Kathryn “Katey” Ayers would often say “Johns Hopkins taught me how to be a nurse,” recalls Humberto Ortega of his partner in life, who graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1967.
Over her more than 40 years of work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and community health advocate in New York and New Jersey, Ayers paid her nursing education forward, every day, before she passed away in 2019. Now, Ayers’ legacy of service lives on at Johns Hopkins, in the Katey Ayers Endowed Professorship. With deep gratitude for the education that set her on a lifelong path in a career she loved, Ayers worked with the Johns Hopkins Office of Gift Planning to ensure her wish to endow a professorship came true.
Ayers’ generous gift, consisting of contributions from her IRA and her estate, was matched by the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund, and will tackle the complex intersection of housing and social services and their impact on health. In September, the School of Nursing and Bloomberg School of Public Health announced the appointment of the inaugural chair of the Katey Ayers Endowed Professorship, Craig Pollack, MD, MHS.
Pollack is an associate professor of health policy at the Bloomberg School with a joint appointment at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As a researcher, he studies often vulnerable home-dwelling older adults. As a practicing physician, Pollack’s work is informed by the experiences his patients face in navigating complex health and social challenges.
Ayers knew that health care happens in community. “My people,” she called her schizophrenia patients, whom she cared for in both outpatient and inpatient programs. She retired from New York’s Mount Sinai psychiatric emergency department in 2004 but didn’t stop working. She taught nursing and returned to direct patient care in her own private practice and for Christ Hospital in Jersey City, where she used her Spanish language skills to help treat the large Hispanic population.
Even off the clock, Ayers was always helping people, making sure older neighbors were taking their medication, that they weren’t lonely. Whether at home in New Jersey with Ortega and their rescue cats, or on vacation in Bonaire, Ayers could be found informally counseling those who needed help. “I don’t know that she was looking for patients everywhere, but they found her,” says Ortega, who has also contributed to the professorship in his wife’s name.
Topics: Alumni, School of Nursing, Promote and Protect Health, Strengthen Communities, Support Scholars