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College's first endowed chair honored at investiture ceremony


Too often, there is a gap between research and practice in behavioral mental health nursing, according to Dr. Angela Chia-Chen Chen.

As the College of Nursing’s inaugural McLaren Greater Lansing Endowed Chair for Behavioral Mental Health Nursing Education, Chen hopes to not only bridge this gap but to also use her role to help those who maybe cannot speak for themselves.

“As the holder of this endowed chair, I am acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with this honor,” said Chen, a professor in the college. “It is a responsibility not only to advance knowledge and innovation in the field of behavioral mental health nursing but also to advocate for those who suffer in silence, for those whose voices have not been heard because of stigma and discrimination.”

The university honored Chen in a formal investiture ceremony on March 4 and, later that evening, the college also celebrated her endowed chair position, the first of its kind in the college’s 74-year history. Chen joined the college last summer and her research focuses on using tech-based interventions to promote HPV and COVID vaccination, and to prevent substance use and risky sexual behavior among youth and young adults.

Dean Leigh Small has known Chen for years and told attendees at the college’s celebration that nursing is one of the professions exposed most to workplace violence. She hopes Chen will be able to strengthen the identification of patients and families with mental health concerns and stressors so that de-escalation techniques can be initiated, promote self-care and resiliency with nurses and advocate for mental health and well-being among current nursing students.

Chen is the perfect person to take on this important job, Small said.

“We are so fortunate to have identified an individual who brings a unique skillset to this role,” Small said. “I know her personally to be a kind and caring individual who holds collaboration and teamwork as ultimately important.”

In addition to the dean, other academic and healthcare leaders, as well as members of the search committee spoke at the college’s celebration.

Justin Klamerus, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for McLaren Health Care, said even though cancer is routinely cited as the biggest health threat facing Americans, if things don’t change, it could very well be mental health.

“As we look across the challenges our country is facing, negotiating access to mental health care … is not equitable,” he said. “We look forward to our ongoing collaboration and partnership with the Michigan State University College of Nursing, because that’s what it’s going to take.”

Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Norman J. Beauchamp, Jr. echoed those sentiments.

“If we don’t treat the whole patient, we lose patients,” he said. “So, I love this focus on behavioral health.”

That issue is especially prevalent in underrepresented communities, Chen said.

“All too often marginalized communities bear inadequate resources and systemic barriers, exacerbating existing health inequities,” she said. “By collaborating … we can work towards ensuring everyone has access to the care and support they need to thrive.”