University of Virginia School of Nursing
White, a former hospital executive who became a palliative care nurse practitioner, is an associate dean, AAN board member, and founder of ACHE's LGBT Forum.

Endowed professor. Scholar. Mentor. Fellow. Benefactor. And now, Ken White adds a new title to his growing list of accolades: A Gold Medal Awardee.

At its annual Congress on Healthcare Leadership in Chicago next month, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) will present White, associate dean for strategic partnerships and innovation, with its Gold Medal Award for 2019.

“The housekeeper and the cleaning person all the way to the medical staff and the nurse practitioners should all be able to identify opportunities for improvement."

Ken White, associate dean for strategic partnerships and innovation, and ACHE Gold Award Winner for 2019

White, an endowed professor at both UVA School of Nursing and UVA Medical Center, also holds joint academic appointments and teaches in the School of Medicine, Darden School of Business, and McIntire School of Commerce. But White says he proudest of the title that brings him to patients’ bedside each Tuesday when he works at the UVA Medical Center: Palliative care nurse practitioner.

“Of course, I’m humbled and honored to be recognized by ACHE,” says White, “an organization I’ve been involved with for decades and before colleagues I’ve known for years. But for me, in addition to helping others find their passion and play to their strengths, the most important facet of my professional life lies in my work with patients and families. Across a much-varied professional life, I’ve discovered that’s truly where my passion lies.”

Although he always wanted to be a nurse, the option wasn’t available as he began his schooling in the 1970s. Instead, White pursued a career in healthcare administration after earning a master’s of public health. That led to executive positions at Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City, OK, Harris Methodist Hospital in Bedford, TX, and Mercy International Health Services’ Guam Memorial Hospital. It wasn’t until 15 years later that White—wishing to focus on his original passion for patient care—attended nursing school, ultimately earning a BSN, MS, and, finally, a PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

“It’s never too late to follow your bliss,” says White, “and never too late to help others follow their bliss.”

VCU is also where he first taught and inspired legions of students, pivoting into the role as professor and director of the healthcare administration master’s program starting in 1993. During his 20-year tenure at VCU, White was awarded two endowed professorships, first becoming the inaugural Charles P. Cardwell Jr Professor and, in his final role at VCU, the Sentara Healthcare Professor. During his tenure at VCU, he earned numerous teaching and advising awards, including the President’s Award for Multicultural Enrichment. He arrived at UVA in 2013, the year he also began seeing patients again as a palliative care nurse practitioner.

As associate dean, White was tasked with forging alliances between the School and other entities interested in expanding their healthcare-focused programs. Since his appointment, White developed a robust interprofessional Continuing Education at UVA School of Nursing, affiliate healthcare- and leadership-focused programs with Darden and McIntire, taught legions of students, and garnered grants to fund his research, including a project to create a novel palliative care certification program for clinicians with Tim Short, MD, a fellow palliative care provider.

White’s accolades are many. He became a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2012, an ACHE Fellow in 1990, and, in 2004, was elected to the ACHE Board of Governors, one of the first nurses and academics ever to serve the group’s governing body. He co-founded the Central Virginia Healthcare Executive’s group in 2002, was founding chair of ACHE’s LGBT Forum, and also served as associate editor for the Journal of Healthcare Management. White served as a member of the AAN Fellow selection committee from 2015-17, and today serves on the American Academy of Nursing’s Board of Directors. At UVA, White also served as president of the Beta Kappa chapter of Sigma Nursing from 2016-18.

White is most recently the author of Boost Your Nursing Leadership Career, with Dean Dorrie K. Fontaine (Health Administration Press: 2017), Take Charge of Your Healthcare Management Career, with Steve Lindsey (Health Administration Press: 2015), and The Well-Managed Healthcare Organization, now in its 9th edition (available in March 2019), which is commonly used in graduate healthcare management courses and is recommended for study preparation for the Board of Governors Exam.

In addition, Dr. White received the James A. Hamilton Book of the Year award for Reaching Excellence in Healthcare Management, which he co-authored with John Griffith, and also received ACHE’s Edgar C Hayhow Article of the Year Award in 2006.