Nursing Adds New Experts to Faculty

To meet the growing demand for higher educated nurses in Central Florida and nationwide, the UCF College of Nursing has expanded its faculty with three new tenure-earning faculty members, leveraging their expertise in the areas of nurse leadership and management, gerontology and mental health.

“The college continues to expand programs and faculty to provide a high quality education to an increasing number of students,” said Mary Lou Sole, dean of the UCF College of Nursing. “We are pleased to welcome these new educators and researchers to the UCF College of Nursing.”

The new faculty members at the UCF College of Nursing are:

  • Veronica B. Decker, DNP, MBA, RN, PMHCNS-BC, is a new graduate department assistant professor focused on the nurse executive and leadership & management programs where she brings more than three decades of clinical career experience to the role. Appointments include administrative director at the Cancer Institute at Florida Hospital Celebration and Kissimmee, and administrative director of Clinical Performance Improvement at Florida Hospital Orlando. A researcher focused on improving care and treatment for patients with cancer, Decker founded Cancer Counseling and over 15 years, advised more than 1,000 cancer patients using cognitive, behavioral and educational approaches. She is also the author of the inspirational book, “Coping with Cancer: A Patient Pocket Book of Thoughts, Advice and Inspiration for the Ill,” and a reviewer for Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. Decker has a DNP from Wayne State University College of Nursing, MBA from the University of Notre Dame, MS in psychology from Winona State University and BS in nursing and psychology from the College of St. Teresa. She is a licensed clinical nurse specialist and a former Six Sigma Lean Green Belt.
  • Ladda Thiamwong, PhD, RN, is a new assistant professor in the graduate department. Much of her research has focused on healthy aging, fall prevention in older adults and aging education. In 2013, she established a grant-funded research group of multidisciplinary providers interested in gerontology to focus on rural older adult health in Thailand. Thiamwong has been a nurse educator for 20 years, beginning her clinical and academic career in Thailand, and most recently was an assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at Henderson State University in Arkansas. She has a nursing and midwifery diploma, MSN in adult nursing and PhD in nursing from universities in Thailand. She completed a predoctoral visiting fellowship at the Institute for Health and Aging, University of California San Francisco School of Nursing.
  • Michael Valenti, PhD, RN, joins the College of Nursing as a new assistant professor in the undergraduate department. His research focus is on geriatric mental health, an area where he spent much of his clinical career. A nurse educator since 2008, Valenti has held faculty positions at New York University (NYU) Rory Meyers College of Nursing, St. Francis College and Long Island University Harriet Rothkopf Heilbrunn School of Nursing. At St. Francis, Valenti helped facilitate an academic partnership with the college and a nearby psychiatric center for a RN to BSN program to advance nurses’ education. Valenti earned both his PhD in nursing research and theory development, and MSN in nursing education from NYU. He received his BSN from St. Francis College and AAS in Nursing from Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing.

Additionally, nursing has added new instructors and visiting faculty:

  • Dawn Eckhoff, MSN, CPNP, instructor and graduate clinical placement coordinator
  • Patricia Lafferty, PhD, RN, visiting lecturer
  • Michelle Lugo, MSN, RN, instructor, UCF Cocoa campus
  • Vicki Montoya, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, visiting assistant professor

In Fall 2015, the college also added seven new ranked positions.