Betty Pierce Dennis Returns as Nursing Department Chair

Dr. Betty Pierce Dennis, who chaired the Nursing Department at North Carolina Central University from 1999 to 2004, has returned to chair the department once again as it heads into a period of significant expansion in its new, state-of-the-art teaching facility.

Before her return to NCCU, Dennis was a professor of nursing and dean of the Division of Nursing at Dillard University in New Orleans. She was also the director and a professor at the Minority Health and Health Disparities Center, a collaboration between Dillard and Louisiana State University funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dennis assumed leadership of the department at NCCU as it has moved this month into its new building. The $25 million, 69,000-square-foot facility includes classrooms, a 200-seat auditorium, skill labs with advanced simulation technology and facilities for expanded student services.

Although the new building is welcome, Dennis said, she plans to focus on motivating faculty and students. “Good facilities are great — they make your life easier,” she said, “but the real challenge is working with people.” The new building will pave the way for enrollment growth in the nursing program, she said, with a goal of elevating the status of the department to a School of Nursing. Such a step requires the approval of the UNC Board of Governors, and the pace of growth will depend on faculty and clinical resources and budgetary considerations, she said.

Dennis earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from N.C. A&T State University, a Master of Science in medical–surgical administration from Emory University and a Doctor of Public Health from UNC–Chapel Hill. Before she led the NCCU nursing program from 1999 to 2004, she held associate professorships at both NCCU and UNC – Charlotte. She is an Army veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, where she attained the rank of captain. She also has extensive international experience, as a teacher in Moshi, Tanzania, at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre School of Nursing, and as a consultant and staff member at the Ithusheng Community Health Centre in Tzaneen, South Africa. Working with the International Council of Nurses, she contributed to the development of a nursing documentation tool for international use.

She has written extensively for academic publications. Her research interests are primarily in community-based interventions supported by participatory models, global health issues affected by nursing education and nursing care, and the ethics of health care and health care delivery.