History at a Glance

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing (UABSON) was chartered as the University of Alabama School of Nursing (UASON) in 1950. The school opened its doors that year, after the Alabama Legislature in 1949 authorized and provided funds for a collegiate baccalaureate-level school of nursing in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at the University of Alabama (UA).

In 1967, the school moved from the Tuscaloosa campus to UA's rapidly growing Birmingham satellite campus, where it became a component of the academic complex that in 1969 became an autonomous university – now known as the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

This school's history has Birmingham-based nursing education roots dating to 1903, embedded in diploma nursing education provided by hospitals that became the foundation for UAB's internationally known medical center. Today the UAB School of Nursing—offering baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral nursing education—continues to pioneer in educating nurse leaders.

History Highlights



University of Alabama (UA) School of Nursing on the Tuscaloosa campus is founded as a state-supported collegiate baccalaureate-level nursing school.

On June 5, Florence A. Hixson, who would receive doctorate in education from Columbia University in 1952, accepts the position as the first dean.

In September, the school opens with three programs: traditional baccalaureate, RN-to-BSN for registered nurses, and a centralized social/biological sciences teaching program for students in seven Alabama hospital-based diploma nursing schools.

From the school's beginning, plans take shape for its students to receive much of their clinical education in Birmingham at UA's growing Medical Center.


Some junior-year courses are taught at UA's Extension Center in Birmingham; later in the decade, master's-degree courses also are taught there.


The basic baccalaureate program has its first graduates.


The master's program begins and will have its first graduates in 1956.


The Nu Chapter of The Honor Society for Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, is installed at the school as the nation's twelfth chapter.

James Bryan becomes the first male student to graduate from the basic baccalaureate program.



Sarah Louise Fisher is admitted to the basic baccalaureate program and in 1969 will become the school's first African-American graduate.


In Birmingham, the UA Extension Center becomes a four-year College of General Studies; its roles include providing academic background to professional schools' students within the UA Medical Center, including the medical and dental schools.


The UA School of Nursing moves from the Tuscaloosa campus to the Birmingham campus, to operate alongside UA's other health-related professional schools.

In Birmingham, the collegiate nursing school is housed in several temporary quarters until its new building is constructed.

UA's diploma nursing school in Birmingham, University Hospital School of Nursing, begins a planned phase-out, to end with its 1969 closing.


The Birmingham-based Medical Center and the College of General Studies, to this point part of UA, become an autonomous university, initially the University of Alabama in Birmingham, later the University of Alabama at Birmingham, more commonly UAB.

The collegiate nursing school's move to Birmingham and UAB's emergence as an autonomous university set the stage for the nursing school increasingly to be known as the UAB School of Nursing.

Delois Skipwith Guy joins the school as its first African-American faculty member.



In June, Dr. Florence A. Hixson retires as dean; she is succeeded by Dr. Marie L. O'Koren, the school's assistant dean and one of its master's graduates.


The school moves into its newly constructed building (still in use today), that features the Learning Resource Center (LRC), offering state-of-the-art instructional support.


Nurse practitioner (NP) education begins at the school with pediatric NP coursework through the school's Department of Continuing Education, leading to a certificate rather than a degree; the school's later NP programs are at the master's level.


Dr. Kathryn "Kitty" Barchard is recruited to head school's first research program, the Center for Research and Development; this will evolve into the school's Center for Nursing Research.


Dr. Carl H. Miller becomes the first male nurse to join the school's faculty.


The school's Doctor of Science in Nursing (DSN) program is approved in August as the nation's thirteenth nursing doctorate and the Southeast's first; Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies Dr. Jean A. Kelley leads the preparation for the DSN proposal; coursework begins in January 1976; the first graduates are in 1979.


The school's Outreach Project for Master's Nursing education begins; faculty travel in a large motor home tofour Alabama cities, teaching the entire master's curriculum within easy access for many nurses.


The school's Center for Nursing Research is established as the state's first such center, and among the first in the nation.



The University of Alabama School of Nursing Alumni Association is founded in February.


Hixson Hall, the nursing residence hall completed in 1962 on the UAB campus, is named in honor of Dr. Florence A. Hixson, the school's first dean.


Dr. Marie L. O'Koren retires as the school's second dean; she is succeeded by Dr. Rachel Z. Booth, who had been at Duke University as assistant vice president for health affairs, and dean and professor in the school of nursing.



Graduates of the four diploma nursing schools that are part of UAB's history are invited to become members of the Alumni Association serving UAB's collegiate nursing school.


The Board of Visitors (BOV) community-support board, a vision of Dean Rachel Z. Booth, is founded to raise funds and increase public awareness of the school.

The Marie L. O'Koren Endowed Chair in Nursing, the school's first endowed chair, is established; Dr. Barbara A. Smith is the first to be recruited to fill the chair; in 2013, Dr. Marie A. Bakitas will become the second.


The school is designated to develop a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Nursing, the 7th such U.S. center and the twenty-seventh worldwide; with uninterrupted redesignations and with PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) now part of its name, the center continues today.


The Rachel Z. Booth Endowed Chair in Nursing is established; In 2007, Dr. Linda Moneyham will become the first to fill the chair.


The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing program begins at the school, and today remains the only such program in Alabama; a phase-out begins for the school's Doctor of Science in Nursing (DSN) program, to conclude in 2005.

The University of Alabama School of Nursing Alumni Association's name changes to The Nursing Alumni Chapter of the UAB National Alumni Society.

The honors in Nursing program begins under Dr. Ellen Buckner's leadership.



To celebrate the school's 50th anniversary, Alumni Association archivist Pat Cleveland and UAB curator Stefanie Rookis create a historical exhibit; a school history book by historian Anita Smith is introduced – The First Fifty Years: From Tuscaloosa to Birmingham.


