New Nursing School Dean will Unleash the Talents of Others

Forefront Magazine, Fall 2019
Photo of Carol M. Musil, dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

By Susan Valerian and Julia Healy

Meet the new dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing: Carol Musil, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA. She’s an adventurer and a systems thinker who sees the big picture.

Dean Musil’s adventurous spirit became obvious to former dean Joyce Fitzpatrick, PhD, RN, MBA, FAAN, when the 
two traveled to remote villages in Uganda and Tanzania to conduct research on grandmothers raising grandchildren—Musil’s area of expertise.

Despite warnings of bandits hiding in ditches along the roads, they undertook “a very long, very bumpy bus ride for several hours. It was hot, and dusty, and the bus had no air conditioning. The whole trip was just a challenge,” Fitzpatrick recalls. “But I remember [Musil’s] calm demeanor throughout all the hardships.”

“Carol has always been a bundle of energy,” her husband, Mike Naegele, concurs. “If somebody says, ‘Let’s do this,’ she says, ‘Let’s go.’”

Twenty years ago, Naegele, Musil, and their two children were invited on a trip down the Missouri River. In a group with about a dozen canoes and no cellphones, they made camp every night in the wilderness.

“Carol was immediately up for it,” her husband said. “She’s always up for new adventures, but she’s not reckless. She looks before she leaps.”

Now, as the newly installed dean of the nursing school, Musil is ready once again to forge ahead. “I’m excited about the new places and new people with new opportunities to advance the school and nursing profession,” she says.


Musil’s long association with the school and her many leadership roles through the years gave her a running start as dean.
She served as interim dean in the 2018-2019 academic year, and is the current holder of the Marvin E. and Ruth Durr Denekas Professorship in Nursing. She served as chair of the CWRU Faculty Senate and also the Faculty Senate Committee on Research; she also chaired the Strategic Planning Committee for the school of nursing before assuming the role of dean.

Musil earned her master’s degree and PhD at FPB, and has spent four decades with the school as a student, researcher, faculty member, and respected leader.Her mother-in-law (NURS ’40) and son (CAS ’15) are fellow CWRU alumni, so her connection to the school and university is broad and deep.

“I have a strong allegiance to the school and I want to see it thrive,” she says.

Musil’s leadership on the Strategic Planning Committee provided a roadmap for her year as interim dean. Now that she is dean, the plan continues to give her a wide-angle view on how best to guide the school on its path forward. She has seven key goals:

Build Leadership

Musil is excited about the new Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy, which was created to develop leaders in nursing.

“It’s helping to reinforce what has made us so highly recognized internationally,” Musil says. “There’s a great need in hospitals for mid-level and above nurse executives.”

She plans to develop the leadership potential not just of students, but of faculty as well. “I will encourage them to explore new ways of teaching and to infuse new ideas into the curriculum,” she says. “We have rich resources here at FPB—and by that I mean the school’s people. The FPB faculty has a vast amount of talent that I plan to support and nurture.” The year 2020 has been designated The Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization, and FPB is spearheading collaborations with regional schools of nursing, hospital partners and others to celebrate nurses and their leadership in healthcare and the broader community.

Elevate FPB’s Global Profile

Musil aims to boost FPB’s already-strong global presence as well. “The FPB School of Nursing was the only CWRU school in the top 100 of QS rankings,” she says. “By securing FPB’s place at the forefront, we hope to lead the way for the rest of the university to achieve greater global prominence.” At the same time, FPB will be increasing participation in the local community, where the needs for nursing and health care are evident every day. “The school’s new location provides many opportunities for students to work with local neighborhoods to identify care needs and provide care to those who have been underserved,” Musil added.

Enhance Academic Programs

Musil plans to maintain and build on the solid foundation of academic rigor for which FPB is known. She says: “FPB’s MN and BSN programs are both very strong. In fact, this year’s entering BSN class is among the largest and most talented we’ve ever had, with 118 well-rounded, high-achieving students.” She plans to look at the NP, DNP, and PhD programs as well. “Can they be even stronger than they already are?” Musil asks.

Capitalize on the new Health Education Campus

As interim dean, Musil oversaw the school’s smooth transition to its new home at the Health Education Campus about a mile west of its former site. This collaboration between CWRU and Cleveland Clinic houses the university’s schools of nursing, medicine, and dental medicine, and Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.

