After more than 13 years at the University of Miami, Nena Peragallo Montano said leaving her longtime home, her colleagues and friends there was a tough choice. But she told the audience at the Carolina Club on Feb. 9, which had gathered to welcome her to campus, that she has found a new professional home as the dean of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I would not have left Miami for just any position,” Peragallo Montano said. “It took something as unique and exciting as the opportunity to lead the School of Nursing at this world-class university on this beautiful campus to lure me away.”
In her remarks introducing Peragallo Montano, Chancellor Carol L. Folt highlighted what makes the job at UNC so unique. “The dedication to research as a fundamental part of what you do is not always found in every nursing school. That’s a real feature of excellence here,” Folt said. “A real belief to work as a community with the other schools of healthcare at this University. This is a biomedical juggernaut.”
The University announced the selection of Peragallo Montano in August, but she started the job last month, replacing Donna S. Havens, who had served as interim nursing dean since 2014. At Miami, Peragallo Montano was the dean and professor for the School of Nursing and Health Studies, a professor on the graduate faculty at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile School of Nursing and an adjunct professor at Australian Catholic University in North Sydney.
From 2007 to 2015, she served as director and principal investigator of the Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research: El Centro, the first National Institutes of Health P60 center grant awarded to a school of nursing. She is also co-principal investigator of El Centro, which has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities since its inception.
Peragallo Montano is recognized nationally and internationally for her research in health disparities and culturally competent interventions with minority populations. She was born in Chile and received her bachelor’s degree there before immigrating to the United States with her family. She earned a Master of Science in nursing from the University of West Virginia and a doctorate in public health from the University of Texas.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever had in the history of the University two deans who have been born in another country,” Dean said. “I do think it’s a reflection of the growing global nature of the University. I think that having deans who have such an extraordinary international background will also help continue to propel us into other international forays.”
In her remarks, Peragallo Montano spoke of the school’s duty to meet the need not only for nurses but also for nursing faculty to train future nurses. She also wants to take the school, recently ranked ninth overall and second among public universities by Nursing Times magazine, to the very top of the rankings.
“We have a lot of work to do and a lot of good to do together,” she said. “Thank you for bringing me here.”