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School of Health Sciences Dean Credits Parents, Upbringing with Sparking Interest in Healthcare
When she was in college, Summer McGee, Ph.D. knew she wanted to make her mark addressing critical issues in healthcare. Today she is a national expert in health policy, bioethics, and healthcare management.
October 10, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
As an undergraduate student at Indiana University, Summer McGee, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health Sciences, began her college career as a premed major in IU's honors college. While she was passionate about healthcare, she didn't envision herself as a frontline healthcare provider. Instead, she gravitated toward policy and ethical issues. Since Indiana didn't offer such a major, she created her own, becoming the school's first bioethics major while double majoring in philosophy.
Dr. McGee's interests in healthcare and teaching, she says, are rooted in her midwestern upbringing. Growing up in a small, rural farming community in northwest Indiana, she looked up to her mother, a nurse practitioner, and her father, a teacher for more than 40 years.
"I think it was natural that I wanted to be an academic focused on teaching, but specifically, in the health sciences area," said Dr. McGee, whose three older siblings also work in education.
"Creating the School of Health Sciences has been a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-career opportunity to build an academic unit and a team of faculty and staff from scratch."Summer McGee, Ph.D.
Opportunity to Do Great Things
After graduating from Indiana, Dr. McGee was offered a Fulbright fellowship. She declined it in favor of attending the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health to pursue a Ph.D. in bioethics and health policy. Soon after completing her degree, she started her career as a professor.
After serving as a faculty member at several schools, including the University of Kansas and Loyola University Chicago, Dr. McGee moved to Berlin, Germany. It was while she was living abroad that she learned of an opportunity at the University of New Haven.
"There's a six-hour time difference between Connecticut and Berlin, and I think I did my faculty interview at 2 o'clock in the morning," she said. "When I arrived at the University of New Haven from Germany, and I immediately got the sense that there was a lot of opportunity here to grow and to do great things."
The joy of receiving an invitation in the fall of 2013 to join the University's faculty, unfortunately, was quickly overshadowed by a more pressing concern. The same week, Dr. McGee's mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.
"As my mom's only child, I gave serious consideration to passing on the job offer to stay and take care of my mother. She told me, 'No, you should take the job. I have a feeling this is the right place for you.' As usual, she was right," said Dr. McGee.
Dr. McGee's mother passed away in April 2018. Fortunately, she was able to witness much of what Dr. McGee accomplished at the University.
"My mother was in hospice. I was with her when I learned we would create the School of Health Sciences," said Dr. McGee. "She died two days later, and the creation of the School was announced the very next day. It was a surreal time. I am committed to honoring my mother's memory by advancing healthcare education for nurses and all health professionals."
A year after arriving at the University, Dr. McGee was joined on the faculty by her husband, Glenn McGee, Ph.D., who is now deputy provost. Two of their three children have attended the University. "We've been fortunate to find a home here and a place where we can all grow and thrive," says Dr. McGee.
What many people don't know about Dr. McGee is that she is an avid fan of sports, especially college football, volleyball and softball. She decided to forgo the opportunity to play Division I softball in college to focus on academics. She still enjoys staying active, whether by walking on the treadmill desk in her office or playing on her ChargerRec faculty and staff volleyball team. The McGees also have a shared passion for pinball and have traveled the country participating in tournaments.
"Whether it's softball, pinball, or running on my Peloton Tread, I'm a competitor. I've always thrived off of competition, and I like to swing for the fences. There's nothing better than being part of a team and helping to lead my teammates to victory."
One of her biggest professional wins was the launch last year of the University's School of Health Sciences. The School has more than 50 full-time and part-time faculty members, more than 450 students, and has been recognized by the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce for its leadership in preparing healthcare professionals for the 21st century.
"Creating the School of Health Sciences has been a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-career opportunity to build an academic unit and a team of faculty and staff from scratch," says Dr. McGee, who has been cited as one of the top 50 healthcare management professors in the country. "It's been a phenomenal experience. I love finding and securing the resources to support my faculty, building new programs, reaching a new population of students, and engaging with the healthcare community."
Planning to add 10 new programs over the next 10 years, the School of Health Sciences continues to evolve to meet the needs of the ever-changing healthcare field. Technology and a focus on macro-level issues impacting health are just some of the factors impacting the healthcare industry, and Dr. McGee is making sure that graduates have the skillsets that will enable them to succeed.
"The School of Health Sciences is rapidly changing, and it will continue to change," she said. "We are focused on giving students many options when it comes to what they can do with their career in healthcare. I want students to find what they are passionate about. I hope they pursue their true passion – not what they think they are supposed to do."