A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Bethany Hall-Long, Alumna of the Year

By Colleen Kearney Rich on April 26, 2017

When Bethany Hall-Long, PhD Nursing ’93, was sworn in as lieutenant governor of Delaware on January 17, she also became the first Mason alum to hold the second-highest office in state government. She is this year’s Alumna of the Year.

“I think what resonated with people and why they trust me is because I’m a nurse,” says Hall-Long, who won election with 59 percent of the vote. “As a nurse you take care of people—regardless of their political affiliation.”

She believes being a mother also helped her to connect with voters. She is mother to 21-year-old Brock, who is currently a junior at the University of Delaware.

Always a nurse first, Hall-Long has devoted her career to working with vulnerable populations. For the past 14 years, Hall-Long served as a Delaware state representative and senator. Over that time, she sponsored nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation, many of them pertaining to health—leading one Delaware newspaper to call her the state’s most prolific legislator. Her bills on telehealth, substance abuse, and cancer and chronic disease have served as models for other states.

It was while finishing her master’s degree at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston and working as a public health nurse that Hall-Long realized she might need to change the trajectory of her nursing career. “I was working in the community with mentally ill homeless, and I discovered if I really wanted to make a difference I needed to get involved with health policy.”

That realization led her to make a call to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services’ office, where Hall-Long landed an internship working on the national nurse shortage. While working that internship in Washington, D.C., she also had a job as an assistant manager of labor and delivery at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

About the same time, one of Hall-Long’s MUSC mentors, Catherine Malloy, came to Mason to teach and was associate dean of the college. She encouraged Hall-Long to join the university’s brand-new nursing PhD program. Not only did Hall-Long end up being one of the program’s first graduates at the age of 25, she says the experience helped launch her career.

“I landed at the right place,” she says. “I have really fond memories of my time at Mason.”

Hall-Long says Mason gave her the opportunity to really engage in her field as a faculty member and a researcher. Her work at Mason’s Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics immersed her in public policy work as she learned her way around state politics and Capitol Hill. “My degree and my health policy training have been vital to me. While at Mason, I was exposed to a lot of great leaders at state and national levels—and on the faculty.”

Hall-Long was also mentored by the late Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown; Rita Carty, who was the college’s dean at the time and now is an emeritus faculty member; and faculty member Cass Connelly. They all worked with Hall-Long on her dissertation, which focused on health policy.

In addition to her legislative work, Hall-Long has been teaching since her PhD days. A professor of nursing at the University of Delaware for nearly 20 years, Hall-Long is excited that she gets to keep teaching while serving the people of her state. “I love teaching,” she says. “I have to cut back my hours and give back some of the pay, but I’m glad I can continue my work there too.”

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