Dr. Carol Z. Garrison, a 1976 MSN graduate of the school, becomes the first nurse appointed UAB president; she will serve as president until 2012; in 2013 she will receive the nursing school's Distinguished Alumni Award.


Dean Rachel Z. Booth hosts the inaugural Cap & Cape event, honoring pioneer graduates of four diploma nursing schools operating consecutively, 1903-1969, on the campus that came to be known as UAB.

The Donna Brown Banton Endowed Professorship is established; in 2008 it will be filled by Dr. Patricia A. Patrician, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

Dr. Rachel Z. Booth retires as dean; she is succeeded by Dr. Doreen C. Harper, who had been serving as dean of the Graduate School of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Worchester.


The Junior Board of Visitors (JBOV) is established with help from the Board of Visitors (BOV) as a vehicle for young community leaders to support nursing and nursing education.

The school launches its BSN-to-PhD curriculum as a seamless path an entering baccalaureate student can travel to pursue PhD in nursing degree.


The school ranks first among U.S. schools of nursing for faculty scholarly productivity, in an annual Academic Analytics rating of faculty in more than 7,000 U.S. doctoral programs.


The Joint Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program begins in collaboration with the UAB School of Health Professions, University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing, and University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing in Tuscaloosa, with UAB's School of Nursing designated as the coordinating school; the first DNP graduates are in December 2009.

In partnership with the UAB Health System, the school initiates an Accelerated Master's in Nursing Pathway for individuals who have earned a previous degree in a non-nursing field.

The school's Clinical Nurse Leader program begins.

The school is approved by the Peace Corps for a Paul D. Coverdell program, known as Peace Corps Fellows.


The School is designated to have a Veterans Affairs (VA) Nursing Academy, by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations.



The school celebrates its 60th anniversary and recognizes 60 visionary alumni, at a time when the school has more than 11,000 graduates who are serving or have served throughout the U.S. and world.

The school receives 10-year maximum accreditation from Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for its baccalaureate and master's programs and five-year maximum accreditation for its joint Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.


U.S.News & World Report ranks UAB School of Nursing No. 21, in the top 5 percent of nursing schools in country; the school's adult nurse practitioner program and nursing service administration programs are ranked No. 10, and the family nurse practitioner program is ranked No. 12.

In-progress or just-completed renovations facilitate the school's growing interprofessional approach to learning, with nursing students learning alongside students from other health-related professions.

In April, Dean Doreen C. Harper is appointed as the Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair for the Dean of the School of Nursing, a chair recently created by a pledge from longtime Board of Visitors (BOV) member Fay B. Ireland and UAB funds.

The School’s Office of Clinical and Global Partnerships, led by Dr. Cynthia Selleck, began to expand the School’s faculty practice initiative and by 2020 had nearly 60 percent of faculty in practice. Early in this expansion, the School also worked with community and on-campus partners, including UAB Medicine, to start nurse-managed clinics, including PATH, for diabetes, and HRTSA, for heart failure.


In the fall, the school launches its RN-to-MSN curriculum as a seamless path an entering registered nurse can travel in pursuing a master's degree in nursing.

As the school's programs of teaching, research, and service expand, and the student body nears 2,000, plans take shape for a future construction project to accommodate the growth – an expansion that will connect with the school's present building.

Effective August 1, UAB's Nurse Anesthesia program moves from the School of Health Professions to the School of Nursing, a move recommended and approved by both schools' faculties.

On October 14, the Barrett Brock MacKay Florence Nightingale Exhibit is dedicated at the school, to showcase the contents of the treasured Nightingale letters collection housed in Lawrence Reynolds Historical Library at UAB's Lister Hill Library; the exhibit is named for Board of Visitors (BOV) member Barrett Brock MacKay.


Dr. Marie A. Bakitas is named to the Marie L. O'Koren Endowed Chair.

Under the leadership of recently appointed UAB President Dr. Ray L. Watts, the nursing school joins UAB Medicine and other UAB entities in adopting a unified campus-wide brand: "Knowledge that will change your world."


The School begins a series of initiatives funded by multiple grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), The Daniel Foundation of Alabama and others to improve mental health care, quality of care and outcomes for underresourced patients and Veterans. By 2020 the School will have received more than $46 million for these initiatives.


The School and UAB Medicine formally expand the UAB Nursing Partnership with a common mission, vision and values to work together with aligned resources to leverage education, research and practice initiatives to benefit both.

The School launches its independent Doctor of Nursing Practice Program which includes both the MSN-to-DNP Pathway and the BSN-to-DNP Pathway.

The School’s Office of Technology and Innovation, which leads the School’s skills and simulation initiatives as well as instructional design and telehealth, is established with Dr. Jacqueline Moss as its first Associate Dean.


The School’s $32 million, 72,000-square-foot expansion and renovation is completed in time for the fall semester.



The School kicks off its 70th anniversary celebration in February, including recognizing 70 visionary leaders among its more than 18,000 graduates, but postpones in-person events as the entire campus pivots to remote learning, work and events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students engage in remote learning until Fall 2020, and faculty and staff return to campus full-time in May 2021.


Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing announces her intent to retire on April 30, 2022. Linda Moneyham, PhD, RN, FAAN, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs is named Interim Dean.

The School reaches the top 10 schools of nursing in National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding, ranking No. 6 overall and No. 2 among public schools of nursing for fiscal year 2021, as ranked by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research.


Maria Rodriguez Shirey, PhD, MBA, MS, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FACHE, FNAP, FAAN, Associate Dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships and inaugural holder of UAB’s Jane H. Brock – Florence Nightingale Endowed Professorship in Nursing, is named the fifth dean of the UAB School of Nursing and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing.