New GCU nursing college dean comes full circle

Story by Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

A lesser person than Dr. Melanie D. Logue would have been running in circles from her schedule over the past 13 days, which included but was not limited to:

  • Attending parts of three days of commencements in Grand Canyon University Arena and good-naturedly enduring having to follow the guest speaker, a popular comedian, at the podium
  • Accompanying nine faculty members in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions to a state nursing association luncheon
  • Being the focus of a major University announcement, and
  • Remembering to feed her beautiful Betta fish, named Cornflower (after the crayon color), on the desk in her Building 19 office

But the new dean of the CONHCP, its 69 faculty and staff members and nearly 13,000 students made it all look as effortless as drawing lazy circles in the sky. The 44-year-old single mother of two teenagers has a cucumber-cool exterior, a purple passion for nursing and the gritty determination of someone whose path, but for God’s grace, could have been much different.

“What I find amazing is how circular life has been for me,” said Logue, who was named dean on April 28, some 25 years after starting nursing school at GCU. “Finding my purpose here became very evident, and it’s more than just a slogan — it’s a reality for a lot of people. It was for me.”

Logue was chosen after a six-month national search that drew several remarkable candidates, said GCU Provost Dr. Hank Radda.

“The College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has for 30 years been producing the most qualified, the most knowledgeable, the most caring nurses in the country, and we look at Melanie as the person who can best guide us as we continue to innovate nursing over the next three decades,” Radda said.

The road to nursing

Logue, a third-generation Arizonan, grew up in GCU’s neighborhood, attending Glenn L. Downs Elementary and Carl Hayden High. When she was 15, her younger sister was in a car accident and was sent home from the hospital with a bone infection and intravenous antibiotics that her family had to administer. They had the responsibility but not the training to set up a central line that would carry the medication into the 10-year-old’s body. Logue got involved.

“You felt a little helpless, but it was important to do it right,” she said. “I thought, ‘Maybe this is a way I can contribute.’”

Her first to visit to GCU was for Health Sciences & Nursing Day, and, as so many high schoolers do, she took an interest in the cadaver lab. Logue was good at science and enrolled as a pre-med major, but she soon learned about nursing as a career.

“I heard about mind, body, spirit, the caring and that philosophy of nursing, and I thought, ‘That’s definitely for me,’” said Logue, the first person in her immediate family to go to college. “Certainly, this was what I was led to do. It was God’s plan for me.”

As a GCU student, she loved the uplifting experience of Chapel, held in the Baptist church on campus, the camaraderie with other future nurses and the feeling that her professors truly cared. Their compassion and encouragement persuaded Logue not to drop out of school her first year when she felt ill-prepared to care for real patients.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about simulation, and one of my goals as dean is to establish a center for simulation excellence in our college so that every student can become more comfortable with patient care,” said Logue, who plans to expand the CONHCP's labs that use lifelike mannequins that mimic symptoms of real patients in clinical settings.

In 1993, Logue graduated from GCU with a BSN, cum laude, and began working as a pediatric nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Later, as a trauma nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital, she cared for the obstetrician who had delivered her some 20 years before in the same hospital.

“What are the chances?” she asked.

But Logue had to learn more. She went back to school and earned in 1999 a master’s of science with a concentration in family nurse practitioner from Arizona State University’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation, then began a 15-year career in the field. She started a dual doctorate program, a Ph.D. in nursing and doctor of nursing practice, at the University of Arizona’s College of Nursing. During that time she taught at GCU, earned her doctoral degrees in 2011, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the UA, where she taught theories of leadership and organizational management and health assessment.

The UA offered her the chance to run its doctor of nursing practice program, but she felt the pull to go home, to GCU.

“It just feels so comfortable here in terms of being able to really celebrate who I am and work with a team that is my family,” Logue said. “The environment is positive, very values-based, people are nice to each other. It’s a different culture, and I tend to be very productive in this culture.”

The return to her home base

Dr. Anne McNamara, the CONHCP’s former dean, brought Logue back to GCU in January 2014 to chair and teach courses in the new doctor of nursing practice program. Shortly after, Logue was named the college’s interim associate dean of graduate studies/assistant dean of graduate studies. When McNamara resigned last October to pursue other options, Logue was appointed interim chief nurse administrator, sharing the overall leadership responsibilities with Maria Quimba, associate dean of undergraduate programs.

