UMass Boston

A ‘Living Legend’: Associate Provost Rosanna DeMarco Honored by the American Nurses Association Massachusetts

04/23/2024| Crystal Valencia

UMass Boston Associate Provost and Professor of Nursing Rosanna DeMarco, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been named a Living Legend in Massachusetts Nursing by the American Nurses Association Massachusetts.

Rosanna DeMarco (second from right) and colleagues
Rosanna DeMarco (second from right) celebrates with fellow Living Legend Award recipients.

The Living Legend Award recognizes a nurse who has made significant lifetime contributions to the profession of nursing on a state, national, and/or international level. Recipients are nurses who serve as an inspiration to others in their profession, and have exhibited creativity and innovation in their practice, blazing trails for other nurses to follow.

“I’m filled with gratitude for being recognized as a living legend by ANA Massachusetts, through the support of my colleagues at the Manning College of Nursing and Health Sciences,” DeMarco said. “Truth be told, being considered a legend is a daunting thing, but one I embrace to encourage each of us to explore what is possible in our work in nursing, wherever that takes us.

“I really think that one of the most important things we can do for each other, whether in direct practice, education, research, or as nurse leaders, is to be a witness to the stories of nurses and the contributions we make, seen or unseen,” she said. “Nurses are the vertebrae of the health care system and I’m glad to be part of that strength and spirit.”

DeMarco, who arrived at UMass Boston in 2013, is currently an associate provost at UMass Boston, after serving as the nursing chair, associate dean for academic affairs, and interim dean in the university’s Manning College of Nursing and Health Sciences. 

“I was employed at a private university’s school of nursing here in the Boston area. And I realized that my program of research was well-matched to the mission and vision of this university,” DeMarco said of her decision to come to UMass Boston. “This idea of being community-engaged and paying attention to diversity and health equity is what I was looking for. I was also at a stage in my career where I wanted to become a nurse leader.”

DeMarco is recognized nationally and internationally for her outstanding transdisciplinary community-engaged research, scholarship, and community service. A fellow of the American Academy of Nursing since 2008, she has also been the recipient of numerous research, teaching, and service recognition awards in her career including most recently the Robert F. Kennedy Social Justice Award from New England HIV Over Fifty (NEAHOF) in recognition of decades of research and service to the HIV community nationally and internationally.

Her program of research and teaching includes the use of community participatory action research to identify culturally relevant and gender-sensitive prevention interventions for women at risk and living with HIV infection. She also studies nursing workplace psychological safety.

DeMarco has mentored and guided innumerable BS, MS, DNP, and PhD students from three university nursing programs by using knowledge from her program of research in serving the HIV community locally and globally in Ho Chi Minh city and Nicaragua. In each case these former students and graduates have further supported their own programs of study and research in serving as public health experts, infectious disease clinicians, nurse leaders, nurse advocates, or as nurse scientists through engagement with AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs), Departments of Public Health, Academia, National Organizations as well as HIV community-based networks like the “Sistah Powah” group she co-created in Boston. She also currently serves as a nurse scientist for the VA Boston mentoring newly graduated RNs in the nurse residency program to understand more completely the healthcare quality and safety needs of our veterans.

“Rosanna DeMarco represents the very best of UMass Boston and the nursing profession. I cannot think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for so many accomplishments across such a distinguished career,” Provost Joseph Berger said. “Rosanna has made a meaningful and impactful difference for students, colleagues, communities, and the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

DeMarco said she is proud of the work she has accomplished with her colleagues at UMass Boston, focusing on true student-centered learning.

“It means that we pay attention to changing our curricula, coursework, delivery modalities so they can work the best for our students,” she said. “A sense of compassion with rigor brings us to an ethic of inclusive excellence. This approach is something to which I think we pay a lot of attention while being responsive to what happens in students’ real lives in the context of their education.”

She also helped to create and foster partnerships with institutions like the VA of Boston, Boston Medical Center, Dana Farber, and South Shore Hospital.

DeMarco said it feels “full circle” to bring her career to a close at UMass Boston, which has always stood for this idea of presenting opportunities for first-generation students and those that may not have resources to continue their education.

“I was raised by a simple family in Brockton. And I had no prospects of going to college, if it wasn't for scholarships from the state, and from other entities. And I was able to work my way through a bachelor's, a master of science, and a PhD, and I'm eternally grateful for that opportunity. And to end my career in a public institution representative of support of the state of Massachusetts is really full circle, because it was the state of Massachusetts and other state systems that assisted me to get through college.”

DeMarco earned a BS in Nursing from Northeastern University, Bouve College of Health Sciences, School of Nursing (Summa Cum Laude), an MS from Boston College, Connell School of Nursing in Community Health Nursing and Curriculum/Instruction and a PhD in Nursing Science/Cognate-Family Research from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan where she received the Thomas C. Rumble University Fellowship.