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Catherine L. Gilliss
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Catherine L. Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN

Helene Fuld Health Trust Professor of Nursing

Helene Fuld Health Trust Professor of Nursing

Former Dean of the School of Nursing

  • Brief Bio

    Catherine L. Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Helene Fuld Health Trust Professor of Nursing at the Duke University School of Nursing and holds an appointment as Professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine. Appointed as Dean of Duke’s School of Nursing in 2004, Dr. Gilliss was the first alumna in the history of the School to hold that position. She served for ten years as Dean of the School of Nursing and Vice Chancellor for Nursing Affairs at Duke University, stepping down in August 2014. She will be on leave for the 2014-2015 academic year, during which she will be a Fellow in the Stanford University Distinguished Careers Institute.

    For over 40 years, Dr. Gilliss has held faculty appointments in universities offering baccalaureate and higher degrees in nursing. For the last twenty years she has held significant and progressively more responsible administrative leadership positions in academic nursing, including Chair, UCSF’s Department of Family Health Nursing (1993-1998), Dean, Yale University School of Nursing (1998-2004) and Dean and Vice Chancellor at Duke (2004-2014). Her own engagement in academic leadership and the leadership and governance of professional societies (President, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties; President, American Academy of Nursing; Regent, University of Portland; Board Member, Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers [TROSA]) has strengthened her commitment to leadership development in others. Dr. Gilliss serves as a Director of CHIMERIX, a publically traded biopharmaceutical company devoted to discovery, development and commercialization of novel, oral antivirals in areas of high unmet medical need.

    She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, a member of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, has been honored as Distinguished Alumna by UCSF and Duke and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau. She has been awarded honorary degrees by Yale University (MA) and the University of Portland (DHL).

    Academic Program Affiliations

    PhD in Nursing Program
    Doctor of Nursing Practice Program


    PhDUniversity of California - San Francisco
    NP CertificateUniversity of Rochester
    MSNThe Catholic University of America
    BSNDuke University

    Research Interests

    With backgrounds in both psychiatric and primary care, Dr. Gilliss has always been interested in the impact of behavior on the recognition and management of illness. Her scientific interests have evolved to a focus on the family as a complex system and its response to and role in shaping the course of chronic illness. Her completed work addresses the family and chronic illness by examining: 1) the experience of family members in the context of illness; 2) the impact of innovative models of nursing intervention on situations that affect the family and its members; and 3) the development and synthesis of scientific work in this area of nursing science. Overall, her scholarly works are considered pioneering and the body of her work was the basis for her receipt of the 2007 Distinguished Contributions to Family Nursing Research Award.

    More recently, she has focused on translational and implementation science and innovative models of health care delivery. She served as Director of the Duke Translational Nursing Institute, a venture with the Duke University Health System Nursing Service, from 2006-2013.

    Her earliest funded work tested a telephone outcall intervention that employed advanced practice nurses trained to assist the patient and spouse in managing symptoms and interpersonal conflict and developing healthy lifestyle changes. Results of this randomized controlled trial demonstrated significantly improved recovery rates in the experimental group. She is just completing a project designed to test the impact of novel approaches to discharge planning preparation on the rate of hospital readmission for persons with congestive heart failure.