Without hesitation, LaRon Nelson, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, recalls how Kathy Rideout transformed his life when he was an undergraduate student.
New to the area and the University of Rochester, Nelson didn’t feel like he was fitting in well. “As a black man enrolled in an educational program that was more than 90 percent white women, I felt like a fish out of water,” he says. “It was a struggle to fit in with my classmates and I imagine that many classmates struggled to connect with me.”
Rideout was serving then as associate dean for academic affairs and was known for her approachable, student-centered leadership. One day, in the midst of a bustling schedule, the Gates resident stopped Nelson in the hallway to ask about his experience and solicit his feedback. “That moment changed my life because it set me free to act as full member of the university community and I have thrived,” Nelson says. He later became the first black male to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester School of Nursing.
The impact Rideout made is no surprise to those who know her. Kathleen Parrinello, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Strong Memorial Hospital, met Rideout in 1986 when they worked as nursing leaders at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Her first impression was that Rideout was a natural-born leader.
“Kathy’s humble and disarming nature, her ability to listen, and her natural strengths at working with people, not only in nursing but across all disciplines and fields, have made her a true asset to our organization,” Parrinello says. “While it easy to see that Kathy loves being a nurse and the opportunity it provides to impact human beings on a very personal level, she is also someone who understands and embraces the big picture of health care. She is … known for her ability to tackle challenges and problematic areas by engaging people from diverse areas in difficult conversations to improve processes without personalizing an issue. This is a very rare and precious quality.”
Rideout, 60, now serves as dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing and is vice president of the University of Rochester Medical Center. The most rewarding aspect of her career, she says, has been seeing the accomplishments of her patients and families, as well as the students, faculty, and staff members with whom she surrounds herself. “I wake up every morning asking God to give me the opportunity to make a difference, and every time we serve the needs of others, we are doing just that,” she says.
Those she has encountered will never forget the positive impact she has made.
“My story is the story of Kathy Rideout,” Nelson says. “She has made her mark on the world by touching lives, inspiring future leaders, and creating nurses who will use their positions to change the world one patient at a time.”