By Jennifer Lollar
Felesia R. Bowen, PhD, DNP, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAAN, has joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing August 23, 2021, as the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She also is a Professor in the Department of Acute, Chronic and Continuing Care.
Bowen has distinguished herself as a leader and nurse scientist in pediatric asthma and health equity, focusing on the health equity conditions and health disparities of childhood asthma and trauma in urban communities. She also is a nationally certified pediatric nurse practitioner and has a strong academic nursing background with expertise in teaching, service and research. She has led and improved Pediatric Nurse Practitioner graduate and undergraduate nursing programs at academic health centers along the East Coast and maintains an active clinical practice.
As the first Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Bowen will continue to build on the foundations the School has built and establish a path forward in the School’s pursuit of a more inclusive learning and working environment. She also plans to expand the community’s perceptions of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, moving from traditional siloed courses or lessons on inclusion and ensuring DEI is present and threaded through the curriculum and all aspects of the UAB School of Nursing.
“I want DEI to be more than a buzzword, I want it to be the foundation of our School’s culture. This is an inaugural office, and I have a vision for this being more than just a DEI office,” Bowen said. “I talk about belonging a lot, so I look at this as an opportunity to create activities and spaces where people feel like they belong; where people feel comfortable when they come in for work or classes, so they don’t have to codeswitch—that’s exhausting. I want our SON community to be one where people feel safe and empowered to be their authentic selves.”
“The UAB School of Nursing is excited to take this step and to welcome Dr. Bowen to our campus,” said Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed chair in Nursing Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Diversity, equity and inclusion have long been core values at the School of Nursing, and hiring our first Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is one more step toward a continued focus on those values. We look forward to carrying forward the momentum of 2020’s social justice movements as we analyze existing systems, gather feedback and continue progress.”
Bowen comes to the UABSON from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing where she has been the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs, leading the program to achieve excellent outcomes.
As the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Bowen will serve as a member of the School’s senior leadership team, leading the UABSON in implementing strategic diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including the implementation of the School’s Strategic Diversity Plan. She will advise the School on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, working with the dean, associate deans, department chairs and program directors; the STRIDE committee; and our community of interest. She will also work collaboratively with the University DEI Office to help foster an environment at the UABSON where all students, faculty, staff and alumni can thrive and fulfill their professional potential to improve health equity for all. She also will help establish a tone in the UABSON that will exemplify authentic diversity, equity, and inclusivity among our faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Bowen has large goals for this office, but she also enters her new role with humility, understanding there will be challenges along the way. But she is ready to take on those challenges and to take on this role step by step.
“It’s an inaugural office, and people have said, ‘I don’t think anything’s going to change.’ Students, faculty and staff have all said this,” Bowen said. “But I want to point out that things have changed already—we have an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which shows tremendous commitment from leadership.
“It’s not going to be an overnight thing, where you spray MiracleGro® and your roses come back, but we have a plot of ground that we’ve been given, a community garden,” she continued. “It’s going to be a team effort. This is shared work for everyone in our community—the UAB School of Nursing community. This work belongs to everyone.”
Bowen began her nursing career as an Army Nurse where she served on active duty, the army reserves and New Jersey National Guard for 15 years. She is a veteran of the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During her tenure in the military she held several nurse leadership positions and earned several military honors and awards for her service during peacetime and war. After leaving active duty, Bowen pursued an advanced degree in nursing. She has practiced in vulnerable communities for the majority of her advanced practice career, including founding and serving as the director of the Center for Urban Youth and Families, an inter-professional research center at Rutgers College of Nursing, an interdisciplinary group of scientists and community members working collaboratively to address pediatric health disparities through interdisciplinary research.
Bowen is the recipient of several grant awards and was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2019 in recognition of her impact on children's health. Her expertise in pediatric health care has been recognized at the municipal, state and national level, including two terms of service as a member of the National Academy of Science Engineering and Medicine Forum for Children’s Well-Being. Bowen earned her BSN from Tuskegee University, MSN from Rutgers University, PhD from Columbia University and DNP from Fairleigh Dickinson University.