As an alumnus from the first cohort of the Hartford-funded Building Academic Geriatric Nursing  Capacity (BAGNC) gerontological nursing predoctoral Scholars and Claire M. Fagin postdoctoral Fellows, it is with much pride and humility that I reflect back on the BAGNC program over the last 10 years. I am proud to be among those who have been selected to participate in the program, and also humbled to be a part of such a distinguished group.

Over the past 10 years, the BAGNC program has supported over 200 Scholars and Fellows with diverse backgrounds and interests, including acute, long-term, palliative, and end of life care as well as policy. One thing that is common among the Scholars and Fellows is a commitment to improving care for older adults through research and education.

The BAGNC program has been a true investment. It provided necessary financial support for Scholars and Fellows to complete their doctoral and postdoctoral education and research. However, the benefit was more than monetary. The program has provided transformational experiences and opportunities. A keystone of the BAGNC program has been a commitment to the leadership development and success of the Scholars and Fellows.

The Annual BAGNC Leadership Conference is a primary resource for leadership development. The Conference is geared toward current Scholars and Fellows and their mentors, but it is also open to BAGNC alumni.  At the Second Annual Leadership Conference in 2002, Mary Starke Harper, a Living Legend of the American Academy of Nursing and pioneer in geriatric mental health nursing, captivated the audience as she reflected the challenges she faced during her career and how she persevered. Since then, the Mary Starke Harper Distinguished Lectureship has been a highlight at each Annual Leadership Conference, featuring distinguished leaders who have made significant contributions to academic geriatric nursing.  The leaders who have shared their wisdom include: Florence Wald, Luther Christman, Claire Fagin, Loretta Ford, Shirley Chater, Gloria Smith, and Angela Barron McBride. In addition to affording an opportunity to learn from these nurse pioneers, the Leadership Conference also provides a forum for peer networking and support.

BAGNC Scholars and Fellows have also had an opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary leadership development programs such as the Hartford Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Scholars Communication Conference and the Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholars Policy Institute.

Over the last year, a core group of BAGNC Scholars and Fellows with support from the BAGNC program leadership have been holding monthly conference calls to establish a formal BAGNC alumni organization.  The alumni organization was officially announced at the 2010 10th Anniversary BAGNC Leadership Conference. The mission of the BAGNC alumni organization is to create and sustain an active BAGNC Alumni Association that offers opportunities for members to build interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships for future research, education, practice, networking, and dissemination of scholarly work in geriatrics. The group has already begun to fulfill its mission by sponsoring a symposium at the 2010 GSA meeting, establishing subgroups at the regional nursing research societies, and disseminating the work of BAGNC alumni in a special issue of Research in Gerontological Nursing.  To promote professional networking among alumni, the organization has created a group on the LinkedIn website.

A theme of the 10th Anniversary BAGNC Leadership Conference held in November 2010 was “looking back to move forward.” I am forever mindful of how the BAGNC program has greatly enhanced my career in academic geriatric nursing. As a BAGNC predoctoral Scholar and a Claire M. Fagin postdoctoral Fellow, my views of aging and aging research and education have been widely expanded. Developing a large national peer network has led me to collaborative geriatric-focused presentations and publications. Finally, I have become recognized locally and nationally as an expert and a leader in geriatric nursing and the field of geriatric oncology.   Along with other alumni, I will continue building the legacy of the BAGNC program by educating and mentoring future geriatric nurses, implementing innovative programs, and conducting cutting-edge research to improve care for our rapidly growing older adult population.

Stewart M. Bond, PhD, RN, AOCN, is assistant professor and a John A. Hartford Foundation Claire M. Fagin Fellow, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Read all five blogs in the BAGNC 10th Anniversary series: