As a nurse educator, Kathleen Gainor Andreoli was recruited in 1965 by Dr. Eugene A. Stead, Jr. to help develop the first curriculum used in the United States to formally educate physician assistants. At the time, she was a young mother of three, seeking a faculty position at Duke University’s School of Nursing. Her husband was a resident in the department of medicine, chaired by Dr. Stead. Andreoli met Stead during a housestaff reception where he confided in her his plans to train PAs to help alleviate the shortage of physicians in North Carolina. He asked her opinion about training ex-military corpsmen for the role. She felt that capitalizing on the skills of experienced corpsman made sense. She was invited to join the team that was to develop the curriculum and launch the program in October 1965. The challenge and ability to work part-time were appealing and she became the program’s first academic coordinator.
The team was small and had to work together to plan the curriculum, determine qualifications of entering students, recruit teachers and determine how best to evaluate the performance of the students while capitalizing on the resources at Duke without incurring too many additional costs. There were four students in the first class and every one was committed to the ideals set forth by Dr. Stead and worked hard to fine tune the curriculum as they went forward. During the five years she spent at Duke, Andreoli helped the program secure funds, network with other departments and schools and develop conferences to inform health professionals throughout the country about the PA program.
As a nurse, she felt misaligned with leaders of the American Nurses Association who were skeptical initially of the PA concept. An article titled “More than a Nurse, Less than a Doctor” that appeared in the September 6, 1966 issue of Look Magazine highlighting the Duke PA program undid much of her efforts during the first two years to gain nursing support and diminish anxiety about possible role conflicts. On a positive note, the article and development of the PA concept stimulated nurses to eventually advocate and support advanced clinical training for nurses and the emerging nurse practitioner concept.
Andreoli also participated in the establishment of the first coronary care unit at the Duke University Medical Center and co-authored a major textbook on coronary care for seven editions. After leaving Duke in 1970, she helped establish and served as the Educational Director of the first PA program in Alabama at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). The program was funded from 1973-76. During this period Andreoli was active on the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Advisory Committee on Physician Assistants, NBME Subcommittee on Eligibility for the Certifying Examination for Primary Care Physician Assistants, and participated on a site team for the AMA on evaluation of the PA Program at Western Michigan University. When the UAB program ceased operations, Andreoli focused on her nursing career and participated in the development of one of the first family nurse practitioner programs at UAB.
In 1980 she joined the President’s office at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston where she created and became vice president of the Office of Educational Services, Interprofessional Education and International Programs. In 1987, she was recruited to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago where she was appointed as Dean of the College of Nursing and vice president of nursing academic affairs at the medical center. At Rush, she developed new educational opportunities for clinicians, researchers, teachers and nurse leaders. Under her leadership, the Rush College of Nursing became ranked as one of the nations top nursing schools. Andreoli retired from Rush in 2005 ending an outstanding career in nursing education. After her retirement, she continued to serve on numerous health and cultural boards in Chicago and enjoyed spending time with her ten grandchildren of whom she was very proud.
She was born in Albany, NY. Her education included a baccalaureate from Georgetown University, a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and a doctorate from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She wrote numerous papers on nursing education and served as a guest speaker and consultant for many institutions and professional organizations nationwide. She was a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine of Chicago, American Academy of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau, Leadership Texas and Leadership Illinois. She was made an honorary PA of the Duke University PA Program and received distinguished alumni awards, both from Vanderbilt University and the University of Alabama in Birmingham. In 2003 she received the outstanding Dean national award from the honorary society, Sigma Theta Tau International. In 2004, for the Rush College of Nursing she received the Henry Betts, MD, Employment Advocacy Award of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.”
Andreoli passed away on August 3, 2022.
Acknowledgments: This biographical sketch was prepared by Reginald Carter with the assistance of Dr. Kathleen Gainor Andreoli and submitted to the Society on May 1, 2008. The photographs are courtesy of Dr. Andreoli, except for the second photograph which is courtesy of the Duke University Medical Center Archives and the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History. This biography was updated in August, 2022.