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Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies to step down in May

Cindy Munro, who has led the School of Nursing and Health Studies for six years, has announced she plans to leave at the end of the academic year.
Cindy Munro
Cindy Munro, who has led the School of Nursing and Health Studies since August 2017, announced she is stepping down as dean in May 2024.

Cindy Munro originally wanted to become a physician. 

But during her first semester in college, a class required her to volunteer at a community agency and Munro was matched with a women’s health clinic. Almost immediately, Munro said she was awestruck by the nursing staff. 

“The nurses and nurse practitioners were spectacular—so smart, so competent, so focused on understanding the lives of women they were caring for, and so supportive of their well-being—that I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. 

Munro quickly pivoted and became an accomplished nurse scientist. Since then, she has discovered tools to improve care for critically ill patients, discovered connections between oral health and disease prevention, and even developed a vaccine. 

She also became an expert in how to train the next generation of nurses and spent more than two decades as a nursing educator in Virginia and Tampa, Florida. Six years ago, Munro came to the University of Miami to lead its School of Nursing and Health Studies. And in that time, Munro has relished helping the school raise its research profile and paved the way for thousands of students to successfully enter the health care workforce. 

After a productive career, Munro is stepping down from her role at the end of the academic year in May and will take a year of sabbatical. 

“When I came together with faculty and staff, we developed a very ambitious strategic plan and we have made incredible progress on that,” said Munro. “I think this is a point in which we are ready to move forward again, and I am leaving at a time when the school is exceptionally strong. It’s on such an incredible trajectory that it is poised to become a national leader in a way that very few schools of nursing or health studies are able to achieve.” 

Munro’s determination is obvious to leaders across the University. 

“Dean Munro led the School of Nursing and Health Studies to new heights, and her exemplary leadership has been recognized among her peers and across the health care industry,” said University President Julio Frenk. “The result is that our communities are benefiting from graduates who are compassionate and committed leaders in their field.” 

During her time leading the school, Munro said its scores on the nurse licensing exam, called the NCLEX, have improved dramatically. Today, 98.5 percent of graduates from the school pass the first time they take the exam to become a registered nurse in the United States. On graduate licensing exams, there is a 95 percent pass rate, she added. 

Another area Munro hoped to build upon was research funding. True to her word, the school has been able to significantly increase its research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Munro said, and since 2021, it has become one of the top 25 nursing schools in the nation for NIH research funding. This year, she expects it will likely be in the top 20. 

She has also kept certain priorities as part of the curriculum. In Florida, which is ranked at the top of the nation for human trafficking cases, Munro has made it essential for graduate nursing students, as well as undergraduates, to know how to recognize and respond to human trafficking victims or suspected victims. In addition, the school aims to teach all of its students—which includes undergraduate health science and public health majors—strategies to level the playing field in health care across different demographic groups, to lessen the health disparities present across the United States. 

Willy Prado, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said Munro’s strong interest in keeping the social determinants of health a focus of the school has helped advance its research. 

“The school is nationally recognized as a leader in health disparities research, and Dean Munro has recruited really stellar faculty members that have truly elevated the research portfolio of the school,” said Prado, who is also a faculty member in the school. “Also, in addition to being a champion for her school, she is a great advocate for the entire University, which is such an important quality in a university leader.”

The school’s prowess in research and the success of its graduates have also helped the school raise its ranking in U.S. News and World Report, where it is now named No. 25 in the nation for its Master’s in Nursing program. It is also ranked No. 31 for the best Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. 

And at a time when nursing school enrollment across the country has declined, Munro said the school’s flexible degree programs have allowed it to keep attracting students. Their accelerated one-year BSN program—where undergraduates of any major can take an intensive year of classes to earn a bachelor’s in nursing—is extremely popular, Munro said. As a result, while other schools are noticing a dip in enrollment, the University’s numbers have remained steady.

Beyond her leadership, Munro has also managed to still practice her own research. She also serves on the advisory council for the National Institute of Nursing Research, a division of the NIH, and she is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Much of her work in the past few years has focused on preventing complications, like delirium, for adult patients on ventilators. In her latest project, Munro asked family members of critically ill patients to record themselves explaining things that have happened to the patient, such as “there is a tube down your throat to help you breathe.” When nurses played these recordings for the patients, the intervention helped improve the patient’s health and kept them calmer.

“It was really effective in reducing delirium, as opposed to the patients that did not get these recordings,” she said, adding that she hopes to publish that research in the spring.

Meanwhile, Prado will begin the search process to replace Munro. He is hopeful they will identify her replacement by the spring, so that Munro can help transition the new dean during her last few months at the University.