Dr. Suzanne C. Smeltzer named inaugural holder of The Richard and Marianne Kreider Endowed Professorship in Nursing for Vulnerable Populations

Dr. Suzanne C. Smeltzer

An internationally known advocate for health care access and quality care for people with disabilities, Suzanne C. Smeltzer, EdD, RN, ANEF, FAAN, has been named inaugural holder of The Richard and Marianne Kreider Endowed Professorship in Nursing for Vulnerable Populations at the Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, where she is professor and director of the Office of Nursing Research and Evaluation. She has brought attention to the need for the nursing profession and nursing faculty to prepare undergraduate and nurse practitioner students to provide high quality and sensitive care to people with disability.

The Professorship – established through a generous gift from Richard J. Kreider ’83 VSB and his wife, Marianne - supports a distinguished faculty member whose teaching and research significantly contribute to the health care of populations at high risk for chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The holder of the Kreider Professorship will enhance, expand and provide ongoing leadership and sustainability in the development of this critical component within nursing education.

“Dr. Smeltzer is an outstanding faculty member whose decades-long dedication to the health of people with disabilities and the education of nurses who care for them is reflected in her extensive research, teaching, and mentoring of the next generation,” notes Lesley A. Perry, PhD, RN, interim dean of the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, “She is the ultimate advocate for this population.”

The Kreider professorship and its focus on vulnerable populations provides a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of health-related issues that these populations experience. Although I will continue my focus on individuals with disabilities as an often-neglected population in discussions of health disparities, my goal is to promote research and education that address other vulnerable populations as well,” explains Dr. Smeltzer, a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the National League for Nursing’s Academy of Nursing Education.

For the last 30 years, Dr. Smeltzer has focused her research, education and service-related endeavors to addressing the health-related needs of people with disabilities and the education of health professionals to better care for people with disabilities—a vulnerable population that is often underserved and whose needs are frequently ignored.  Dr. Smeltzer has a consistent record of publication of her research in high-impact nursing and interdisciplinary journals.   She has presented her research at numerous national and international conferences and is a highly sought-after speaker on the topic of care for people with disabilities. Additionally, she has been a member of several national task forces devoted to improving the education of health care providers about health care of people with disabilities.  

Dr. Smeltzer’s scholarly efforts have included directing the Health Promotion for Women with Disabilities project which was supported with five years of funding from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, where College of Nursing faculty conducted studies and participated in educational programs for women with disabilities.  She was instrumental in securing a grant from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) to develop educational materials for nurse practitioner programs.  These materials, Caring for People with Disabilities:  The Nurse Practitioner Toolkit, were distributed to graduate nurse practitioner programs nationwide and have been widely used nationally.  She was active in integrating experiences with standardized patients with disabilities into the clinical simulation experiences for both undergraduate and nurse practitioner graduate students so that all undergraduate students, as well as nurse practitioner students, have had opportunities to interact with people with disabilities and learn how to communicate and care for them. This experience was evaluated highly by the students and attributed to increasing their comfort, communication skills and expertise in caring for patients with disabilities. The model has received national recognition.

Dr. Smeltzer led a team of College of Nursing faculty to obtain support from the National League for Nursing (NLN) to develop the Advancing Care Excellence.Disability (ACE.D) program to extend the Advancing Care Excellence series to include people with disabilities.  ACE.D is available free and online through the NLN website to any nursing faculty member interested in following Villanova’s example in addressing the health issues and nursing care needs of this vulnerable population.  She currently serves as a co-investigator for a research grant examining the health needs and barriers to perinatal care for women with mobility disabilities, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH.

Dr. Smeltzer has received national recognition for her work.  In 2016, she received the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Nurse.comGannett Foundation Lectureship Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Sustainability in Nursing Education.  Her work led to the College of Nursing’s receipt of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s 2016 Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award for the Standardized Patients with Disabilities program.

Among her other accomplishments, Dr. Smeltzer is a talented mentor and advisor to doctoral students and faculty.  She consistently includes other faculty and students in her research and is generous in sharing the publication spotlight with them.  She is a grant reviewer for NIH and other agencies and organizations, and reviews manuscripts for numerous nursing and other health-related journals.  She chairs the University’s institutional review board and serves on a variety of University and College committees and task forces.

Dr. Smeltzer earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree from St. Louis University, her MS from Texas Women’s University and her EdD from the University of Pennsylvania.