Nursing for the 21st Century

A passionate advocate of holistic health becomes the new dean of FAU’s College of Nursing

As an undergraduate basketball player at the University of the Virgin Islands, Safiya George distinctly remembers the handful of pilgrimages her team made to Lynn University, to compete against its Fighting Knights.

“Although we lost every game we played against Lynn, it was my first foray to visit Boca,” she recalls. These days, Boca Raton students, faculty and community leaders can expect to see a lot more of Dr. George, whose recent appointment as dean of FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is a slam-dunk for the city’s influential health care sector. Only the third dean in the college’s 40-year history, George assumed the position in July following a four year tenure at the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama, where she served as assistant dean of research.

“As a mid-level dean for research, I get lots of calls and emails from colleges and universities looking for either a senior associate dean or a dean,” she says. “But depending on where the geographic location was, or what that school’s mission was, more than 99 percent of the time, I declined, because I was happy where I was.

“Honestly, once I got the notice of FAU’s opening, and first read the mission and saw that it was about holistic health and caring science, I just felt it would be a perfect fit for who I am and what I stand for. I sent my CV, and from there had meetings and interviews, and just fell in love with [the college].”

George’s interest in nursing is inspired in part by her mother, who intended to pursue the vocation, but could not commit to nursing school after she gave birth to Safiya at 18. George answered the call instead, after considering doctoral degrees in other health care fields, from nutrition to psychology. “I ended up deciding that nursing was a good fit because it is very holistic and captures all of that—mental health, physical health,” she says.

“Holistic” is more than a buzzword for George. It has guided her philosophy throughout her career, where it will be a focus at FAU’s College of Nursing, along with health equity, healthy aging, and the transformation of health care environments.

“My first interest in holistic health was as a young person growing up in the Virgin Islands, where there is a focus on holistic health—physical well-being, spiritual well-being, emotional well-being—and also eating natural foods, and spending time outside in the sunshine. I did my master’s, focusing on cancer and HIV and the immune system, and recognized that everything is connected. Those who had better holistic health tended to have better outcomes.

“Nursing is guided by a holistic health framework. … Giving attention to the whole person is key.”

This story is from our September/October 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.