Dr. Afaf Ibrahim Meleis is a Professor of Nursing and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing and Director of the School’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership from 2002 through 2014. This followed her 34 year tenure as a Professor at the University of California, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Her writings and research advanced knowledge in global health, women’s health, culturally-competent practice, interprofessional education and the epistemological analysis of the discipline of nursing. Much of her life’s work has been dedicated to uncovering the experiences and the voices of vulnerable women who are burdened by societal inequities, multiplicity of roles, differential compensation and rewards, and the gender divide. She used this knowledge to redefine women’s work and contributions and to develop Transitions Theory, which is used globally and is translated into policy, research and evidence-based practice.
Dr. Meleis is the author of more than 200 articles published in peer reviewed interdisciplinary and international journals. She is also the author of 50 chapters, 7 books, and numerous monographs, proceedings and policy papers. Her books continue to be used internationally, chief among them, Transitions Theory: Middle Range and Situation Specific Theories in Research and Practice and several editions of the ground breaking Theoretical Nursing: Development and Progress, with a 6th edition published in 2017. Her co-edited book, Women’s Health and the World’s Cities, innovatively examines the relationship between global urbanization and women’s health and is just one example of her far-reaching research, as it was widely disseminated through international networks, conferences and launches, which in turn inspired collaboration and change.
A reflection of the impact of her work is evident in her world-wide consultations, invited keynotes and mentorship of students, faculty, clinicians and administrators. Her leadership in the International Council on Women’s Health Issues played a central role in inspiring scholarship in women’s health and in bringing together world leaders to form partnerships to improve the lives of women. Her leadership is also evident in the many boards and committees she actively participates in, including her role as a board member of Aga Khan University and a board member of The Buck Institute for Research on Aging. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and co-chaired its Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, as well as a board member of The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Faculty Scholars program. She co-chaired the Harvard-Penn-Lancet Commission on Women and Health, the results of which were published in a full Lancet issue in 2015. She was also a member of a CSIS Global Health Policy Center Task Force on Women’s and Family Health, which provided our current U.S. Administration and Congress with a road map, addressing how they may best contribute to the spectrum of issues that impact the health of women and families globally.
Dr. Meleis is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. In 2015 she received the American Academy of Nursing Living Legend Award and the Sigma Theta Tau International Nell J. Watts Lifetime Achievement in Nursing Award, and she was inducted as an Honorary Fellow in the National League for Nursing’s Academy of Nursing Education.
Through her work, Dr. Meleis has simultaneously raised the visibility of the nursing profession and the importance of addressing the social inequities facing women around the world.