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USU Leaders Among American Academy of Nursing Honorees for Advancing Health Equity and Improving Care

The facade of the Uniformed Services University

By Sharon Holland


Three Federal health care leaders with ties to the Uniformed Services University will be honored by the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) for their outstanding contributions to improve health and health care. Public Health Service Rear Admiral Susan Orsega, Ms. Sheila Burke, and Dr.  Patrick DeLeon, will be lauded during the AAN annual conference occurring October 29-31, 2020.

Rear Adm. Susan Orsega

Rear Admiral Susan Orsega


Rear Adm. Orsega, an alumna of USU’s Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, will receive the AAN President’s Award, which recognizes an individual who has made extraordinary, lifelong contributions to improving the health of individuals, families, or communities. According to the AAN, it is their highest individual achievement award and is only presented when someone has been identified as being truly worthy of the honor.  

“[Rear Adm. Orsega’s] distinguished career epitomizes public service in the pursuit of global health where the wellness of individuals and communities is paramount. COVID-19 is not the only public health crisis Rear Adm. Orsega has faced. She has extensive experience in responding to public health emergencies ranging from the HIV/AIDS epidemic to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to the Ebola outbreak, as well as, 14 other national and international disaster and humanitarian deployments over the course of three decades. Her leadership, especially in directing the on-the-ground coordination of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps’ response during the coronavirus pandemic, is admirable,” according to a release from the AAN.  


Ms. Sheila Burke

Ms. Sheila Burke


Ms. Burke is a member of USU’s Board of Regents.  She was presented with the AAN’s Health Care Leader Award for her impact in shaping health policy.  According to the release, “The award is presented to an influential national leader dedicated to improving the health of the nation through contributions to organizational excellence. Ms. Burke currently serves as Chair of the Baker Donaldson Government Relations and Public Policy Group and as faculty at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Throughout her career, Ms. Burke has served in a variety of prominent leadership roles, including as Chief of Staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Deputy Staff Director of the Senate Finance Committee, Secretary of the Senate, and Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Smithsonian Institution. Ms. Burke leveraged her expertise to help advance key legislative issues related to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Maternal and Child Health programs. Over the course of her career, her dedication to placing the patient first has benefited countless lives, families, and communities, inspiring a generation of nurses to pursue policy careers.”

Dr. Patrick DeLeon

Dr. Patrick DeLeon


USU GSN and Medical and Clinical Psychology department faculty member, Dr. Patrick DeLeon, will receive the AAN’s Lifetime Legacy Award.  DeLeon was selected for the honor based on his lifetime dedication to advocating for positive health system changes. “Dr. DeLeon began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Hawaii before working at the Hawaii Department of Mental Health. He then transitioned to policy work, first as an intern for Senator Daniel Inouye and then after 40 years of service, retired as his Chief of Staff. During his tenure with Senator Inouye, Dr. DeLeon was a tireless advocate for improving care for children and families, advancing changes for mental health services, and ensuring that healthcare professionals could practice to the full extent of their education. He helped to spearhead countless legislation to support nurses, most significantly, the establishment of the National Center for Nursing Research, and later the National Institute of Nursing Research within the National Institutes of Health. Dr. DeLeon is a strong supporter of future health policy scholars as demonstrated through his roles at the Uniformed Services University, Vanderbilt University, George Washington University, and the University of Hawaii in Hilo and Manoa,” the AAN release noted.

“We are excited and proud of the achievements and recognition so well deserved by these individuals. It is an honor and a privilege to have each of them associated with the Daniel K. Inoye Graduate School of Nursing and with USU. They are shining role models for our faculty, staff and the future generations of nurses that we educate,” said Dr. Carol Romano, dean of the Graduate School of Nursing.