New Faces of UAMS Leadership – Patricia Cowan Ph.D., R.N., College of Nursing Dean

Lee Hogan

Patricia Cowan- Nutsing Dean

Her extensive and varied experience in all areas of nursing promises to serve Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., R.N., well as the new dean of the UAMS College of Nursing. 

During this time of large scale change in health care, Cowan’s experience in academics, clinical practice and research will help the college play a leading role as UAMS adapts its processes and educational approach to meet the

Patricia Cowan - Nursing Dean

Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., R.N.,
Ph.D., R.N., College of Nursing Dean


Cowan began at UAMS on Nov. 9, succeeding Lorraine Frazier, who left UAMS in January 2015. Previously, Cowan was with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis where she served as professor and associate dean for academic and student affairs.

“Our College of Nursing is the most comprehensive nursing college in Arkansas and the only one with a research doctoral program,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “Dr. Cowan’s appointment affirms our continued commitment to preparing nurses to deliver on the UAMS mission of health and health improvement in Arkansas.”

As Arkansas continues to experience a shortage of health care professionals, the UAMS College of Nursing is stepping up its efforts to provide more trained graduates who can help reach the underserved.

“While the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to more Americans, the shortage of health care professionals, including nurse practitioners, may limit accessibility to care,” said Cowan. “The UAMS College of Nursing is committed to educating highly qualified nurses to lead system improvements and provide exemplary care.”

Nursing must be well-prepared to address the needs of diverse patients with complex chronic health problems, many of whom have limited resources, she said.

“As a college, we must continuously evaluate our nursing programs and assure that the education and training of our students prepares them to meet the current and future needs of all Americans.”

Cowan has had an interest in nursing for most of her life.

“I saw nurses able to help during crises, while remaining calm,” said Cowan. “A nurse is one of the most trusted health care professions to this day. As nurses we have the privilege and responsibility to provide the best care possible.”

It was an influential high school counselor that encouraged Cowan to pursue nursing in college at the University of Missouri. She was the first in her family to graduate from college.

Ultimately, that led to a master’s from the University of Kansas and a doctorate from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Jean McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N., served as interim dean of the UAMS College of Nursing until Cowan’s arrival in addition to being associate dean for research and director of the doctoral program.

“Dr. Cowan comes with a very strong education background and is able to appreciate the complexities of a college this size and the variety of programs we have to offer,” said McSweeney, a nationally recognized researcher and educator.

Cowan said she was attracted to UAMS because of the outstanding faculty, opportunities for interprofessional practice and research, and the programs offered, especially the research-focused Ph.D. program and the recently implemented Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program.

“The faculty here has realized the D.N.P. program has an essential role in improving the quality of care,” said Cowan.

Cowan is enthusiastic about interprofessional education and practice opportunities at UAMS in which nurses, doctors and other providers learn to work together to improve communication and care coordination, with the goal of improving patient outcomes.

Additionally, the patient-centered medical home, in which health care teams including nurses help coordinate a patient’s care, is an important new facet of health care. These educational and practice models have the potential to provide higher quality care at lower costs to patients in Arkansas.

She also appreciates the college’s emphasis toward diversity in the health care workforce and reaching out to rural communities with efforts such as the Growing Our Own in the Delta (GOOD) Scholars Program, which supports Master of Nursing Sciences (MNSc) students from underrepresented backgrounds, particularly in the Arkansas Delta.

“Finding more ways to connect with rural areas is an important aspect of building trust throughout the state

and positively impacting health care across Arkansas,” she said.

Cowan sees her role as empowering faculty, promoting effective teamwork, and fostering innovations in research, practice and education.

“A dean’s success is directly tied to providing opportunities for faculty to flourish,” she said. “That’s made possible by providing connections across the campus and community, and providing resources for development.”

She is working to quickly acclimate to UAMS and the health care community in Arkansas.

“Collectively we’ll create the vision of where we

want the College of Nursing to go.”