Nursing School Dean: A Life of Listening and Caring

San Francisco Chronicle Profiles David Vlahov

By Elizabeth Fernandez

David Vlahov, PhD, RN

David Vlahov, PhD, RN

David Vlahov, PhD, RN, the first male dean of the School of Nursing, was profiled in a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

An epidemiologist who specializes in partnering with community organizations to improve urban health, Vlahov joined UCSF last April. He leads one of the nation’s top-ranked nursing schools, according to the 2012 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools’’ published by US News & World Report.

In the Chronicle story, Vlahov — an expert in infectious diseases, substance abuse and mental health — highlighted his goals for the school, including bringing more men into the nursing profession. About 7 percent of nurses currently are men — Vlahov would like to raise the rate to at least 15 percent.

“When I started in nursing, the number (of men in the profession) was at 2 percent,’’ Vlahov said in the story. “What I say to men is that they are missing out on a great profession. And, in this economy, nursing is a profession where there is always a job for you.’’

Vlahov is among a small handful of male deans of nursing schools in the U.S.

The Chronicle story describes Vlahov’s lifetime interest in nursing, starting when he was a teenage volunteer providing first aid at a Boy Scout camp in Virginia. For Vlahov, nursing was appealing because of the profession’s focus on helping others, saving lives and maintaining a connection to patients. “The patient always tells you the diagnosis,’’ he said. “You just have to listen.’’

The newspaper profile traces his career, including his work at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Vlahov oversees a $65 million annual budget and hundreds of faculty and support staff at the UCSF School of Nursing, where 565 students are enrolled in the pre-license, master’s specialties, and doctoral programs. 

Last year, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Vlahov has served as the senior vice president of research and director of the Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies at the New York Academy of Medicine. He is the founder and first president of the International Society for Urban Health, and is an expert consultant to the World Health Organization’s Urban Health Center in Kobe, Japan. He is the author of three books and more than 600 scholarly papers.

“I liked the idea of helping people, of saving lives and having that intense person contact,’’ Vlahov said in the story. “I went from the bedside to the community to the city to the clinic, and now I’m at 30,000 feet, looking at the whole terrain of nursing, where you can impact a much broader area.’’

Read more of the Chronicle story on SFGate