Nursing Professor and Administrator Earns Prestigious Fulbright Honor

By Tom McLaughlin

Simply put, explains Marie O’Toole, being a nurse means being able to make a tangible difference in people’s lives, whether it is bedside in a hospital or a home, or within a larger context, such as a population or community.

“As the largest group of health-care professionals, we really do make a difference,” says O’Toole, senior associate dean of academic and faculty affairs and a professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden.

In fact, the Rutgers–Camden scholar so believes in the vital role that she serves, she became a nursing educator, in order to share her passion and joy with others aspiring to her discipline.

“So many times, a new student has a stereotypical image of nursing when they enter a program,” says the Haddon Heights resident. “I really enjoy disrupting that stereotype and ensuring that students understand the scope of nursing practice and the unlimited opportunities they have to make a difference.”

O’Toole’s mentoring influence will continue to make an impact in the United States and beyond, as she has been selected for a Fulbright Specialist grant in education at Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan. In March 2017, she will work with faculty there to explore a joint doctoral program with the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden.

O’Toole is now one of two Rutgers University–Camden scholars who have been selected as Fulbright Scholars for the 2016-2017 academic year, joining the ranks of a distinguished cadre of scholars and professionals serving as leaders in their respective disciplines at host institutions throughout the world. John Broussard, an associate professor of finance at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden, also earned a Fulbright earlier this year.

“I am deeply honored to be selected as a Fulbright Scholar,” says O’Toole. “I have been involved in many international outreach programs over the years, but there is definitely a unique component to providing global outreach as a Fulbright Specialist. The exchange of ideas and concepts with colleagues in other parts of the world is critical to advancing a global community of scientists.”

The grant recognizes O’Toole’s celebrated history of developing and implementing global nurse education programs with partners in other countries. In the mid-1990s, she worked with the nonprofit organization Health Volunteers Overseas on a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to develop baccalaureate nursing education in Vietnam.

In 2007, O’Toole served as the principal investigator for a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education to develop programs with Semmelweis University in Hungary, and Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland. The project, jointly administered and funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, created the first undergraduate, dual-degree program in nursing addressing the growing need for international recognition of nursing education to facilitate efficient emigration of nurses.

Despite her prodigious, global experience, O’Toole maintains that her Fulbright is just as much a reflection of the growing international reputation of the Rutgers–Camden nursing school, which is deeply invested in global initiatives. For instance, she notes, a delegation from Semmelweis University recently spent a week at Rutgers–Camden implementing student and faculty exchanges for the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme for Higher Education.

“I can’t think of a greater institution than Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden to work with partnering universities in other countries,” says O’Toole. “Our spirit of collaboration, advancement of nursing science, and expanding learning opportunities for our students ensures success for projects such as this. In addition, our study abroad programs, as well as civic engagement initiatives in our local community, prepare our students to be global citizens. That is critically important in nursing education.”

A registered nurse in New Jersey and New York, O’Toole began her career serving as a staff nurse, and subsequently assistant head nurse and a staff development instructor, at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s.

She then served as a nursing instructor at Rutgers–Camden, beginning what would prove to be an illustrious academic career spanning more than 35 years at several notable institutions. Prior to her current position, O’Toole most recently served as the associate dean for the Stratford campus for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Nursing – now a part of the Rutgers University system – from 2010 to 2014.

As another indicator of her leadership in the nursing profession, O’Toole has served as editor of Mosby’s Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Professions – the definitive health professions dictionary – for the past 20 years.

Back to her Rutgers–Camden roots, O’Toole says that she continues to be amazed at the balance between research, teaching, and service that is a hallmark of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden program.

“I am proud to be a part of a growing, thriving academic community that strives to make a difference in its home city of Camden and also is committed to scholarship that distinguishes it on an international level,” she says.

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