Marybeth Sharpe, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

TITLE: Program Director, Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing

FUNDING AREAS: Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative

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IP TAKE: An economics Ph.D. running a nursing program may seem a bit unusual, but Sharpe is a great fit for the Moore Foundation's objectives. 

PROFILE: As program director of the Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative, Marybeth Sharpe seems an unconventional choice—on paper, at least. First, a bit about the Nursing Initiative.

The initiative is inspired by Betty Moore's lifelong work taking care of her own children and family members, and her own suffering as a consequence of medical error. Its goal is to ensure safe, evidence-based health care for hospital patients. Since its launch in 2004, the initiative has achieved some significant goals, such as training more than 3,500 nurses, reducing hospital-associated infections, and aiding in the implementation of evidence-based models to improve patient transitions from the hospital to home with the goal of preventing readmissions.

"The program is working to achieve, in collaboration with others, a fundamentally better approach to healthcare in the U.S., to improve quality and safety, reduce costs and ensure dignity and respect to both patients and those who serve them," Steve McCormick, Moore's former president, says of the Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative.

The Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative concludes in 2015, but the foundation will continue and expand its efforts to acheive excellence in nursing under its new Patient Care Program, established in 2012, which will build on some of the gains acheived by the Nursing Initiative, and expand them outward, moving beyond the organization's home state of California and operating on a more national scale. 

Sharpe, a labor economist, was hired by the Moore Foundation in 2004, at the very start of the Nursing Initiative. Moving forward, she will shepherd the foundation as it moves into deeper waters and broadens its geographic focus. Sharpe earned her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. For those who aren't up on their Greek, Phi Beta Kappa is a prestigious honor society in the United States. Think U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—rather than Animal House. Sharpe went on to earn her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, teaching economics as she did so.

With her academic career behind her, Sharpe went to work at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. From there, she spent years in various corporate positions, including an associate principal at McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, and a vice president at American Express. In 2004 she joined the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

After hearing that the foundation funds names like Stanford, Kaiser, and Sutter Health Systems, one may conclude that the Nursing Initiative does not necessarily have a penchant for funding small healthcare organizations. Not so, says Sharpe. "Our goal is to positively impact as many hospitalized patients as possible, and we fund hospitals of all sizes and types." It will be interesting to see how this desire to influence as many hospitals as possible will combine with Moore Foundation's broadening geographical reach.