliant” was attained. It is crucial for healthcare professionals to remove bias towards patients that appear to be noncompliant. Healthcare services should reflect individualization based on a patient’s circumstances and uncover means of improving their health outcomes. This motto continues today for any population that I service including students, faculty and staff.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the keys to the future success of the health care delivery system and the improvement of health outcomes for minority and underserved populations. All perspectives need a voice. I have always been willing to be that voice.
Membership in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Essentials Task Force further strengthens this passion as I am on the frontline of nursing education addressing issues of health disparities and inequities that exist in our nation.
How do you define diversity and inclusion at Frontier Nursing University?
FNU encompasses an atmosphere built on a culture of caring, with a mission to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. FNU elicits the equitable perspectives of students, faculty, and staff regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or identity, disability and/or religion. FNU’s goal is to improve health outcomes through the production of conscious, competent nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners in underserved and rural areas across the U.S.
FNU is a national leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion and a two-time winner of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award 2018 and 2019.
What are you most excited about with your new position?
I have been involved with diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the background for many years. Now, I have the opportunity to propel this role forward in my influential nursing career as the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at FNU. In this role, I can expand the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at FNU to improve the health outcomes of diverse patient populations in underserved and rural areas in the U.S.
What strategies do you feel will have the most positive impact on the FNU community?
Administration is tremendously supportive of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at FNU. This support transcends the level of comfort needed to productively perform in the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Embodying transformational leadership characteristics, implementing the team-based approach to confronting diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and soliciting the perspectives of students, faculty, and staff will be instrumental in disseminating a powerful culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion at FNU. This approach will also ensure the direct involvement and ownership of the entire FNU community in the continuous transformation process.
What are the biggest challenges that you will face in your new role?
As the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, I expect the following challenges:
- Upholding accountability for implicit bias in the FNU community
- Increasing the integration of atypical, diverse populations and perspectives into the FNU community
- Providing support for the changes
These challenges are expected to resolve as constituents become more informed and proactive within the diverse and inclusive FNU community.
What is a fun fact about you?
I love to travel! I have been to Washington, D.C., approximately 10 times in the past three years for the purpose of advancing the nursing profession. I feel like D.C. is my home away from home.