Leadership, “Gretta” Style

March 2018
Catherine Gilliss

In February 2018, I was named the inaugural Margretta Madden Styles Dean’s Professor of Nursing. This professorship, named in honor of our former dean and one of nursing’s greatest leaders, is the first Dean’s Professorship to be established on the UCSF campus. I am deeply, deeply honored to be so recognized – particularly in the name of “Gretta” Styles.

I first met Gretta when she was a young associate dean at Duke and I was a freshman student in nursing. She advised me on the courses required for my first year of studies. I next met her a little more than a decade later; she was the dean of the UCSF School of Nursing, and I was an entering doctoral student. While a student, I enrolled in “the Dean’s course,” a Cole Hall favorite, in which Gretta brought contemporary leaders into our classroom for discussions on their current projects. She spoke knowledgeably and easily with them (before a class of about 200 students) as we witnessed real leadership in action.

Although Gretta was the first dean I knew at UCSF’s School of Nursing, I would argue that her legacy was among the most long-lasting. She established, with the help of newly recruited Susan Gortner, the first school-based and centralized set of services in support of our research activities. She put in place a leadership team of chairs who were all doctorally prepared.

Gretta also led the way in establishing a process and criteria for the credentials nurses would hold in recognition of their expertise. That work would ultimately lead to the establishment of the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She chaired the California Board of Registered Nursing, and she ran for and won the presidency of the American Nurses Association (ANA). Her distinguished and intellectual brand of leadership was both valued and a break with tradition. After a successful set of terms at ANA, she was elected president of the International Council of Nurses. Her commitment to global health lives on at UCSF and through the work of her daughter, Meg Styles, president and founder of the Gretta Foundation, which supports the education of nurses in sub-Saharan Africa.

But Gretta did not simply rack up leadership titles. She selected opportunities that she believed could make a difference. Along the way she modeled the impact strong leadership brings when married to opportunity. May Gretta Styles continue to serve as an inspiration to all of us!