Portrait of a Wildcat Nurse Leader: Dr. Sue Roe’s Passion for Leadership and Education Fuel Her Quest for Knowledge

May 5, 2020

Leadership has been in nurse leader Sue Roe’s DNA from her early days as an undergraduate at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. Under the guidance of the College’s first Dean, Pearl Coulter, Dr. Roe took her very first leadership course. “Dean Coulter was very insistent that if you became a nurse, you had to become a leader,” says Dr. Roe who earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing from UArizona Nursing.

Dr. Roe was among the first of the College’s nursing students to obtain a master’s degree, which proved to be a game-changer for her. Her passion for nursing – and her belief in the core values that were instilled in her as a UArizona Nursing student – led Dr. Roe and her husband Bill to give a generous endowment to the College. This gift represents their shared vision and perspective of the future of nursing leadership. Additionally, Dr. Roe will assume the role of Chair of the UArizona Dean’s Community Advisory Board in August

"I continue to be fascinated by and excited about nursing. It is clear to me that I want my legacy to be: she made a difference in practice and education, and because of that nursing is enhanced and the health of others is enriched," ~ Dr. Sue Roe

In the years since, she has more than fulfilled the vision Dean Coulter had for students and the profession. Dr. Roe has earned a Doctorate in Health Policy and Administration, and has worn such  diverse professional hats as Dean, professor,  author, administrator, consultant, holistic nursing expert and community leader. And that’s just the tip of her iceberg. Never one to slow down, Dr. Roe is currently chair of the online graduate nursing program in the College of Graduate Health Studies at A.T. Still University, which specializes in innovative academic programs with a focus on whole-person healthcare, interprofessional education, diversity, and underserved populations.

 “I have been very fortunate that my nursing career has been extremely varied” says Dr. Roe with a smile. Over the years, she has headed training departments, helped expand  the University of Phoenix’s nursing program and served as the University’s provost, authored multiple books on holistic health care and run her own consulting firm, The Roe Group Enterprises, which helps health care organizations and educational institutions achieve optimal performance through workforce development.

Dr. Roe has diverse administrative experience in both private and public sector institutions and has keynoted and been a presenter at a variety of conventions, seminars, workshops, and programs across the country. She has taught and designed academic courses for over 35 years at several public and private universities/colleges using a variety of delivery formats. “Sometimes, I’ve gone outside of nursing, but never away from nursing,” she says. Her achievements are so inspiring that she was selected as the 2019 Alumna of the Year for UArizona Nursing.

Through their estate plan, the Dr. Sue and Professor Bill Roe Endowment for Integrative Nursing will enable the College to create an endowed chair that will focus on building a whole-person health care framework for nurses working on a master’s or doctoral degree. Bill, a professor emeritus of applied behavioral sciences and human factors, acknowledged a love of nursing that runs deep in his family. “My mother was a nurse and my grandmother was a practical nurse,” he says. “I hold a deep value for  nursing and its many contributions.”

“We felt we could really make an impact, and it felt right to do it here because this is where I started my nursing career,” says Dr. Roe. “Dean Moore is such a wonderful person. We felt very welcomed. We knew that the endowment would be meaningful because the College already has a substantial integrative health initiative.”

Dr. Roe and her husband hope that the endowment will develop integrative nursing as a transformational practice. “We want to move nursing forward, not maintain the status quo,” Dr. Roe says. “I love the notion of changing practice.” 

The future is bright for Dr. Roe. When many of her peers are retiring, she moves tirelessly forward with her quest for knowledge and her desire to lead by example. “I know it sounds crazy, but I’m just not at the end of my career,” she says. “I continue to be fascinated by and excited about nursing. It is clear to me that I want my legacy to be: she made a difference in practice and education, and because of that nursing is enhanced and the health of others is enriched.”