In Transition, with Dr. Marie Nolan

Sydnee Logan
By Sydnee Logan  | 
In Transition, with Dr. Marie Nolan

Getting COVID under control. Moving into a new, state-of-the-art building. Welcoming a new dean.

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is in transition—in more ways than one—with Marie Nolan, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN to lead the way. Executive vice dean since 2015, she has been with Johns Hopkins University and Medicine for 30 years and is serving as interim dean until a new dean is appointed.

We are in good shape: “Dean Patricia Davidson left us as a very strong school both in quality and financially. It also helps that we have an innovative and mission-driven community,” she says, and her encouraging presence empowers everyone to bring their best talents to the table.

Take COVID, for example. “It was a herculean effort for the academic leadership team to move courses, simulation activities, and programs online with just a few days’ notice.” she says. She oversaw the team, which led the transition from in person to virtual learning and back.

Dr. Nolan trusted her team to analyze problems as they presented and to solve them. “Faculty and staff were constantly innovating at a moment’s notice. No one ever called to say, ‘It’s impossible to do this.’ They just kept moving forward.”

“In COVID, no one ever called to say, ‘It’s impossible to do this.’  They just kept moving forward.

Thanks to MSN (Entry into Nursing) Program Director Dr. JoAnne Flagg, Associate Director Dr. Laura Lucas, and Dr. Deborah Baker, Senior Vice President for Nursing of the Johns Hopkins Health System and their creative problem solving, students were only out of clinical for a few weeks. “We are exceedingly grateful for Dr. Baker’s leadership that allowed our students to continue with their hospital clinical experiences throughout most of the pandemic when many schools of nursing ceased going to hospitals,” Dr. Nolan says.

What’s more, during those weeks out of clinical, simulation leaders Dr. Nancy Sullivan and Dr. Kristen Brown gathered a team of faculty members to create virtual clinical experiences so that students in the MSN and DNP programs would continue to advance in their programs. “The leadership that our students witnessed in the Johns Hopkins Health System and School of Nursing will remain with them for a lifetime,” she says.


What her days look like now

Since taking on the role in April, Dr. Nolan’s days are busier. “I meet with leadership teams of divisions across the school, with the faculty with whom I am teaching, and with program directors and staff about how we can support students to advance in our programs with special attention to any who are struggling,” she says.

She continues to conduct research with colleagues to advance the quality of palliative and end-of-life care.  Additionally, one of her most rewarding responsibilities is mentorship of PhD students, DNP students, and even some faculty within her research specialty. “From the beginning of my career as an oncology nurse, I noticed the suffering that occurs (among patients and families) in terminal illness when people don’t receive compassionate, supportive care at the end of life,” Dr. Nolan says. “People should be able to live their best life consistent with their values and goals until the end of life, and that is a common value across people and cultures.”

Working with students, faculty and staff at the school of nursing inspires her. “I learn so much from students, staff and faculty colleagues.  There are new technologies, new literature, new ethical approaches, and more.”


Ensuring the innovation Johns Hopkins is known for keeps pace

Much of Dr. Nolan’s new responsibilities are attending to issues core to the mission – our credentialing, budget, delivery of academic programs, and actions in the community as a force for good. But at Johns Hopkins, that also means keeping pace with the innovation the world expects of us.

“The best people and ideas won’t wait,” Dr. Nolan says. We need to continue to expand our growing programs of research, for example the newly created Center for Digital and Immersive Technologies that was first conceived by former dean Patricia Davidson. “We can’t put off initiatives until the next dean arrives because the most talented faculty, staff and students are ready to move forward now and we would lose our opportunity with them.” To this end, following the recommendation of the selection committee, Dr. Nolan recently appointed Dr. Vinciya Pandian as center director and Inaugural Assistant Dean of Immersive Learning and Digital Innovation.

What’s more, Dr. Nolan adds, “We are fortunate to have Dr. Cheryl Dennison Himmelfarb as Vice Dean for Research. Her leadership enabled faculty to move their research online when possible and back in person when safe, mirroring the transitions of our academic programs.”


In transition

This fall faculty and staff will begin to return to the School of Nursing to work together in person after more than a year of working together virtually. All look forward to enjoying the school’s recently completed addition with its many open spaces for collaborative work. With no news yet on our next dean, Dr. Nolan will preside over that transition and more.

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s mission guides her—and our people inspire her.

“Every person has been critical to our success and our ability to move forward,” she says. “I expect the best because that’s who we are.”


Read more:



Sydnee Logan, MA is the Sr. Social Media and Digital Content Specialist for Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She shares Hopkins Nurses with the world.

Stay Up-To-Date

Get updates on the latest stories, from hot topics, to faculty research, alumni profiles, and more.

Ways to subscribe