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Dr. Melissa O'Connor accepted to the inaugural cohort of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators

Female Nurse Researcher, Dr. Melissa O'Connor

Three-year fellowship provides scientists funds to design new solutions to advance health


July 6, 2020 – Melissa O’Connor, PhD, MBA, RN, FGSA of Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing is one of 11 nurse scientists accepted to the inaugural cohort of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators. She is associate professor and director of the Gerontology Interest Group at the College. This new fellowship program, funded by a five-year, $37.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, recognizes early- to mid-career nursing scholars and innovators with a high potential to accelerate leadership in nursing research, practice, education, policy and entrepreneurship.


“It is fitting that Dr. O’Connor has been selected as an inaugural Moore fellow for nurse leaders and innovators. We are so proud of our talented colleague who is - as a scientist, educator, creative thinker and leader- a fierce advocate for advancing the care of vulnerable older adults in the home. Her work will have large scale, national impact,” explains Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean of the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova University. 

As part of the three-year fellowship program, fellows receive $450,000 to conduct an innovative project or study with the potential to address a gap in knowledge, meet a vital need, alter care delivery or design a new solution to advance health.

The “baby boomer” generation will arrive at age 65 by 2034, the first time in United States history that older adults will outnumber children 17 years or under. Such demographic shifts are occurring worldwide and will require innovative, cost-effective, evidence-based, and interprofessional approaches to meet the unprecedented demands of this growing population. O’Connor’s project focuses on the health outcomes of vulnerable older adults receiving home health care. She seeks to develop and test evidence-based interventions in home health to ensure vulnerable older adults receive the care they need to improve outcomes. Her project with the fellowship program, Home Health Discharge Decision Support (HEADS-UP), is focused on creating a clinical decision support system to determine readiness for discharge to support home health clinicians as they make the critical decision to discharge vulnerable older adults from services.

“We are excited to see what our nurse leader fellows, including Dr. O’Connor, accomplish during this fellowship and beyond,” said Dean Stephen J. Cavanagh. “Our goal is to build and develop the next cadre of nurse leaders who can bring about change and innovation by networking and disseminating their knowledge across the nation.”

In addition to the project, the fellowship program features a hybrid online and classroom curriculum designed and taught in partnership with the UC Davis Graduate School of Management to enhance leadership and innovation capacity, strengthen strategic thinking and collaborative skills, expand professional networks, develop entrepreneurial skills, and propel innovative ideas to fruition. A mentor selected by the fellow and an additional mentor provided by the national program office round out the educational experience.  

“We’re delighted to provide fellows with a unique learning opportunity to fully understand their roles as leaders and how they can shape and influence health systems to deliver on the promise for better patient experiences and outcomes,” said Heather M. Young, professor, as well as dean emerita of the school, who now serves as national program director for the fellowship. “We expect this next generation of nursing leaders to have a widespread impact not only in their own communities but nationwide.”

The fellowship program is made possible by Betty Irene Moore’s passion to advance nursing with the goal of better outcomes for individuals, families and communities. The foundation seeks to prepare nurses as collaborative leaders with the skills and confidence to inspire others, enact change and challenge the status quo. With the creation of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators, the foundation supports nurse leaders who take ideas to scale that advance high-quality, high-value care and optimal health outcomes.