Alumni Spotlights

Dr. Dianne Morrison-Beedy, ’80: Transforming Healthcare and Transforming Lives

  • on May 2, 2016
  • by Lisa M. McMahon, M.A.'09

As a nurse practitioner working in a women’s health practice in Rochester, N.Y., Dr. Dianne Morrison-Beedy, ’80, frequently counseled her patients on their risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infection, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies. But sometimes her advice seemed to fall on deaf ears.

So she decided to find out how to better reach her patients, and the Ph.D. program she enrolled in at the University of Rochester gave her an ideal opportunity to conduct research on the topic.

“My Ph.D. was totally focused on decision making and risk reduction in women at risk for HIV,” she explains. “And what I really wanted to look at was how women decide if they are vulnerable or at risk and what skills they need to decrease their risk.”

Her research continued long after she earned her Ph.D. in 1993, and has since been awarded more than $11 million in HIV/AIDS prevention research grants. She began focusing more specifically on HIV intervention for adolescent girls once she observed that there was a lack of services specifically for that population. In 2004, with funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research, Dr. Morrison-Beedy launched the Health Improvement Project for Teens (HIP Teens), a small-group HIV intervention program for girls ages 15 to 19. She worked with adolescent girls in this randomized controlled trial, drawing on participants' experiences and using games, interactive group activities, and skits to improve their knowledge, motivation, and behavior skills in reducing their HIV/AIDS risk. Based on the success of this study, which ended in 2010, HIP Teens was recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as an effective evidence-based intervention. It has been rolled out for implementation in communities across the country and is featured on both the HHS and CDC websites.

Dr. Morrison-Beedy is widely published and has received numerous awards for her work, including the Excellence in HIV Prevention Award from the Association for Nurses in AIDS Care, the New York State Distinguished Researcher Award and the Florida Nurses Association Nursing Research Award. Recognition of the global impact of her program of research led to her induction into the International Nursing Research Hall of Fame in 2014. Most recently, she was named a Fulbright Scholar and will travel to the Edinburgh, Scotland, to modify HIP Teens for implementation in the United Kingdom.

These accolades are gratifying, she notes, “but the fact that HIP Teens is being disseminated and translated into communities to really make a difference with patients is the highest honor for me, truly.”

Dr. Morrison-Beedy first recognized the impact nurses could have on the lives of others while she was hospitalized in intensive care for several months during her sophomore year in high school.

“It was then that I realized the critical role nursing played in healthcare,” she says. “I knew who really got me through that extremely challenging time, who watched over me and knew exactly what was going on every second of the day with me. It changed my life in a lot of ways,” including inspiring her to pursue a career in nursing.

The Tonawanda native chose Niagara because of its strong nursing program and the holistic way it viewed the importance of nurses in making their communities better places. When she graduated –- first in her class – she took a job in the labor and delivery and high-risk obstetrics unit at Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. She soon realized that she wanted to continue her education, and when a colleague encouraged her to pursue her master’s degree in the University at Buffalo’s women’s health/adult primary care nurse practitioner program, she enrolled.

After earning her master’s degree in 1983, she briefly worked as a nursing instructor at Pennsylvania State University before joining Rochester Medical Group Associates as a nurse practitioner, ultimately being named associate chief of the nurse practitioner group. She also served as a preceptor for nurse practitioner students at the University of Rochester. She enjoyed this experience so much that she decided to pursue a Ph.D. so she could obtain a position as a faculty member in a nurse practitioner program.

She completed her studies in 1993 and returned to Niagara University’s College of Nursing, this time as assistant professor, attracted by the college’s new emphasis on research. “I thought it was a great opportunity to give back to the university and to help build nursing science at an institution that I thought was ready for it,” she says.

The college was also planning to establish a nurse practitioner program, so Dr. Morrison-Beedy took a leadership role in developing curriculum and setting up clinical placements. She was named program director in 1995.

She remained with the program until 1998, when she joined Syracuse University’s College of Nursing as associate professor and director of evaluation. Two years later, she took an endowed professorship in the University of Rochester’s School of Nursing. During her tenure there, she held several positions, including the endowed chair in nursing science, co-director of the Clinical Core of the Developmental Center for AIDS Research, and assistant dean for research. Today, she serves as dean of the College of Nursing, and senior associate vice president of USF Health at the University of South Florida.

While HIV prevention research remains her passion, Dr. Morrison-Beedy has spearheaded several initiatives in military and veteran’s health, including organizing national and international conferences; developing a bachelor of science nursing sequence created specifically for service members and veterans who have completed training as Army or Air Force medics and Navy corpsmen; and introducing an online course that addresses the unique healthcare needs of the military and veteran population. Her work in this area gained national attention and was highlighted in the Joining Forces Nurses Summit, part of a national campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to give service members and their families opportunities and support.

In her role as dean, she has also participated in the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program in France, where she discussed collaborative teaching and research opportunities between the USF College of Nursing and higher education programs in France, and established the Institute for Nursing Faculty Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring to address the nursing shortage by preparing the faculty needed to educate them.

Her leadership has brought unprecedented growth to the USF College of Nursing and positioned the institution to transform healthcare and the lives of patients. The college’s enrollment has nearly doubled and is now nationally ranked in the top 25 in research and #1 in military and veteran’s health in the country. She credits her success to her ability to identify talent, connect people, and move ideas to fruition quickly.

“Watching people get together and seeing the synergy and the ideas that form is exciting,” she says. “What I do best is bring ideas to reality, because ultimately, you want to change your community for the better—that’s what I learned at Niagara—whether that be the local, regional or global community. Through nursing education, research and practice, I have helped to transform healthcare and make life better.”