Yale's Dorothy Sexton,Creator of Nation's First Medical-Surgical Nursing Program, Retires After 27 Year

Dorothy Sexton, creator of the Yale School of Nursing's (YSN) Medical-Surgical Nursing Program and leader in the development of the school's doctoral program, will retire in May after 27 years.

Dorothy Sexton, creator of the Yale School of Nursing’s (YSN) Medical-Surgical Nursing Program and leader in the development of the school’s doctoral program, will retire in May after 27 years.

Sexton is known as an exemplary mentor and an accomplished author.

“Dorothy Sexton works in service to high quality educational programs and in support of those who teach,” said YSN Dean Catherine Lynch Gilliss. She is a teacher’s teacher. Although her contributions will be greatly missed, she leaves behind the legacy of a cadre of excellent teachers whom she has mentored.”

Celebrations in honor of Sexton will be held May 4 from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at YSN, 100 Church Street South. The celebrations will include presentations by former students and remarks by the three deans of YSN under whom she worked. A retirement dinner with colleagues, friends and former students from around the country will follow.

Yale School of Nursing has created the Dorothy Sexton Scholarship Fund, the first such scholarship honoring a YSN faculty member. Income from the scholarship will benefit nursing students with preference given to students in medical-surgical nursing.

Sexton began her Yale career in 1974 after conducting research studies on how families cope with chronic illness, particularly pulmonary disease. Her research role evolved with a greater emphasis on mentoring others as they embarked on their own research studies.

When she joined the YSN faculty, she immediately created a curriculum in medical-surgical nursing for the incoming class in the new masters program for college graduates with no prior nursing experience. Now known as the Graduate Entry Pre-Specialty in Nursing (GEPN), this program was the first of its kind in the country and has been extensively duplicated by other universities. It is also the most popular route for entry into YSN. It produces nurse practitioners, midwives and clinical nurse specialists.

In 1975, Sexton developed YSN’s Medical-Surgical Nursing Program. “It did not exist, so I created it!” she said. She touts her main success there as “having an eye for hiring the best faculty. They had to love clinical practice. I could always teach people to teach and teach them to write, but I could not teach them how to have a commitment and love for the clinical aspect.” Sexton also authored many training grants that brought in federal funds to help the school expand its offerings. She prepared the grant application that allowed YSN to launch its doctoral program in 1994.

Sexton published in such prestigious journals as Nursing Research, Image, Nursing Outlook, Research in Nursing and Health, Western Journal of Nursing Research, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nursing Clinics of North America. She is best known for prodding her students to publish their own work and for providing an enormous amount of editing assistance to novice scholars.

Sexton won many honors in her career. She said her most cherished is The Annie Goodrich Award, given by YSN students to the most outstanding teacher on faculty. Sexton is a member of the American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International, Eastern Nursing Research Society and the American Thoracic Society.

A graduate of the Hospital of Saint Raphael School of Nursing, Sexton earned her bachelor’s degree at Boston College and her master’s and doctorate degrees from Boston University. She taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Boston University before coming to Yale. She was recruited by YSN for her experience in teaching students who were new to the profession. She was granted tenure in 1984.

A passionate advocate for her profession, Sexton intends to continue writing and encouraging her former students to publish their work.

For more information about the Dorothy Sexton Scholarship Fund, contact Yale School of Nursing at 203-785-7920.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222