Yale Daily News

Linda Rodman ’73 GRD ’75 and her husband Larry Rodman ENV ’16 gave a $6 million gift to the Yale School of Nursing this summer to create a new full-time ladder faculty position in gerontology, or the study of aging.

Rodman’s gift is the largest donation that the school has received since its founding in 1923. According to School of Nursing Dean Ann Kurth, the school will launch a national search to hire a professor who specializes in gerontology. She added that the process will include input from a hiring committee, faculty interviews and various job talks. While Kurth did not specify a timeline, she said that the school will fill the position when they find the “very best person” to join the nursing school community.

“This new endowed professorship will complement the school’s robust strength in gerontologic nursing and establish a secure future for research and teaching to produce new generations of nurse practitioners and nurse scientists to provide evidence-based care for the country’s aging population,” Kurth said in a nursing school news article announcing the donation. “We are profoundly grateful for Linda’s attention to this burgeoning area and are determined to set the standard for nursing expertise at this stage of the lifespan.”

According to Kurth, around 10 percent of nursing school applicants are interested in gerontology, either in the acute care or primary care gerontology specialties. She added that around two dozen nursing school students enroll in these specialties every year, and doctoral students at the nursing school also conduct research in gerontology.

Rodman said that gerontology is especially important now that baby boomers are aging and approaching retirement age. She highlighted that the health care consulting company Mercer estimates that by 2025, the United States will face a collective shortage of around 500,000 home health aides, 100,000 nursing assistants and 29,000 nurse practitioners.

“There is a tsunami of people entering the golden years now and not enough focus on them,” Rodman said in the nursing school article. “A significant portion of the burden of taking care of this aged population will be nurses, and we wanted to enable Yale to be at the forefront in addressing this pressing need.”

Nurses specializing in gerontology must receive special training to meet the needs of older people, who are more vulnerable to accidents, chronic illness and neurodegenerative diseases. The nurses help address their patients’ chronic conditions, as well as their patients’ shifting metabolic responses to medication and treatment that accompany advanced age.

Kurth told the News that climate change is taking its toll on aging populations, making individuals more susceptible to heat waves and food insecurity.

“This ‘aging in the Anthropocene’ perspective is one on which we think Yale Nursing, and the Rodman Professorship, can uniquely focus,” Kurth wrote in a statement to the News.

Director of the Yale Program on Aging Thomas Gill referred the News to a 2015 conversation with filmmaker David Grubin about how an aging population has two major effects on the medical community.

For one, it increases the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, which often require intensive medical care. Additionally, Gill explained that an aging population means medical professionals will have to handle more complex medical conditions.

“As opposed to a younger population, where a patient might present with a single condition like community-acquired pneumonia which responds quite favorably to antibiotics, things are a lot more complex in an aging population where patients can have a series of chronic conditions,” Gill told Grubin.

The Rodmans have an extensive history of donating to the School of Nursing. They established an endowed scholarship at the nursing school with a preference for students interested in gerontology and have also supported the dean’s discretionary fund during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodman, who was among the first cohort of women to arrive at Yale College in 1969, said in the nursing school article that Senior Associate Director at the Office of Development Reggie Solomon ’98 was instrumental in introducing her to the School of Nursing.

“We were looking for a meaningful niche, and [Solomon] suggested underfunded schools where the graduates earn less money than Yale’s other professional programs,” Rodman said. “After quickly considering the options, we realized that YSN would be a perfect match for our interests.”

The Yale School of Nursing was the first nursing school within a university to prepare nurses under an educational program rather than an apprenticeship program, according to the school’s website.

JULIA BROWN
Julia Brown currently serves as a University Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously covered the University's professional schools, including the Yale Law School and Yale School of Management. She is a junior in Jonathan Edwards majoring in Economics & Mathematics and is originally from Princeton, New Jersey.