As a nurse, a former naval officer, and an educator, Gloria J. McNeal, PhD, ACNS-BC, FAAN, has spent a life in the service of others. Recognized for her prior military experience, she was recently awarded more than $1 million for her grant proposal to prepare corpsmen and medics to earn baccalaureate degrees in nursing.
She is also among the second cohort of 11 grantees selected by the Health Resources and Services Administration, from a nationwide applicant pool, to receive funding for a Veterans’ Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing program. Her project will admit 20 corpsmen and medics twice a year into an innovative nursing curriculum of study at National University. The project will award academic credit for prior military experience and education to accelerate progression through the nursing program.
She took her first footsteps on that journey of service decades ago, when she decided to follow her mother into the nursing profession. She enrolled in the nursing school at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and, after graduating, became an officer in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. A few years later she returned to academia to get her master’s degree in nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, and studied under the internationally renowned nurse leader Claire M. Fagin, RN, PhD, FAAN.
Under the mentorship of several nurse leaders, she mastered the art of writing and grantsmanship, authoring more than 120 publications and earning nearly $12 million in grant funding over the course of her academic career. She has risen through the ranks of nursing education, holding faculty and administrative positions at Rutgers, Thomas Jefferson University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She also is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program (2007-2010).
In 2010, she became founding dean of the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. And in 2013, she became dean of the School of Health and Human Services at National University in San Diego.
Serving the poor has been one of McNeal’s key professional goals. One of her signature projects is the design and implementation of a medical clinic on wheels that provides free preventive and primary care services to the poor. McNeal ran mobile clinics in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, serving thousands of patients and reducing the number of visits to area emergency rooms. The clinics also served as a practice site for nursing and medical students and faculty.
At Charles Drew University, McNeal established an accelerated master’s degree program to train students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields to become nurses. In addition, she implemented a graduate family nurse practitioner growing the total enrollment to more than 300 students during her tenure.
At National University, McNeal plans to continue her research in tele-health care, a new application that uses technological innovations to transfer health information remotely. This innovative approach facilitates the daily monitoring of medical disorders in “the delivery of acute and chronic nursing care in settings without walls,” she says.
Four decades after she first joined the nursing profession, McNeal is still living out her mission.