Afaf Ibrahim Meleis


Dr. Meleis is Dean Emerita and Professor of Nursing and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and Professor Emerita at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Over the course of more than five decades, Dr. Meleis has demonstrated a profound passion for pushing the boundaries of nursing science, cultivating the next generation of health care leaders, and improving women’s health. As the vibrant and forward-thinking Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing (2002–2014), she was known as the “Energizer Dean,” a nickname coined in her 2009 Pennsylvania Gazette profile, which conveyed her can-do attitude and approach to her life’s work.

A leading expert in global health and immigrant and women’s health, Dr. Meleis has dedicated her career to ensuring vulnerable populations are given a voice, particularly women who are burdened by societal inequities, multiplicity of roles, differential compensation and rewards, and the gender divide. She used this knowledge to redefine women’s work and to develop Transitions Theory, which is translated globally in education, policy, research, and evidence-based practice.

In addition to her research and writings in over 200 publications on these topics, as well as on topics related to culturally competent practice, interprofessional education, and the epistemological analysis of the discipline of nursing, her impact on advancing global health is evident through her empowering mentorship of nursing scholars, scientists, clinicians, administrators, and students around the world. As an internationally renowned nurse scientist and medical sociologist, her scholarly contributions have informed generations of nurses, influencing their education, practice, and research programs.

A reflection of the international impact of her work is evident in her worldwide (in over 40 countries) consultations and invited keynotes. Her leadership in the International Council on Women’s Health Issues played a central role in inspiring scholarship in women’s health and in bringing together world leaders to form partnerships to improve the lives of women. Her leadership is also evident in the many boards and committees she actively participates in, including her current roles as a board trustee of Aga Khan University and a board trustee of The Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Her books continue to be used nationally and internationally, chief among them, Transitions Theory: Middle Range and Situation Specific Theories in Research and Practice and six editions of the groundbreaking Theoretical Nursing: Development and Progress. Her co-edited book, Women’s Health and the World’s Cities, innovatively examines the relationship between global urbanization and women’s health and is just one example of her far-reaching research, as it was widely disseminated through international networks, conferences, and launches, which in turn inspired collaboration and change. She also co-chaired the Harvard-Penn-Lancet Commission on Women and Health, the results of which were published in a full Lancet issue in 2015.

Dr. Meleis is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, as well as honorary professorships and doctorates. Among them is an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine from Linköping University, Sweden; a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Alicante, Spain; and the distinguished Honorary Citizenship of Oporto, Portugal. In 2015 she received the American Academy of Nursing Living Legend Award and the Sigma Theta Tau International Nell J. Watts Lifetime Achievement in Nursing Award, and she was inducted as an Honorary Fellow in the National League for Nursing’s Academy of Nursing Education. Most recently, she was honored with the 2018 Princess Srinagarindra Award in Thailand and was inducted into Marin Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2020, she received the chancellor's distinguished medal of honor from UCSF and was named by Carnegie Corporation of New York as one of the Great Immigrants, Great Americans.

Dr. Meleis graduated magna cum laude from the University of Alexandria (1961), earned an M.S. in nursing (1964), an M.A. in sociology (1966), and a Ph.D. in medical and social psychology (1968) from the University of California, Los Angeles.