by John Stratton
For Lynn Malerba, the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe, enrollment in a new Yale University doctoral program is a direct continuation of her professional life in nursing, and her deep responsibilities to her tribal nation.
The Yale School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice is a pioneering university program that Yale says is “intended for mid-career nurses who seek to advance and the practice of nursing through leadership, management, and participation in interdisciplinary policy.” The DNP is a “hybrid” three-year program combining on-campus and on-line sessions; its 14 students are from across the U.S., with one based in Israel.
The new program in New Haven is directed by Margaret Moss, Ph.D., who describes the DNP degree as for “senior clinicians who are also seeking leadership and policy roles related to the future of health care.” Dr. Moss herself has a strong tribal background, holding membership in the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation.
“For me,” said Lynn, “I really want this culminating degree to have input to my role in Indian health services for our own tribe and nationally for tribal self-governance advisory committees.”
Chief Malerba received the Mohegan’s lifetime appointment in August 2010. She is the first female in that role since 1793. Her professional background in nursing began with her R.N. degree at Hartford Hospital School of Nursing and continued as a nurse, nurse manager, and director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence+Memorial Hospital. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut and an honorary doctorate from St. Joseph’s College in Hartford, from which she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1983.
“The DNP students are amazing,” said Lynn, “with very diverse backgrounds. We have on-campus sessions once a month and full-week seminars during each semester.”
It makes for a full schedule, along with her tribal responsibilities, but she takes it in stride. Her healthcare work within the tribe began in 1997, and she became Executive Director of the tribe’s Health and Human Services department. She became the first Tribal Chairwoman in 2009.
“I always have kind of blended work and school,” she says with a smile. “So this is really no different. I’m absolutely thrilled to be selected, and to do what’s best for our membership — encouraging discussions of policy and leadership, while honoring the decisions of the past…and the positive policies of the future.”
“My Mohegan name, Mutawi Mutahash, means ‘Many Hearts,’” Lynn says, “and it shows how my academic work can combine the many facets of the work I’ve done in the past, and what I do today.”