Purdue School of Nursing colleagues celebrate Karagory’s leadership and legacy

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Pam Karagory

Pam Karagory

As the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences welcomes Chris Coleman as the new head of the School of Nursing, Pam Karagory, clinical professor of nursing, will finish her four-year stint as head of the school. Loved by students, staff, faculty and alumni in the school and beyond, Karagory has left her mark during her leadership.

Nursing faculty pose for a photo

Libby Richards (center) poses with Pam Karagory and other School of Nursing faculty members. Photo provided

“She has been very strategic in helping us grow and helping us secure the resources that we need to grow appropriately,” said Libby Richards, associate professor in the School of Nursing. “Anybody can grow and take more students, but she’s helped ensure through her advocacy that we’ve been able to meet the needs of the students and to meet the needs to grow the nursing workforce in a sustainable way.”

Karagory began her term as interim head of the School of Nursing in 2018. While four years of leading the School of Nursing wasn’t on her radar at the time, she helped guide the school through a critical time and a pandemic that exacerbated the already apparent need for highly skilled nurses.

“Pam has provided visionary, calm, clear leadership through an extremely challenging period for the School of Nursing and the profession, said Marion K. Underwood, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “She oversaw the last years of the undergraduate expansion that doubled undergraduate enrollment in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, which involved hiring, integrating and providing mentoring to large numbers of new clinical faculty members. Pam was highly strategic in how she led the School of Nursing through the pandemic, finding new ways for students to complete their clinical practicum hours, even when learning in the hospitals was not possible. Through it all, Pam has been an important mentor to other unit heads and a trusted advisor to me on how we could all navigate clinical education through the pandemic.” 

Nursing faculty pose for group photo

Mallori Walker (center) gathers for a photo with Pam Karagory and other faculty members in the School of Nursing.Photo provided

Karagory has strategically advanced the school in countless ways, but perhaps one of the most significant is her focus on transforming the healthcare space through diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Not only did she secure funding for the school from the Indiana Center for Nursing to help support underrepresented nursing students with scholarships, but she also structured the school’s DEI committee and worked to modify the school’s curriculum to ensure it met the needs of all individuals.  

“She set the tone for the School of Nursing and how committed we were going to be to DEI,” Walker said.

Walker noted that in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020, Karagory reached out personally to each of the faculty members of color in the School of Nursing.

“I remember calling my mom and telling her ‘I would run through a brick wall for Pam Karagory,’” Walker said. “Pam wants that when I’m her age and I need healthcare that I feel comfortable going to the doctor’s office or the hospital because I know that there will be a diverse group of healthcare providers, which increases the likelihood that I will get the quality of care that I deserve as a Black woman.”

In addition to DEI, Karagory also prioritized the development of Nursing’s PhD program, appointing Libby Richards to lead the effort. Richards noted that Karagory has given her the tools and resources to grow the PhD program and create new pathways within it.

“Pam does a really good job of putting you in front of people who can help take whatever you’re working on to the next level, and she does that for all of our faculty,” Richards explained. “She intimately knows what each faculty member is working on and what connections they’re looking for, and whenever an opportunity comes, she connects that faculty member. She has really given our junior and senior faculty lots of opportunities to connect with legislators, the media or leaders at other schools of nursing, and I think because of that, our School of Nursing’s reputation has continued to grow and improve.”

Brant Patz takes a selfie with Pam Karagory, Dean Marion Underwood and Chief Development Officer Aaron Kosdrosky.

Brant Patz (right) takes a selfie with Pam Karagory, Dean Marion Underwood and Chief Development Officer Aaron Kosdrosky.Photo provided

Brandt Patz, senior director of development in the College of Health and Human Sciences, has seen Karagory’s unmatched ability to connect and build Nursing’s reputation firsthand through their many conversations with prospective donors.

“I can talk numbers all day long, but really getting into nursing and making it a personal connection, Pam does that the best I’ve ever seen,” Patz said. “I think whenever she’s able to talk to donors about that nursing experience and put it on a level of nurse-to-nurse and the impact it’s going to make, she’s that X factor where now people are like, ‘OK, this is worth investing in.’”

Another notable contribution of Karagory’s leadership is the school’s significant steps toward new infrastructure in the Nursing and Pharmacy Education Building.

“We’re seeing all these rankings go up, and we’re seeing our PhD program take off, and I think she’s been instrumental in that,” Patz said. “The new facility was kind of a dream, and I think with her guidance, it’s becoming more and more of a reality. I can’t imagine us having accomplished where we are without her.”

Now, as Karagory prepares to step down as head and return to the nursing faculty, she maintains the forward-thinking mindset that has allowed the school to excel.

“She took it to a whole new level, and now, she’s already talking about how to support Dr. Coleman,” Patz said.

While Karagory’s resume of accomplishments are impressive enough, many of the Nursing faculty, staff and students have also developed a friendship with her as well, cherishing their conversations and personal memories with her as much as her leadership.

“We often end our interactions with a quick exchange of kind words and gratitude for each other,” Richards said. “Just seeing Pam’s energy, her smile and her gratitude, makes you feel like you are doing what you are meant to be doing. Her recognition and the gratitude she shares for the work that you’re doing has helped take our school to the next level.”