LANCASTER, Pa. (July 31, 2023) – Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College), central Pennsylvania’s preeminent educational institution for the health care field, has announced that President Dr. Mary Grace Simcox, EdD, RN, will be retiring as of Dec. 31, 2023.
Simcox is the first and the only president of Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, and was responsible for evolving the school from a degree-granting institute to an accredited college and the region’s only college exclusively focused on health care education. She joined what is now PA College in 1997 as the Dean of Nursing for Lancaster Institute for Health Education (LIHE). Seven months later, she stepped into an interim role overseeing all of LIHE’s programs, and the position became permanent in 1998. Working with a small group of staff and faculty, Simcox led the evolution of LIHE to become the Lancaster General College of Nursing and Health Sciences in 2001, a process that included changing state regulations and accreditor guidelines for the benefit of all higher education institutions.
“Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences has been very fortunate to have Mary Grace as our leader since the inception of our institution,” said Chip Sernyak, chair of PA College’s Board of Trustees. “Under her leadership, the College grew from a collection of buildings spread throughout downtown Lancaster to a state-of-the-art centralized campus that offers accredited associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs that are of highest academic ranking in the region. Mary Grace is a leader with vision, passion, and a strong commitment to excellence for our students, faculty, and staff, and she has guided our success for the past two decades flawlessly. Few college presidents have had the opportunity to oversee an institution for so long and lead through so much change and growth, with enrollment more than tripling.”
In the years that followed, Simcox oversaw the addition of bachelor and graduate degree programs, building expansions, and a name change. She also led the College’s transition to its current campus in Lancaster, and with it, a change in philosophy that puts the learner at the center of the educational experience. Part of that transformation included adding The Center for Excellence in Practice, which is the College’s simulation center and the first and only learning space of its kind in the region. The Center includes more than 20,000 square feet of immersive, interdisciplinary, and hyper-realistic clinical simulation space with 24 rooms, including an intensive care unit. It is deliberately engineered to feel natural and authentic to learners from all facets of health care, and is the culmination of nearly a decade of planning and collaboration with experts in simulation education. Simcox also oversaw an affiliation with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health (LGH), providing clinical placement and tuition reimbursement for PA College students and LGH employees, which has been critical for Lancaster’s health care workforce pipeline.
Additionally, Simcox led the College through three rounds of accreditation through the nationally-recognized Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) – entailing a multi-year process that ensures both academic credibility and caliber for the College, positioning it for success in years to come. During its last reaccreditation in 2021, PA College received 12 recognitions from MSCHE for the quality of its graduates, its health and wellness programming, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Center for Excellence in Practice, and its Health Care Core Curriculum.
“To say I’ve been lucky would be such an understatement, as I’ve been privileged to do things that few will ever get to do in their careers,” said Simcox. “I’ve been working in the health care industry for nearly my entire life, beginning as a nurse. In the blink of an eye, I was serving as the president of an institution that had evolved more than I ever imagined. I’ve had the opportunity to support thousands of people who have the same goals as I do — to make an impact in their communities through health care. I see the positive difference my job makes every day in hospitals, clinics, and in our own classrooms. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly dedicated faculty and staff throughout my career, as well as most hard-working students. Without their support, expertise, and passion, PA College would not be what it is today.”
Simcox began her career in 1972 when she graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from Gwynedd-Mercy College. She worked as a registered nurse for several years on the Medical-Surgical Floor, and then the Intensive Care Unit, of Roxborough Memorial Hospital before accepting a teaching position with the Roxborough School of Nursing in 1979. She then became director of the school in 1985, and remained in that position until she joined Lancaster Institute for Health Education (now PA College) in 1997. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Gwynedd Mercy College in 1978, her Master of Science Degree in Nursing with a Clinical Nurse Speciality in Renal Disease from University of Pennsylvania in 1981, and her Doctorate Degree in Higher Education from Widener University in 1998.
Currently she is the secretary and officer of Consortium of Hospital-Affiliated Colleges and Universities, a member of Lancaster Chamber’s Presidents’ Group with Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, and a member of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania’s Healthcare Workforce Task Force. Her former appointments are as follows:
- Chair, Lancaster County Career & Technology’s Licensed Practical Nursing Advisory Board
- Chair, National Alliance of Nursing Educators
- Member, LG Health’s Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees
- Member, The Milton S. Hershey School’s Healthcare Advisory Committee
- Member, Non-Physician Work Force Study Group: Task Force Addressing the Nursing Shortage, conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health
- Member, Allied Health Careers Initiative of Lancaster County, conducted by the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board
- Member, PA Hospitals and Healthsystems Association’s Advisory Board for Hospital-based Education Programs
Her retirement precedes the College’s merger with Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, set to be completed in January 2024, in which more than 20 of PA College’s nursing and allied health programs ranging from certificates through the doctoral level will be adopted by Saint Joseph’s academic portfolio.
About Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
A dynamic and academically rigorous institution, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College) is a private, accredited, four-year college focusing exclusively on the field of health care. Offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as a number of certificate programs, PA College provides professional development for health care workers throughout their careers. Located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the College attracts a select group of nearly 2,000 students to study with faculty who are experts in their specialty areas.