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More than a century ago, the woman nurse practitioners (NPs) everywhere know, love and respect as Dr. Loretta “Lee” Ford, EdD, RN, PNP, NP-C, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP, was born in the Bronx borough of New York City. Ford studied at Middlesex General Hospital in their nursing program. When the U.S. entered World War II, she joined the Air Force — when the war ended, she returned to civilian life and eventually became director of nursing for the Boulder City-County Health Department. Most famously, Ford co-founded the NP role with Dr. Henry Silver, MD, in 1965. To help celebrate Ford, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) asked NPs for their thoughts on the NP role’s co-founder during this auspicious season.
Ford’s 100th birthday celebration kicked off in 2020 with the U.S. Surgeon General selecting her to receive the Surgeon General’s Medallion — the highest honor granted to a civilian by the Public Health Service and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. In May of 2023, Ford met with over 120 NPs in Tampa, Florida, for an event called “Tea with Lee.” This Veteran’s Day, Ford was recognized at Arlington National Cemetery for her service as a World War II Army Air Corps Nurse veteran.
When asked what NPs today can learn from Ford’s example, Lorraine M. Martin Plank, PhD, FNP-BC, NP-C, GNP-BC, FAANP, FNAP, shared the following: “Dr. Loretta Ford was a pioneer who introduced a new role into the health care system to meet a need for patients’ access to care. […] The need for pioneering, innovative and holistic NPs is huge, just as it was in Dr. Ford’s time. NPs today can learn that they do not have to settle for health care as it is now. They have the tools to work together and change the health care system to one that meets the needs of patients where they are — providing comprehensive, holistic care from health promotion to end of life.”
In some respects, Ford’s work is already commemorated in the existence of over 385,000 graduate-trained NPs that live in the U.S., and in the fact that the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) role is recognized in 70 countries. Furthermore, the NP role was ranked as the number one of the 2023 Best Health Care Jobs and grabbed the number two spot of the 100 Best Jobs of 2023.
Ford was also recognized recently alongside the role she co-created as one of USA Today’s list of Influential women in 2020, and she continues to inspire NPs and APRNs all over the world. Kenneth P. Miller, PhD, MJ, RN, CFNP, FAAN, FAANP, wrote: “If Dr. Ford had not had the foresight to see the significant role that advanced practice nurses could play in the future of health care, many millions of patients would never have received the health care that they needed then, or what they are receiving now. NPs have shown that what they do daily helps to prevent a total “mega-crisis” of health care in this country. Her model of health care providers has been picked up by countries around the world and strengthened the health care opportunities in those countries […] Loretta Ford’s vision will live on forever.”
Kahlil Demonbreun, DNP, RNC-OB, WHNP-BC, ANP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, adds that “One cannot underestimate the significance of Dr. Ford's legacy and global impact to our profession. As a leader within my practice organization and professional arena, not a day goes by without me reflecting on the foundation we as APRNs are afforded to stand on because of her.” He also adds: “Thank you, Lee, and thank you for our great times golfing together.”
If you would like to celebrate Dr. Ford turning 103, share photos or videos of you and your colleagues wishing Dr. Ford a very happy birthday. AANP will be uploading user-submitted photos and videos on social media, so submit between now and Jan. 1 to have your contributions featured!