Harper receives lifetime achievement award

Photo of Doreen Harper

By Jennifer Lollar

Retired University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Dean and Professor Emerita Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, has received the Loretta C. Ford Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Nurse Practitioner Symposium.

The award is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated longevity, integrity, professional achievement and advocacy in advanced practice nursing on a national level.

“What an honor to receive the Loretta Ford Lifetime Achievement Award, Harper said. “Loretta has been a treasured mentor, friend, role model and colleague for more than 40 years.”

Loretta Ford, EdD, RN, PNP, FAAN, FAANP, is an internationally renowned nursing leader whose vision and habit of questioning the status quo galvanized colleagues and continues to inspire those who have followed in her footsteps. Ford’s studies on the expanded scope of practice in public health nursing led to the creation of the first nurse practitioner training program at the University of Colorado in 1965. Her work revolutionized the delivery of health services and the role of nursing in clinical care. Ford later became the founding dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing in 1972 and continued to influence graduate-level nursing education, developing a model that melded practice, education and research.

Harper first connected with Ford when she was working on publications that advocated for “a call to action for NP unity and organization.” These publications precipitated the growth and development of national and state nurse practitioner organizations. Harper asked Ford for her support for the tenants of what she laid out in the publications, and she received it.

“Imagine the confidence I felt as Loretta Ford believed in me in the earliest stages of my nurse practitioner career,” Harper said. “In her roles as a nurse practitioner, dean and notable nursing leader, Loretta supported me and others and has promoted nurse practitioners as essential healthcare providers throughout her entire life.”

Harper and Ford remained connected through the years, with Harper attending the symposium numerous times throughout her career as a nurse practitioner, and they stayed connected as Harper took both of her deanships.

“When I became a dean more than 22 years ago, Loretta once again reconnected as a mentor as a fellow nurse practitioner dean—serving as a tall ship for me in the midst of uncharted waters,” Harper said. “Following in Loretta’s footsteps, I worked to expand the nurse practitioner workforce in the Eastern and Southern regions, broke down barriers to practice by creating innovative nurse practitioner practice and educational models and consistently grew a national cadre of nurse practitioner leaders, scientists and expert providers.”

Harper also credits her colleagues over the years with collaboration and support that have helped her make her mark on the nurse practitioner profession.

“So many have played a key role in this award—my colleagues from George Mason and George Washington University, Jean Johnson and Eileen O’Grady. Colleagues from UMass Medical School, Janet Hale, and most recently my many colleagues from the UABSON, especially Cindy Selleck and Nancy Rudner who nominated me for this award,” Harper said. “Each of these nurse practitioner teams have been essential in helping me grow and develop the nurse practitioner workforce, preparing countless students for the nurse practitioner profession. Together with our NONPF colleagues, Lucy Marion, Chuckie Hanson, Marybeth Bigley and others, we have been able to forward the agenda to raise educational program standards for nurse practitioners that aligns with our evolving scope of practice.”

Harper served as the UAB School of Nursing dean from November 2005 until April 2022. She led the expansion of new educational programming, including the Accelerated Master's in Nursing Pathway, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, Dual DNP-PhD Pathway, advanced practice nursing majors including the Nurse Anesthesia DNP Pathway and the recent development of nurse midwifery and multiple other nurse practitioner specialties. In 2023, U.S. News & World Report ranked the school’s MSN program 15. The DNP program is ranked 18. Seven of the school’s specialties in the MSN and DNP programs also are ranked. The Masters in Nursing Administration is fourth, the Masters Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner is seventh, the Masters Family Nurse Practitioner seventh, the Doctor of Nursing Practice Family Nurse Practitioner sixth, the Doctor of Nursing Practice Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner fifth, the Doctor of Nursing Practice Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner sixth and the Doctor of Nursing Practice Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner 11.

She also led the development of innovative clinical partnerships and other clinical initiatives in the School that include several innovative nurse-led clinics with nurse practitioners and other health disciplines caring for the state's most vulnerable populations in urban and rural areas. Among these are the Providing Access to Healthcare (PATH) Clinic, Heart FailuRe Transitional Care Services for Adults (HRTSA) Clinic at UAB Hospital, The Wellhouse Clinic, Changed Lives Mobile Clinic, the VA Nursing Academic Partnership, Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Residency Clinic, Children’s of Alabama Partnership and Nurse Family Partnership of Central Alabama.

“Seeing UAB SON graduates and faculty of these innovative educational and clinical programs lead, discover new knowledge, and provide sustainable, high-quality care that promotes health and wellness among populations in Alabama and beyond brings me joy and is the essence of this award,” Harper said. “Yet with the current issues in the health care system and the need for health equity, new opportunities continue to emerge—UAB’s Advanced Practice Nursing graduates and faculty are positioned to be front and center to lead the way.”

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