VUSN‘s Susan Cooper Named Tennessee‘s Commissioner of Health

First nurse in state‘s history to hold this position

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Susan Cooper, M.S.N., assistant dean for Practice at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, has been named the new Commissioner of Health for the state of Tennessee by Gov. Phil Bredesen. When Cooper takes her oath of office on Jan. 20, she will make history as the first nurse to ever hold this position.

“Susan is a tremendous advocate for nursing and community health programs,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “Fostering partnerships to solve the toughest health care issues is her trademark and that will make her very effective in her new role.”

“We are delighted for Susan and for all Tennesseans,” said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. “Susan is a nurse at her core and tackles every challenge through a patient-centered lens. She will make a profound impact on the lives of all Tennesseans.”

Cooper joined state government “on loan” from VUSN in September 2005 as a health adviser and was instrumental in developing Tennessee‘s Health Care Safety Net. She later assumed leadership of Project Diabetes to curb type 2 Diabetes for young Tennesseans, and helped facilitate GetFitTN, to promote healthier lifestyles statewide.

Before joining state government, Cooper was a faculty member and assistant dean at Vanderbilt‘s School of Nursing, where she also earned her Master of Science in Nursing degree. Cooper began her career as a nurse specializing in emergency and intensive care.

“Susan‘s background, which is a mixture of clinical and health finance experience, makes her ideal,” said Clifton Meador, M.D., executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance. “Her nursing experience is exactly what we need to address our public health problems – issues like excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, smoking and other harmful lifestyles — through prevention and education.”

“Gov. Bredesen has given me a huge honor with this opportunity,” Cooper said. “My goal is to continue fostering partnerships statewide that will improve the health of Tennesseans – especially among our young people.”

The Department of Health has a range of responsibilities, including administering several community health programs, licensing health care professionals and maintaining vital health records and statistics. The department works closely with local governments and nonprofit agencies to monitor and improve community health – including a campaign created by Bredesen to improve infant mortality and birth outcomes in Tennessee.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is committed to academic excellence and innovation in nursing education; clinical research, patient care, and advance practice delivery systems for nurses and the entire health care workforce. More information about the school is available online at:

Contact: Kathy Rivers
Phone: 615-322-3894