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Dr. Loretta Ford, UR Nursing's Founding Dean, Honored on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery

  By Nora Williamson
  Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Dr. Loretta Ford, co-founder of the first nurse practitioner program, is recognized for her service as a nurse during World War II on the eve of Nurse Practitioner Week.

Dr. Loretta Ford at the Veteran's Day celebration at Arlington Cemetary.
Photo provided by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners®.


Loretta C. Ford, EdD, RN, PNP, FAAN, FAANP, was honored for her service as a World War II Army Air Corps Nurse veteran at a ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. Dr. Ford, co-founder of the nurse practitioner role and founding dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing, will turn 103 years old this December. 

“It was a wonderful honor,” Ford said. "I am proud of the good we were able to bring to patient care."

Dr. Ford joined the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942 following the death of her fiancé in World War II. After serving her country as a nurse working at stateside military bases in Florida and Maine, she attended the University of Colorado on the GI Bill where she earned her bachelor's degree in nursing, a master's in public health, and her doctorate in education.

She later teamed with pediatrician Henry K. Silver to create the first pediatric nurse practitioner training program at the University of Colorado Medical Center in 1965. In addition to providing much needed care to Colorado’s rural patients, the program incorporated social, psychological, environmental and economic factors to better understand the needs of patients. Her actions resulted in the first-ever educational program for advanced nursing and the creation of the nurse practitioner role in health care.

“The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is thrilled that our profession’s co-founder and champion for improving patient access to care is recognized for her service to the nation,” said AANP President Stephen A. Ferrara, DNP, in a release. “Thanks to Dr. Ford’s vision and determination, the nation’s nurse practitioners continue to prioritize the needs of patients. On Nov. 12, we kick off National Nurse Practitioner (NP) Week, and I cannot think of a more important health care hero than Dr. Ford. I am grateful for her foresight in founding the first NP program nearly 60 years ago.” 

Dr. Ford
Rochester artist Nancy Wiley recently recreated Dr. Ford's military photo as part of the Historic Nurses portrait collection, now on display in the University of Rochester School of Nursing's fourth floor lounge.

Perhaps just as impactful as her early NP work at the University of Colorado was Ford’s development of the Unification Model at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. 

Recruited in 1972 to be the first dean of the newly independent school of nursing and director of nursing at Strong Memorial Hospital, Ford bridged the two roles to create a unified model of nursing, which combined education, research, and clinical practice to form a more holistic approach to nursing and health care. Throughout her tenure, Dr. Ford also played a pivotal role in advancing the nurse practitioner movement, significantly enhancing the national reputation of the School of Nursing as a leader in advancing nursing education.

"Dr. Ford's service to our nation and her groundbreaking contributions to the nursing profession is nothing short of remarkable," said Lisa Kitko, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, the sixth and current dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing. "Her pioneering spirit, exemplified in her military service and her visionary work as a public health nurse, has left an indelible mark on our field. Her dedication to innovation and excellence continues to inspire us all at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. We stand in awe of her achievements and are deeply grateful for her enduring legacy in shaping the future of nursing and health care."

Categories: Alumni

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