Newly Appointed Associate Dean Mary Lynn Davis-Ajami and Team Establish Vision and Goals for IU School of Nursing-Bloomington

By Rachel Leshinsky

As one of the newest members of Indiana University School of Nursing (IUSON), associate dean Mary Lynn Davis-Ajami, PhD, MBA, MS, FNP-C, RN, is adjusting to her new position on the Bloomington campus and her role in the community.

“I grew up in the Midwest, so working at Indiana University is kind of returning to my roots, a homecoming of sorts,” she said. “I’m enjoying the ambiance of the city and the campus.”

Dr. Davis-Ajami received her Diploma in Nursing from West Suburban Hospital School of Nursing. Upon graduation she worked briefly in med. surg., with more comprehensive times in PACU and cardiovascular step down units in hospitals on the North Shore of Chicago. After her husband obtained his graduate degree they moved to Evansville, IN, where she obtained her BSN from the University of Evansville. Upon graduating, she worked in intensive care units of various hospitals in Evansville, IN. She continued her education at the University of Southern Indiana, where she graduated as a family nurse practitioner from the second class of nursing master’s students.

Life detours took her away from the nursing profession for a time. Her work during this period in a fortune 500 finance firm enlightened her views on managing for performance and outcomes. Once her children were settled in college, Dr. Davis-Ajami decided to expand her knowledge and skill set in management. She began studying for her MBA at Wake Forest University while working as a nurse practitioner and manager of multiple outpatient clinics. The MBA experience confirmed what she learned earlier. “I noticed that corporate culture focused on outcomes, efficiency, and effectiveness,” she said. “I realized I could use my experience from that company in the health care arena to link data and core competency in order to move the vision of an organization forward.”

Some years later after receiving her PhD from The Ohio State University, Dr. Davis-Ajami worked as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland teaching in the Health Services Leadership and Management MSN track, and assistant professor and Nursing Administration and Leadership Master’s-level concentration coordinator at Virginia Commonwealth University before being named associate dean at IUSON in July 2017. Throughout her career as a health services researcher with a focus on health systems, utilization, reimbursement systems, and cost outcomes in adults with complex chronic disease, Dr. Davis-Ajami has always worked to bring teams together by identifying the right people for the right jobs.

“All my life I have been invested in helping individuals rise to their full potential. I like to help people find their spark in life and reach their highest ability,” she said.

Dr. Davis-Ajami’s approach to creating a vision for IUSON-Bloomington was to listen carefully to what key players at Indiana University and the School said about their hopes and goals for the health sciences field. She also took into consideration where the nursing profession is going, IUSON Dean Robin Newhouse’s vision, and the current climate at the School.
“I respect the leadership and entire IUSON team; it takes clear vision to get things accomplished,” said Dr. Davis-Ajami. “If you carefully navigate through and have centered principles, then you can come out on the other side with a solution.”

In the few short months Dr. Davis-Ajami has been with IUSON, her team has achieved several noteworthy accomplishments on the Bloomington campus, such as expanding clinical placements for 10 students at Community Hospital South and establishing the Second Degree Accelerated pathway to the BSN for 20 students to be admitted each fall, beginning in the fall of 2018. She and her team are working through the final approvals to introduce the Master’s degree in Nursing Education on the Bloomington campus.

Long-term goals include preparing the School for increased enrollment based on IU President Michael McRobbie’s charge to double enrollment on the Bloomington campus; elevating the research program; establishing an identity by leveraging the inherent strengths of the campus; and gaining a deeper, broader understanding of IUSON on a larger scope and scale.

“We’re in a growth/building mode and we are constructing our internal infrastructure with strategic hiring techniques while laying the foundation to apply for grants in the future,” said Dr. Davis-Ajami. “The team looks forward to the next phase in 2020 when we move to the Regional Academic Health Center.”

The Regional Academic Health Center will be an interdisciplinary complex where students in nursing, medicine, social work, and hearing/speech therapy can learn in state-of-the-art educational facilities and gain experiential learning at the to-be-relocated IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Nursing students will learn fundamentals in a new six-room simulation lab with ICU and standardized patient centers, multifunctional classrooms, and a 20-bed resource center skills lab.

Dr. Davis-Ajami says that it’s been fulfilling to bring people together and watch them take an organization to the next level. She’s enjoying growing her network of friends and colleagues, and she is excited to begin teaching next fall while giving more exposure to the School.

“We are ready to make the School more visible while continuing to represent our core values,” she said. “My goal is to have a waiting line out the door for people to work and study here.”