Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 1:51 p.m.
When Fran Brown, a professor of nursing at the College of Southern Nevada, was pondering professional paths as a student in the late 1950s, she admits gender barriers restricted her options.
“Back when I finished high school, women had limited choices as far as careers to pursue: nursing or teaching,” said Brown, who ultimately went on to successfully combine the two alternatives. “My mother had some major illnesses, and thinking about her situation made me more interested in nursing, so I thought I would teach nursing.”
Brown obtained a diploma in nursing from the Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in Charlotte, N.C., in 1960, and went on to earn a B.S. in nursing in 1961 from Flora Macdonald College (now St. Andrews) in Laurinburg, N.C. In 1979, Brown earned a master of science in education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and in 1994 she graduated from UNLV with a master of science in nursing.
Before moving to Southern Nevada in 1980, Brown held numerous staff positions at hospitals in Virginia before transitioning to nursing education, having launched her professional career in nursing in 1960. As a nursing instructor in Virginia, Arizona and Nevada, Brown specialized in psychiatric, pediatric and maternal-child nursing.
She joined the faculty of CSN in 1988 as an instructor and was awarded tenure in 1992. She was named the nursing department chair, and then chair of the department of health professions before assuming the title of dean of the division of health sciences in 1998, a position she held until 2006. While serving as dean, Brown was instrumental in developing new programs, including the first baccalaureate program at CSN. The division has since become the Engelstad School of Health Sciences, offering more than 30 degree and certificate programs.
“Serving as dean was a great opportunity, and we doubled the nursing program,” said Brown, who resumed teaching psychiatric mental health nursing in spring 2007, and has been an active advocate of the field outside her responsibilities with CSN. She has been named twice to the Nevada State Commission on Mental Health and Disability, serving as chair for several years, and is also a current member of the governing board of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services.
“Mental health care was kind of on the back burner as far as funding and education opportunities for people to work in that area, and I think part of that maybe relates to the stigma associated with mental illness in the past,” said Brown, who was recognized by the Nevada chapter of the March of Dimes as Nurse of the Year in the “Mental Health” category in 1993. “But as the science has shown more and more evidence that mental health issues have a biological cause, there seems to be less stigma, and mental disorders are looked upon more and more as a treatable chronic illness with remission and recurrences, just like other medical disorders.”