“The movement here over the past six months has been quite dynamic,” Logue said. “You go through a grieving process — everyone loved our dean of seven years, who was my mentor and also my faculty. But then you start to say, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ It’s good to have a new direction, it’s fresh, and we’ve got some budding plans and a lot of exciting opportunities here.”

Tiffany Taylor, graduate program manager in the CONHCP, has worked with Logue since she returned to GCU last year. Taylor said Logue’s passion for nursing and her determination to succeed are inspirational.

“I’ve learned so much from her, that if you want to go places, you have to put in the time and work hard,” Taylor said. “As a supervisor, she’s very supportive, she’s a great listener, and she’s super funny, super human, and that’s perhaps a side of her that a lot of people haven’t seen yet.”

Logue is an academic heavyweight, having published nearly two dozen papers and presentations and completed grant-funded research in integrative medicine. Active in national and state nursing education and policy circles, she is Arizona’s state representative to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), a former president of the Arizona Nurses Association and a member of the Advanced Practice Committee of the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

As a recently appointed AANP Fellow, Logue was cited for being an expert clinician and patient advocate in the areas of health information technologies and Medicaid extension, for her service on the American Nurses Association Public Policy Committee and for championing nurse practitioners and improved patient outcomes.

But Taylor said Logue is as down to earth as they come, as evidenced by her volunteering for four years as the band camp nurse for Sandra Day O’Connor High in Phoenix.

“It’s not about clout or power for her,” Taylor said. “She truly cares about nursing and about GCU.”

Logue has earned the respect and trust of nursing faculty, staff and students and has demonstrated the trademarks of successful leaders, Radda said.

“She has the character, poise and ability to work through issues in a deliberate manner, hearing all voices that are brought to the table and arriving at innovative solutions in nursing education,” he said.

Known as “Mel” around the college, Logue has a list of things she wants to do as dean: getting the CONHCP ranked in U.S. News & World Report, using the college’s strong foundation to collaborate more with other GCU academic programs and capitalizing on the University’s innovative model to create the next generation of nurses.

“Nursing education is transforming because nursing is not the same profession as it was before,” she said. “It’s very high tech and skilled and knowledge-based. It’s still caring — that hasn’t been lost — but people are sicker, and it’s more complicated than it was before.”

Logue is bringing a more interdisciplinary focus to the CONHCP and working more closely with other colleges because she believes that’s the best way to build on excellence.

GCU’s nursing school already is set apart from others in the state, Logue said, because it has the only Transition to Professional Practice program in which students are intentionally taught to be ready for their nursing practice. And it is part of the University’s Integration of Faith, Learning and Work initiative, in which Christian values are infused throughout the campus.

“The Cancer Treatment Centers of America wants to partner with our nurses because what heals people is their spirituality a lot of times, and because of that we offer a unique product to the world,” Logue said. “We’re intentionally spiritual, and you don’t have to sell that. That is nursing.”

She said she will be a hands-on dean with students, some of whom might be struggling just as she did. “Nursing school is difficult, and it takes a lot of love and support and encouragement, and it takes grit,” Logue said. “But I walked the walk, and I think that’s what students are looking for in a mentor.”

A life outside the nursing college

Self-described as fun, happy, driven, focused, engaged and strategic, Logue brings all of those qualities into her personal life, centered on her two sons. Austin, 18, just finished his first year as a GCU computer science major, and Dylan, 16, is a junior in high school. She is gently guiding them in their knowledge and passion for computers and software, hoping they will use their talents to improve health care.

The Peoria mom, who enjoys shopping, exercise and photography, would not be surprised if her children became educators.

“The reason I went into education is to have a broader sphere of influence, to cast a wider net,” Logue said. “I want my sons to find ways they can collaborate with other professions and help people.”

Logue stays grounded and gets good advice in her new job from a longtime group of nursing friends who go by “The Ducks” because they meet every so often at Duck and Decanter. All are nurses with Ph.D.s who have set the bar for Logue.

“They have accomplished so much in nursing that it inspires and motivates me, and they have shown me how to get there,” she said.

They were tickled by her appointment as dean. Logue is, too.

“I’m so blessed to be part of the school that gave me my start in life,” she said. “This is kind of my dream come true. I’ve worked my whole life in nursing to get to this point, and it's my final destination. Isn’t that amazing?”

Contact Janie Magruder at 602-639-8018 or [email protected].


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