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Catherine Van Son

Professor Catherine Van Son of the Washington State University College of Nursing has been selected for the college’s Waldron O. and Janet S. Lindblad Endowed Professorship in Geriatrics.

Van Son has specialized in improving care for older adults her entire nursing career. In 2019 she was honored by the nonprofit National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence as a Distinguished Educator in Gerontological Nursing.

“It’s an honor to be able to champion and be an advocate for older adults and nursing,” Van Son said.

She is the second faculty member to hold the Lindblad Endowed Professorship since its creation in 2018. The professorship was established by Korean War veteran and Pullman resident Waldron “Wally” Lindblad to honor the nursing profession and to improve care for people as they age. Lindblad is making donations during his life and ultimately as a bequest totaling $1 million to the WSU College of Nursing.

Said WSU College of Nursing Dean Mary Koithan, “We are grateful to the Lindblad family and to Wally’s dedication to the profession of nursing and the college. We share his enthusiasm for improving care to older adults and strongly believe that the health and wellbeing of our elders is one of the hallmarks of a caring and prosperous society. We’re looking forward to Catherine’s leadership as we build programs to address improved elder care.”

The Lindblad Endowed Professorship carries a two-year term. The recipient is expected to contribute to undergraduate and graduate courses; sustain a scholarly program; participate in the regular activities of the College of Nursing, WSU Health Sciences and the University; and to act as a catalyst for scholarship that contributes to the care and wellbeing of older adults.

Van Son said it’s uncommon for undergraduate nursing students to choose caring for older adults as their careers. There’s a mistaken impression that most older adults are medically frail, cognitively impaired, reside in a long-term care facility, and that the work isn’t exciting.

That couldn’t be less true, she said. The vast majority of older adults live in the community and are actively engaged in life. Nurses have the opportunity to help support these adults to maintain their functional independence.

In the coming academic year Van Son will introduce the next generation of Coug Nurses to these values by leading the undergraduate course in gerontological nursing.

“Older adults are very interesting and they’re more complex than any other population of people we care for,” she said. “They have definite opinions about their care, so you need to collaborate with them. And no two 70-year-olds are alike; one may be in a nursing home and the other may be running marathons.”

Van Son added, “We will all be old one day, if we’re lucky enough, and we need nurses who can care for us and understand our needs.”