The Altruist

Julie Novak


The life of an NFL kicker is downright terrifying. Imagine the crushing weight of expectation from 52 teammates — not to mention the legions of fans poised on the edge of their stadium seats, sofas and barstools — as you line up a potential game-winning field goal. Maintaining poise under that type of pressure requires a level of focus that few of us regular folk can muster. Luckily for San Diego Chargers kicker Nick Novak, there’s an ample supply of it in his DNA.

“My mom has been such an inspiration to me for a variety of reasons,” he says. “I hope I’ve inherited some of her focus. She’s committed to helping people, and can handle anything you throw at her.”

Judging by her extensive contributions to the field of health care, both as an educator and an administrator, Julie Novak, DNSc, RN, CPNP, FAANP is at her best when her workload is at its heaviest.

“I certainly wanted to be in a profession where I could help people, and nursing was a very diverse profession where you could sort of reinvent yourself,” says Novak ’89, who was the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science’s first doctoral candidate.

For more than three decades, the award-winning matriarch of the Novak clan has made it her mission to provide resources, care and support for those who need it most. A few career highlights include developing a nurse practitioner program in rural Southwest Virginia that remains the backbone of the region’s primary care system; procuring a $2.5 million research grant for the Purdue University Doctor of Nursing Practice program; coordinating child and family health promotion programs in far-flung locales like Cape Town, South Africa and San Luis, Xochimilco in Central Mexico; and even lobbying then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on the value and importance of nurse-managed clinics.

While her career path has led Novak and her family far afield from San Diego, the value and impact of her educational experience at the University of San Diego still resonates. “I had an excellent experience at USD. It really broadened my perspective on the future of nursing, and health care in general,” she says. “It was the mid-’80s, I was a nurse practitioner at the time, and realized for the next step in my career, I needed to pursue my doctorate.”

That seemingly straightforward objective was complicated by the demands of her career and growing family, but Novak is nothing if not focused, and failure was simply not an option. “Sure it was difficult, but plenty of people have to deal with those types of situations in life. I’ll put it this way: With 3-year-old twins and a 7-year-old, I definitely learned how to best utilize each minute of each day,” she recalls, laughing.

Some 22 years later, Novak is still applying her storied focus to the challenges of providing systems of care to underserved children and their families. As associate dean for practice and engagement in the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, she’s spearheaded the expansion of the university’s student health clinic, orchestrated the opening of the first employee health and wellness clinic, and, in an attempt to foster family development, integrated a program that educates parents as their children move through developmental milestones.

Those accomplishments, along with myriad others, earned her the Henry K. Silver Memorial Award, which honors the achievements of individuals who have contributed to the expansion or improvement of pediatric health care and the advancement of the profession of pediatric nurse practitioners.

“It’s really a tremendous honor to receive this award, as the man who it was named for sought to improve care for, 
and empower children and families,” she says. “It’s at the heart of what we do, and something I have always strived for.” — Mike Sauer

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