The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth has named Cindy Weston, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, as the founding dean of its new College of Nursing.
After a nationwide search, Weston was selected to lead the strategic planning, recruitment of personnel and development of partnerships for the college, which was approved by the UNT System Board of Regents at its February meeting.
Weston will begin as dean of the College of Nursing on July 1. She and other HSC leaders will continue the work underway to engage with regional stakeholders via listening sessions to better understand the unique regional workforce opportunities and needs. This will be critical for the college to determine the exact degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, the college will pursue. The college plans to enroll its first students in fall 2024.
Weston is joining the HSC family from her role as associate dean for clinical and outreach affairs and associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Nursing. She has been a co-recipient of more than $20 million in funding to implement nurse-managed care delivery models, innovative simulation, integrated behavioral health care models and improving health outcomes in vulnerable populations. Her research focused on cardiovascular disease, health and wellness, innovative pedagogy in family nurse practitioner curriculum, access to health care in vulnerable populations, patient safety and interprofessional education.
“Among a slate of impressive candidates, Dr. Weston stood out,” said Dr. Charles Taylor, HSC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “As the leader of one of the state’s most accomplished nursing programs at Texas A&M University, she brings a wealth of experience in developing curriculum rooted in real-world experience, prioritizing student success and driving innovation. HSC’s College of Nursing could not be in better hands. She will be a great leader to establish a remarkable, premier college at HSC.”
The UNT System Board of Regents voted to approve the creation of the College of Nursing with the goal of addressing the statewide nursing shortage.
A Nurse Journal study found that nurses make up the largest segment of the health care workforce, and the profession has faced ongoing shortages for the past several years because of the ever-increasing demand for nursing skills and services. Texas has the second-fewest nurses per capita in the U.S., and regional nursing schools have been unable to address the demand, turning away approximately 30,000 qualified applicants during the past two years because of a lack of room in nursing programs.
Weston began her nursing career at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital/Texas Heart Institute caring for infants, children and adults after cardiac surgery and transplantation. She was appointed the Betty Baker Distinguished Professor in Cardiovascular Nursing at Stephen F. Austin State University in 1996.
A longtime registered nurse and nurse practitioner in Texas, Weston also serves as president of Texas Nurse Practitioners, an organization she has been a member of since 2000. Other professional memberships include the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, International Association for Clinical Simulation in Nursing and more. She was recently selected as a fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Weston received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The University of Texas Medical Branch, her Master of Science in Nursing from UT Health Houston and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from UT Health San Antonio.
“At a time that Texas and the nation are facing a critical nursing shortage, I am humbled and honored to join the HSC family to launch a college of nursing, which will produce professional nurse leaders equipped to address complex health issues and create healthier communities,” Weston said. “This is an exciting opportunity to design a new college of nursing aligned with HSC’s values and culture of excellence.”
Creation of the College of Nursing is an important endeavor for HSC and the state of Texas. In addition, HSC’s president, Sylvia Trent-Adams has a background in nursing. Prior to joining the U.S. Public Health Service, Trent-Adams was a nurse officer in the U.S. Army and a research nurse at the University of Maryland.
“History will show that when residents of our great state were in need, HSC stepped up to fill a crucial gap,” Trent-Adams said. “Dr. Weston is exactly the type of dynamic leader the state needs to steer this transformative institution. She has meaningful experience in both clinical and academic settings, and I look forward to witnessing firsthand the impact that experience will have on our community.”