When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Feb. 17, 2021
Serendipity, UR education lead alumnus Brian Graves to success in an unlikely place

Brian Graves ’96N, ’01N (MS), ’12N (PhD) always had a deep love for the University of Rochester. You don’t graduate three times from a school you’re ambivalent about. But when Graves reached a crossroads in his career, he let fate – and the real estate market – be his guide.

Graves completed his PhD at the UR School of Nursing in 2012. That same year, he was part of the entire IT team honored with the University’s Meliora Award for his part leading an interprofessional team implementing EPIC, a new electronic medical record system at Strong and Highland hospitals, and he moved his young family into a beautiful new home.

Life was good in Rochester. But, an offer from the University of South Florida (USF) had him seriously considering leaving the university and his lifelong home. USF’s nursing school had recruited him to be assistant dean of the master’s program and to help launch the school’s new Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

brian graves

Graves had spent the last two decades with the University of Rochester as a student, educator, and clinician, but he couldn’t see a clear path into leadership – at least not in the near future. USF’s offer would change that immediately. Still, Graves hesitated. Unsure, which direction to take, he decided he would let the market decide. He told USF he would take the job, but only if he could sell his house without taking a loss.

He got his price in five days.

“I said to my wife and kids, ‘I guess we’re going to Tampa!’”

Graves spent the next four years at USF before he came across another golden opportunity.  In 2016, he was offered the chance to be Tampa General Hospital’s first director of advanced practice. In his four years in that role, he has created an organizational and support structure for more than 500 advanced practice providers (APPs) employed by or credentialed to practice at the hospital.

Previously, APPs at the hospital were loosely organized. They were recognized for the important role they play in caring for patients and driving quality and patient outcomes, but they didn’t have representation in leadership. Graves reports directly to the hospital’s chief operating officer.

“I’m humbled to have such a great team of APPs that I get to represent, support, advocate for, and provide that organizational empowerment that they didn’t have before,” Graves said. “Having the opportunity to come in to Tampa General and build this from scratch, it really was too good to pass up. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my career.”

Graves’ connection to the University of Rochester started as an undergrad at Hartwick College, where he majored in biology with a minor in chemistry. He landed a summer internship doing research at the UR pediatric oncology program, which led to his first job as a lab tech in infectious disease in the UR Department of Medicine. But then his career took a sharp turn in another direction.

“I thought that’s what I wanted to do, but I applied to med school and didn’t get in,” Graves said. “Then I walked across the street one day and was introduced to Dr. Michael Ackerman. I had a great conversation with him that day. He asked me if I ever considered nursing, and he’s been a mentor to me ever since.”

In his first course as a nursing student, Graves soon found another trusted advisor in Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, who was then an assistant professor of clinical nursing. Graves credits her with being one of the strongest influences on him throughout every step of his career, and to this day, he continues to consult with her and other UR Nursing mentors for guidance.

Graves also continues to call on the lessons he learned in the classroom. In particular, the points to the first course he took as a PhD student – Epistemology, taught by Sally Norton, PhD, RN, FNAP, FPCN, FAAN and Mary Dombeck, PhD, DMin, LMFT, LMHC – as being a game-changer for him.

“It’s the best course I’ve ever taken. I think differently because of that course,” he said. “They really challenged you to think in different ways. It hurts your brain to do that, but it definitely made me a better practitioner, leader, and a better person. “