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Childhood Obesity Expert Becomes First Loretta C. Ford Endowed Professor

Gance-Cleveland's passion for helping the underserved

Last fall Bonnie Gance-Cleveland, PhD, RNC, PNP, FAAN, returned to her alma mater, this time as the first Loretta C. Ford Endowed Professor.

Gance-Cleveland, who earned her undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from the CU College of Nursing, is a professor in the Division of Women, Children and Family Health and brings a broad range of research and clinical experience to the position. Her work focuses on decreasing health disparities in vulnerable populations by advancing science for culturally sensitive care; she also collaborates with professional organizations to develop evidence-based, culturally sensitive practice guidelines.

Her focus, in both federally funded research and in clinical care, stems from a passion for helping the underserved—not only in the southwest Denver community where she grew up, but also in her current practice at the Sheridan Health Services school clinic, which the college hired her to open in 1995.

“Many times poor people didn’t have the same access to education. I knew people in the community, so it became a personal mission,” she says. “As we took histories and completed physicals at the clinic, we could also see the overwhelming barriers to mental health care, so we obtained funding to expand mental health services. I wanted to prove that we were making a difference in the school based health programs for both physical and mental health. That’s when we were funded to evaluate the school-based support groups for adolescents with an addicted parent and established the statewide quality improvement work focused on improving immunization rates.”

Gance-Cleveland chaired the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner’s research group for obesity prevention guidelines in 2006, participated in the AMA obesity prevention expert writing group recommendations in 2007 and is a current member of the National Initiative of Child Health Quality (NICHQ) National Advisory Council for Childhood Obesity. She has been funded by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate school-based support groups for adolescents with an addicted parent, conducted a statewide CQI initiative for School-Based Health Centers (SBHC), evaluated outcomes of preschool SBHCs. Gance-Cleveland worked with Lynn Gilbert, PhD, RN, PNP-C, and Kevin Gilbert, PhD, to develop technology decision support to promote evidence-based obesity care in pediatrics, and is currently funded by the Agency for Health Research and Quality for a mixed-methods, comparative effectiveness trial in 24 school-based health centers in six states on the use of technology to improve adherence to obesity guidelines.

As a nursing student, Gance-Cleveland learned about the nurse practitioner role in her undergraduate pediatric nursing course. “But it was my work at the Sheridan school-based health center that ignited my interest in research. I knew we were making a difference to the children we served and I wanted to prove it.”

She was a faculty member, practicing as a pediatric nurse practitioner and conducting research for most of the 10 years after completing her graduate studies at CU. As a professor at the College of Nursing from 1997 to 2004, Gance-Cleveland taught and mentored students in the nursing undergraduate, master’s and doctorate programs.

Gance-Cleveland’s distinguished contributions to the profession, to teaching and to the care of children are evidenced in awards and honors such as Nurse of the Year-Leadership from the Arizona Chapter of the March of Dimes in 2011; a certificate of recognition for outstanding service to the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the School Based Health Care Special Interest Group, and Children in 2010; the Dean’s Teaching Award from CU’s Health Sciences Center in 2003; and being named fellows of the American Academy of Nursing and the National Academies of Practice.

Gance-Cleveland says she is “thrilled to be home,” adding, “The beauty of the CU College of Nursing is how it integrates clinical research with faculty practice education. Not many places in this country do that.​