Professional News

UK College of Nursing’s Zim Okoli Named President-Elect of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association

headshot image of Zim Okoli
Zim Okoli is a professor in the College of Nursing and the executive director of Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2021) — Zim Okoli, Ph.D., University of Kentucky College of Nursing professor and Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) executive director, has been selected as president-elect for the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)

“Our college has a rich history of leaders and legends in the field of mental health nursing and we could not be more proud of Zim carrying on that tradition,” said Janie Heath, dean and Warwick Professor of Nursing at the UK College of Nursing. “Dr. Okoli’s rich research, clinical, and educational experience in the field of psychiatric nursing positions him to be an outstanding president for APNA, and I know he will excel in leading such a distinguished organization.”  

Okoli was elected as the future president of the APNA by thousands of psychiatric-mental health nurse members from across the country. He will serve a term of three years, with his first year as president-elect, followed by a year as president and then a year as immediate past-president. His term will officially begin at the APNA 35th Annual Conference, to be held virtually Oct. 13-16, 2021. As president-elect, Okoli will assume responsibilities with the APNA Board of Directors as well as mentor current and prospective board and committee members and serve on the finance committee.

“It is such an honor to be elected by my fellow psychiatric-mental health nurses in serving as president of the APNA,” Okoli said. “In serving as president-elect, I will support ongoing work to maintain APNA’s influence as the premier psychiatric-mental health nursing organization. This work involves promoting policies that ensure access to psychiatric-mental health care to diverse individuals, families and communities. Achieving this goal requires safeguarding diversity in the psychiatric-mental health workforce and supporting inclusive practices that honor and respect individuals, families, and communities.”

“Dr. Okoli’s commitment to excellence in the nursing field, improved patient outcomes and evidence-based practice has paved the way for him to serve APNA members, and in turn, improve the care of the patients they serve,” said Heath.

Founded in 1986, the APNA has grown to be the largest professional membership organization committed to the specialty practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing and wellness promotion, prevention of mental health problems, and the care of individuals with psychiatric disorders. Their core ideology is to be the unifying voice of psychiatric-mental health nursing. For more about APNA, visit

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.