Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare to honor nursing profession advocates

Envisioning a simple idea to “care for those who care for us,” Greenwich couple Barbara and Donald Jonas 10 years ago sold a portion of their noted art collection to establish a first-of-its-kind nursing philanthropy. That humble idea has blossomed to become the nation’s leading philanthropic funder of graduate nursing education.

On March 18, the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare will host 300 supporters from the philanthropic, business and nursing communities as it celebrates the Center’s achievements — including preparing 1,000 nurse faculty and clinical leaders — and as it honors others who have helped to have enhance and advance the nursing profession through their professional and charitable endeavors. More than 40 of the nation’s top nursing deans and 20 Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholars will also attend.

Awards will honor an individual and corporate entity making significant contributions to the nursing field, namely Johnson & Johnson, for its Campaign for Nursing’s Future and Retired Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, RN, who in 2011 became the first woman and first nurse to be named U.S. Army Surgeon General.

“We could not have imagined in 2006 the impact the Jonas Center would have on nursing, nor could we conceive the dramatic shifts that have taken place in America’s healthcare system – a transformation with nurses at the core as more patients have access to care,” said Donald Jonas, a former retailing executive and the Center’s co-founder with Barbara, his wife.

“Our passion for supporting nurses in this new era of healthcare remains steadfast– at some point in all our lives we depend on nurses, and they deserve more support. We’re proud to play a continuing role in bringing together advocates in the philanthropic and business communities to empower nurses in this new landscape.”

The Rainbow Room celebratory atmosphere will be accentuated by a performance from Broadway musical favorite and four-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara and by the iconic Empire State Building, which will be lit in the colors of the Jonas Center.

A Bold Commitment to Graduate Nursing Education

In its first decade, the Jonas Center has evolved from a New York City-focused funder to a national organization in partnership with leading schools of nursing in all 50 states. The Jonas Center’s commitment to graduate nursing has already reached nearly $25 million in grants to Jonas Scholars, nurses pursing PhDs and DNPs. Its recent announcement of an $11.1 million, ten-year grant to Columbia University represents an unprecedented philanthropic commitment to nursing education through 2028. It will be housed at Columbia beginning in 2017, and the Jonas Center will continue its relationships with nursing schools across the U.S.

All of this grew from Barbara and Donald Jonas’ interest in deepening their existing philanthropy to become involved with a field that was underserved but held considerable potential for major societal impact. In 2005, the couple worked with Christie’s and the Jewish Communal Fund to auction a portion of their noted collection of postwar artworks. The sale yielded $44.2 million, with which they created the Barbara and Donald Jonas Family Fund.

Together, the Jonases explored a number of areas where philanthropy could make the most difference. “We recognized nursing as an overlooked profession,” said Donald. “Championing nurses was considered an ‘underdog’ cause – and we love underdogs.”

Today, despite major advances, the U.S. faces a dire nursing shortage: nearly two-thirds of registered nurses over age 54 say they are considering retirement[1], while tens of thousands of applicants continue to be turned away by nursing schools that lack appropriate faculty.[2]

According to Darlene Curley, MS, RN, CEO of the Jonas Family Fund who has led the Jonas Center as Executive Director since 2009, the nation has reached a tipping point. “A surge of aging baby boomers combined with the complexities of a healthcare system in flux and a shortage of health professionals makes the mission of the Jonas Center all the more critical. We must ensure that nurses are amply prepared – with advanced education and support for their work – to sit at the policy table, be partners in transforming healthcare and teach the next generation of nurses.”

Curley underscored the Jonas Center’s commitment to strengthening the nation’s supply of doctorally-prepared nursing faculty and advance practice clinicians. “We will continue to advocate for this as one of the highest priorities in healthcare.”

Fostering the Future of Nursing

At its 10-year mark, the Jonas Center is most enthusiastic about future possibilities for advancing the nursing profession and about the caliber of its Scholars and the impact they are making on patient care.

For example, Dyan Summers, NP-C, MPH, CTM, a nurse practitioner and Jonas Scholar at Columbia University, wrote the first scientific case study about Zika virus imported by an American recreational traveler, a patient she treated in 2013. Summers’ story is an example of the vital work achieved by nurses, the frontlines of healthcare in America and across the globe and a testament to the Jonas Scholars Program, which funded her seminal research.

“However our system continues to change, nurses will remain the face of our experience in good and poor health,” added Barbara Jonas. “We are proud to be a part of this important work. The most enduring way of improving the health experience is by supporting and advancing the nurses entrusted with our care.”

The 10th Anniversary Gala is supported by Johnson & Johnson, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation,Nurse.com, and Payden & Rygel Investment Management, among others (see full sponsor list).

The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, established in 2006 by Barbara and Donald Jonas, is dedicated to improving healthcare by advancing nursing scholarship, leadership and innovation. Its two main programs are the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program, which aims to address the dire shortage of nursing faculty by preparing nurses with doctoral degrees to step into this critical role, and the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program, which seeks to improve the health of veterans by supporting doctoral-level nursing candidates committed to advancing veterans’ healthcare. In 2016, the Jonas Center will achieve its goal to prepare 1,000 nurse faculty and clinical leaders nationwide.

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