NHC Chair of Excellence in Nursing

Deborah LeeThe National HealthCare Corporation (NHC) Chair of Excellence in Nursing is an endowed professorship established through a major gift from NHC.  In collaboration with the School of Nursing and other segments of the university and NHC, the Chair influences and contributes to aspects of nursing education, practice, research and leadership in the State of Tennessee, particularly in the mid-state area.  Special emphasis is in the area of aging and older adults.

Dr. Deborah Lee

In January, 2019, Deborah Lee, PhD, RN, NBC-HWC, was selected as the NHC Chair of Excellence in Nursing.  Dr. Lee brings experience in a variety of health care settings and roles to her position as Chair.  Her initial clinical focus was neonatal nursing.  From her work with high-risk infants, she became interested in chronicity in infants and children and parental care-giving.  Her dissertation explored caring for technology-dependent infants in the home, for which she received a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Nursing Research. 

After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington School of Nursing in health care policy, she worked for the Washington State Department of Health on population-health issues for infants and children.  As a Public Health Nursing Consultant, she developed and implemented a statewide program to support child care providers to care for children with special needs.  This program involved numerous state organizations and stakeholders and included every county in the state.  Afterwards, she served as the Local Public Health Nurse Liaison at the Department working with local public health leaders throughout the state to facilitate program development and implementation, strengthen communication and relationships between the Department and local public health agencies, and was the lead consultant for development and implementation of policies related to public health nursing. 

She served as the Administrative Director of Clinical Education for a medical center in Seattle before moving to London, Ontario, Canada to work in the provincial health care system.   As a Planning and Integration Lead, she developed and managed project plans for health improvement, analyzed and identified gaps in the local health system, developed and supported implementation strategies to improve health system outcomes, facilitated community engagement activities and established collaborative partnerships across a geographic region.

For the past several years, her work has focused on supporting nurses’ self-care.  Dr. Lee is a National Board Certified-Health and Wellness Coach and serves as an instructor and mentor in the health coaching programs at Duke and Vanderbilt universities, including the Meharry-Vanderbilt Health Coaching Certificate Program, the first in the nation targeting first year medical students.  The 12-week program emphasizes the knowledge and skills necessary to provide health coaching for patients at each stage along the health spectrum, from wellness to those managing chronic illness and disease. 

Dr. Lee has developed programs combining health coaching and mindfulness practices to support stress-resilience in nurses and was selected to serve as an item-writer for the national certification exam for health and wellness coaches.  Her research interest is building stress resilience in nursing students through self-care activities.  Since 2017, she has provided an opportunity for second semester MTSU nursing students to receive health and wellness coaching using volunteer health coaches.  

During her career, she has served in various faculty and adjunct roles with universities throughout the country and in Canada, including Duke, the University of Washington in Seattle and Tacoma, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Western Ontario and MTSU, where she served as an adjunct prior to assuming her role as Chair.

Dr. Lee earned an Associate Degree in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Western Kentucky University.  She specialized in neonatal nursing during her master’s studies at Emory University.   She completed her graduate education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a PhD in Nursing.  

Her memberships and professional activities include Continuing Education Peer Reviewer for the Tennessee Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Leadership Health Care (an initiative of the Nashville Health Care Council that nurtures the talents of leaders) and the International Coaching Federation. 

Dr. Lee conceived of and leads the MTSU Positive Aging Consortium, bringing together faculty from across the university with interest, expertise and research in the area of aging and older adults.

Positive Aging