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Combined Expertise Will Help End New Jersey’s Nurse Faculty Shortage

Trenton, NJ— Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI), a multi-year, multi-million dollar project of the RWJF and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, announced the addition of three new members to its prestigious National Advisory Committee (NAC). They are: Ruben D. Fernandez, B.S.N., M.A., Ph.D.(c), R.N., vice president for patient care services at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen; Heather Howard, J.D., lecturer in public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and research associate at the Center for Health and Wellbeing; and Arnold Speert, Ph.D., former president of William Paterson University. The NAC provides strategic counsel and guides the organization’s work.

NJNI’s goal is to increase the number of nurse faculty in the state, so there will be enough nurses to meet the health care needs of New Jersey residents, and in the process, transform nursing education.

“We are delighted to welcome three highly regarded leaders in the fields of nursing, public policy and education to join us in our work to end the state’s potentially crippling nurse faculty shortage,” said NJNI Program Director Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., P.N.P.-B.C. “One of NJNI’s greatest strengths is the diversity of voices weighing in on the challenge we face—ensuring that New Jersey has the qualified nurse workforce to meet our future health care needs. Ruben D. Fernandez, Heather Howard and Arnold Speert will make a tremendous contribution to our efforts, and we are fortunate to have their guidance.” Bakewell-Sachs is interim provost of The College of New Jersey.

A long-time nurse trailblazer, Fernandez has more than 25 years experience in senior leadership, having served as vice president of patient care services at North General Hospital in Harlem, associate dean for administration at the College of Nursing at Rutgers, Newark, and vice president for patient care services at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Howard brings considerable public policy experience to NJNI. She is director of the State Health Reform Assistance Network, an RWJF initiative providing technical assistance to states implementing the Affordable Care Act. Her other recent positions have included serving as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Health and Senior Services from 2008 to 2010, Governor Jon Corzine’s chief policy counsel, associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and senior policy advisor for First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Speert, a leader in the academic field, served as president of William Paterson University from 1985-2010. He currently serves on the board of four Erickson Living continuing care retirement communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and is a senior consultant for the higher education search firm, AGB Search. 

Fernandez, Howard and Speert join nine others on NJNI’s National Advisory Committee. The Committee guides the work of NJNI’s six working goals that are focused on:

• Creating innovative approaches to increase faculty capacity;
• Making New Jersey nurse faculty a preferred career;
• Leading focused policy initiatives;
• Increasing sustainable funding;
• Building local, regional and statewide collaborations; and
• Developing creative strategies to increase nurse education capacity.

NJNI’s signature Faculty Preparation Program provides support to help RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholars complete their advanced degree studies. This summer 18 Scholars became the first to graduate from the program, and many are beginning careers as nurse faculty in the state this fall. The 18 Scholars have all earned their masters degrees.
New Jersey’s population is aging, facing an increasingly complex web of health issues that will demand a highly knowledgeable and well-prepared nursing workforce to meet the growing need. But at present, the Garden State is facing a nurse and nurse faculty shortage of alarming proportions that will severely limit the quality of residents’ health and health care. Through NJNI, talented leaders across the state are focused on the issue and are working to develop innovative solutions to reverse this looming crisis. For more information, visit

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change. For nearly 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is a business advocacy organization based in Trenton. Created in 1911, the State Chamber staff represents its members on a wide range of business and education issues at the State House and in Washington. The organization also links the state’s local and regional chambers on issues of importance through its grassroots legislative network.