Senior director of University Health Services retires after 24 years

Dr. Margaret Spear, senior director of University Health Services (UHS), retired at the end of July after 24 years at Penn State, with 21 of those years in her current position.

Looking back on her career, Spear primarily views herself as a champion of quality health care for Penn State students.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
As the senior director of UHS, Spear continually shaped the quality of patient care. In the early years of her tenure at UHS, she led a comprehensive organizational change process, which resulted in improvements in quality of care, service provision, and staff and student satisfaction.

Her leadership also leaves its lasting mark on the University Park campus in the form of the Student Health Center, which opened in June 2008. Spear was a key player in its development and construction. Today, it stands as a state of the art 70,000-square-foot, LEED silver certified building housing both UHS and Counseling and Psychological Services.

“I greatly enjoyed advocating for the building, developing plans for it, and working together with numerous parties from both on and off campus to make it happen. It was an exceptional and fun opportunity to be able to play a part in creating something that would serve Penn State students for many years,” Spear said.

As a unit within Student Affairs, UHS is a nationally accredited health care service specializing in outpatient student health, and in helping Penn State students get healthy and stay healthy. In addition to medical care, UHS provides outreach education, nutrition clinics, volunteer opportunities, immunizations and physical therapy for students.

"Peg Spear has long advocated on behalf of the health and wellness of Penn State students, both at University Park and on the campuses.  In the process, she has developed one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated student health services in higher education, which she has done thoughtfully, passionately, and articulately," said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. "Peg's leadership always has exhibited the energy required to sustain the quality our students have come to expect.  Her exceptional leadership will be missed, but it promises to continue in those colleagues she has guided through these many years."

As the director of Clinical Services in 1991, Spears moved health service at Penn State to a multidisciplinary staffing model by adding nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed practical nurses to the traditional physician and registered nurse medical staff model. In addition, she has supported expanded practice opportunities for registered nurses.

In the early 1990s, Spear also led the charge for UHS to achieve accreditation from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), an organization in which Spear later held progressive leadership roles.

“Becoming accredited was a major initiative to grow and develop all aspects of our organization. It involved training, professional development, credentialing the professional staff and the development of a comprehensive set of policies and procedures to govern all aspects of health services work,” Spear said.

For a time, Spear served as the assistant to the vice president for Student Affairs. In this leadership role, she was responsible for strategic planning and worked closely with the directors of the LGBTA center and the office of Student Affairs Research and Assessment.

“That position and the people with whom I worked, especially Sue Rankin and Betty Moore, taught me a lot about evidence and research-based decision making and importantly, how UHS could improve its services and care for the LGBTA community.”

Spear began at UHS in 1990 as the physician-in-charge for women’s health. In this role, she directed comprehensive enhancements and even established a satellite clinic in a women’s residence hall.

Spear has led a number of committees on campus. She chaired the University-wide committee on sexual assault, which developed the original University policy and protocols on how to assist students who have been victims of relationship or sexual violence. In addition, she also serves as chair of the Infectious Hazard Planning Group, whose main objective is to plan and prepare for any infectious diseases on campus.

In fact, her involvement in quality patient care has extended nationwide. Spear has most recently served as the chair of the Board of Directors of AAAHC, a private, non-profit organization that is the leader in developing standards to advance and promote patient safety, quality care, and value for ambulatory health care through peer-based accreditation processes, education, and research.
“She has been an exceptional colleague who has a respected reputation as a physician and leader,” said Gail Hurley, associate vice president for Auxiliary and Business Services. “I wish her every happiness in this new chapter in her life.”
Spear also is known in the college health care community for her various leadership roles since 1981 within the American College Health Association, including chairman of the Task Force on Standards for College Health Programs. In 1998 she was appointed as a fellow of the ACHA and also was honored with the Ollie B. Moten Award for service to the profession.

Jill Buchanan, a nurse practitioner at University Health Services, said of Spear, “Peg's vision and impact cannot be overstated and will live on long past her tenure, and for that many can be grateful.”

Spear earned her bachelor’s degree in government with honors at Cornell University and her medical degree from Mount Sinai Medical School, City University of New York.

Last Updated January 10, 2015