Meghan Sullivan NUR ’16, who was dedicated to caring for mental health and substance abuse patients, died suddenly on Tuesday.
According to Dean of the Yale School of Nursing Margaret Grey, Sullivan passed away in class due to a “very sudden event,” the cause of which is still unknown. She added that there will be a follow-up exam in the days to come.
The University declined to provide biographical details about Sullivan, including her date of birth.
Grey said that Sullivan was in class at the School of Nursing’s West Campus facility at the time, adding that the faculty present “handled the situation well” and escorted students out of the room while nearby faculty attended to Sullivan until paramedics could arrive.
“[Sullivan] was an amazingly talented young woman and committed to social justice,” Grey said, adding that Sullivan was well-regarded and loved by her classmates.
According to an online biography on the website for the Global Health Justice Partnership — an initiative of the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health for which she served as a student fellow — Sullivan was a master’s degree candidate in nursing in the psychiatric and mental health specialty, and pursued an interest in social justice issues concerning mental health and substance abuse, particularly in how they affected underserved areas.
“[Sullivan] is interested in finding better access to and better quality care for the mentally ill and substance abusers,” the biography reads. “[Sullivan] is also committed to providing better education for the public about what it means to be mentally ill in order to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness.”
Prior to coming to Yale, Sullivan volunteered at a day treatment center in Seattle, where she worked with men and women who were suffering from severe mental illnesses.
In a Wednesday email sent to all GHJP fellows and provided to the News, program directors described Sullivan as a “champion of people living with mental illness and struggling with substance use.” The email proceeded to inform the fellows that a moment of silence would be observed by members of the program on Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, the School of Nursing held a gathering for faculty, students and Sullivan’s family members in her memory.
“It is a very tragic loss,” Vice President for West Campus Planning and Program Development Scott Strobel said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and the students and faculty of the nursing school.”
Grey said that when she met with students who were in the classroom with Sullivan at the time of her sudden event, they shared with her stories of Sullivan’s compassion and uniqueness as a student.
Still, Grey noted that “everyone is still in shock and grieving in what is sadly a very public forum.”
Grey said it will take the school a long time to heal. Several chaplains and a staff member from Yale Mental Health and Counseling have been present on the nursing school’s campus to guide students to available resources, she added.
“[Sullivan] was so committed to working with people with serious mental health problems,” Grey said. “She died doing what she loved.”