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deborah mattheus
Deborah J. Mattheus

The Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has appointed Associate Professor Deborah J. Mattheus, as its inaugural Nancy Atmospera-Walch Professor in School Health, effective October 1, 2021.

The endowed professorship was established in 2021 by Nancy Atmospera-Walch for a nursing faculty who is dedicated to increasing the academic success of Hawaiʻi youth by providing access to health care in public schools. Mattheus will contribute to the efforts of the Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program (HK), a partnership between the UH Mānoa nursing program and the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE).

“Deb is an inspirational leader who is wholeheartedly committed to the health of Hawaiʻi’s children,” said Mary G. Boland, retired dean and professor. “She is an expert in pediatric and oral healthcare whose efforts are improving the health of students while ensuring school based learning experiences for health sciences professional students at UH. Mattheus is a nationally recognized clinician, educator and researcher whose innovative approaches are changing the delivery of care and education.”

“I am honored to be selected for this professorship and am so excited for the amazing things we have planned to help improve the health of Hawaiʻi‘s keiki,” said Mattheus. “It is a privilege to carry on retired dean Mary Boland’s vision with the Hawaiʻi Keiki Program. We have a fantastic team of healthcare providers who are the heart and soul of this program. This endowment will help continue our momentum and build our school health capacity by providing equitable and culturally sensitive health services.”

Specializing in school health

Mattheus is a tenured associate professor who joined the UH Mānoa Nursing faculty in 2014. She is a practicing pediatric nurse practitioner with more than 30 years of experience.

A pioneer in improving the delivery of school health and increasing positive oral health outcomes in Hawaiʻi and across the nation, her leadership as the HK program senior practice director has expanded the program to provide health services to every DOE school in the state. Program accomplishments have included significantly expanding the number of nurses serving DOE Complex Areas statewide; implementing a telehealth program to service students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic; and securing funding to establish a dental sealant program for elementary school students.

Funding impact and areas of research

To date, Mattheus has secured extramural funding awards in total of $2.5 million. Her current projects, federally-funded grants and research addresses the vulnerability of children with a focus on oral health, dental sealants, school-based health centers, telehealth and expanding the oral health workforce. As a co-principal investigator, Mattheus’ projects include adolescent research, telehealth education and practice, school immunizations, vaccine intentions and oral health outcomes for pregnant women and children.

In 2020, Mattheus was one of six healthcare professionals nationwide selected by the Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health as the Oral Health Champion Hawaiʻi: 100 Million Mouth’s Campaign. She is leading this effort in Hawaiʻi to incorporate oral health information into program curricula of health profession schools as a blueprint that other states can implement.

Her research and projects have inspired dental hygiene and nursing curriculum redesign and innovation. Most importantly, children in Hawaiʻi—especially the underserved—have increased access to health services.

Mattheus holds a PhD in nursing from UH Mānoa, a master’s degree in nursing from Simmons College and a bachelor’s degree from American International College.

Read more about Mattheus on the nursing website.

This appointment is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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