The creation of an intentional leader can start with a simple decision made as a teenager. Dr. Leslee Battle, Interim Dean for the School of Health Sciences at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), made the choice as a senior in high school to attend WSSU, partly because of the nursing program and partly because her mother wanted her closer to Lenoir, North Carolina, her hometown. This simple, common-sense decision started Dr. Battle on a leadership journey that currently affords her the opportunity to lead over 1,500 graduate and undergraduate health sciences students, along with faculty and staff, on their individual paths to improve the health of the citizens in our North Carolina communities. These WSSU healthcare graduates “Enter to learn and depart to serve” and will make immeasurable contributions to the health and well-being of thousands of lives. Harnessing and growing this type of positive potential requires a strong, intentional leader. Dr. Battle has prepared for this challenging role since high school!
Not many high schoolers in Lenoir, NC, thought about college. Furniture factories were the main employer when Dr. Battle was in school. But she had intentional family members who took her to college football games and tailgating and on visits to college campuses, providing exposure to what college could feel like besides sitting in a classroom from 9:00-5:00. Sometimes all it takes is a little glimpse of what could be! While at WSSU as an undergraduate student, Dr. Battle majored in nursing and joined the Army Reserves, another intentional decision that prepared her for the current role as Interim Dean. After graduation, she stayed in Winston-Salem and worked at Forsyth Medical Center (FMC), initially as a staff nurse and charge nurse. Within only five years, she moved into leadership positions, including care coordinator, head nurse, and nurse educator. She cultivated her leadership skills in the Army Reserves and at the FMC. It did not take long for her talents to get noticed by administrators at WSSU, and she was recruited to join the faculty as a part-time clinical instructor. She joined the faculty to teach full-time in the nursing program while staying part-time at Forsyth and while continuing her education and raising a family. After 22 years at FMC, Dr. Battle transitioned solely to WSSU after earning tenure status.
The leadership skills gained in the Reserves and as a nurse supervisor come in handy as Dr. Battle continues to lead several different academic healthcare disciplines through a global pandemic, hiring freezes, budget cuts, and an about-face from in-person to virtual teaching. The programs she oversees are educating the front-line healthcare workers who have been battling the Covid pandemic since March 2019. Who better to lead healthcare education during a pandemic than a military-trained leader?! During her tenure as interim dean, Dr. Battle has worked toward revitalizing community-engaged healthcare services that were limited by the pandemic and is focusing on the transition from a “School of Health Sciences” to a “College of Health Sciences.” Envisioning a restructured school requires creativity, innovation, and trust in strategic planning. She has arrived on her leadership journey exactly where she is needed, whether she intended to or not.
As a Winston-Salem resident and WSSU administrator, Dr. Battle is aware of community partners who can assist WSSU in improving the health of our region and is cultivating collaborations that improve student resources and support local community needs near the WSSU campus. She strives to bring attention to the disparity in resources available to HBCUs when compared to other regional institutions and is working hard to close the gap. But it takes a community and a society to recognize the inequity and work together to ensure all students at any school receive the education they deserve. With leaders like Dr. Battle at WSSU, this means that our local healthcare systems can hire the healthcare professionals that they deserve and provide the quality care that you deserve. Good intentions make good decisions!