The shared space is filled with modern, state-of-the-art simulation labs and high-tech classrooms. It’s designed to foster collaboration and bring together future health care leaders across various disciplines.

Even with all the advantages of the HEC, Musil notes, it nevertheless brings a two-campus challenge: “How do we maintain connections, community, and a shared sense of purpose with 20 of FPB’s faculty researchers and their teams still at the old building and the rest of us at the new location? Supporting relationships, communicating clear goals, and reinforcing the FPB identity are critical as we evolve through this new phase of the school.”

Better Define the School’s Interprofessional Education

The HEC offers ample opportunities for cross-disciplinary education, research, and practice. “Students working together in an environment structured to promote cross-pollination will discover similarities, overlaps, and complementary approaches in their work,” Musil says. “We must design FPB’s programs to make the most of those opportunities.”

Keep FPB’s Research Strong

“We have world class faculty tackling significant health care challenges,” Musil says. An an example, FPB faculty members are testing interventions to support caregiving to older persons, those with mental illness, children who are dependent on technology to survive, adults with HIV, and cancer patients, among others. FPB is also expanding its portfolio in the areas of quality and safety across the continuum of care and self-care. “I’m working to develop the school’s junior researchers,” Musil added. “I plan to increase support for them so FPB can maintain a strong place in NIH rankings.”

Support Mental Health

Mental health has been a hot-button issue in the news and at FPB. Musil highlights research by faculty member Susan Painter, DNP, PMHNP-BC, on expanded training for psychiatric nurse practitioners in dealing with patients struggling with opioid addiction and mental health. “FPB is part of a multi-school team at CWRU to expand training and resources to nurse practitioners and social workers on the front lines of Ohio’s opioid crisis,” Musil said. While supporting research into mental health, Musil adds that it is also critical to address the well-being of FPB students, faculty and staff. Additional programming is being planned for the FPB community on campus, and the university is making more wellness resources available for the CWRU student population.

To achieve these goals and others, Musil will employ her personal brand of leadership, which she describes as listening to others, seeing the big picture, and encouraging people to expand their horizons.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to bring people together and help lead the school—this wonderful school that I have such a history with—into its next chapter,’’ she said. “I want to create a culture where people feel free to develop the skills and interests that they have.”


As a teenager, Musil aspired to be a writer or scientist but was encouraged to take a more direct career path as a nurse, physical therapist or nutritionist.

At the University of Cincinnati her freshman year, she took a course on nursing theory. “The notion of of the nurse-patient relationship and how nurses could help individuals move toward health resonated strongly with me. It served as my beacon to be a nurse scientist,’’ she said.

Later, as Musil found her place as a psychiatric mental health nurse, she knew she had chosen the right direction.
Now Musil focuses her research on grandmothers as caregivers and the impact those responsibilities have on their physical and mental well-being. Specifically, she examines the health of grandmothers who assume full-time guardianship for their grandchildren when their parents cannot care for them for reasons such as drug addiction, poverty, incarceration, or even death.

Frequently referred to as the Grandmother Study, Musil’s current clinical trial is supported by a $2 million NIH grant, and her research in this area has taken place over 20 years with hundreds of families.

Valerie Bobel Toly, a former student of Musil’s and now an assistant nursing professor at the school, said she believes Musil’s background as a psychiatric nurse honed her listening skills.

“Her ability to actively listen makes her a great dean,’’ Toly said. “She listens to people and always makes thoughtful contributions to conversations. But her goal is to help people see their opportunities and to take the next step to make things happen.”


Former dean and Professor Emerita May Wykle, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA, knows the many challenges deans face but feels confident Musil is ready. As her mentor, Wykle says one of Musil’s strengths “is that she knows how to establish interpersonal relationships. She knows how to assess people and their skills.

“She’s been tested already with the transition from the old building to the new Health Education Campus,” Wykle continued. “She’ll face many more challenges from fundraising to managing the budget to communicating her vision.”

Fitzpatrick adds, “She has a deep commitment to Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland community. I think that is key to the role that she plays as dean. She can advance the school of nursing at the national and global level.”