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Ruby L. Wilson, EdD’69, MSN, RN, FAAN

Dean Emerita

Dr. Ruby Wilson graduated with honors from Punxsutawney High School and Allegheny General Hospital School of Nursing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After completing a B.S.N.Ed. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1954 and after serving as night clinical instructor and supervisor at A.G.H. for several years, she was appointed to Duke University School of Nursing as an instructor in Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing in their new BSN program, serving 1955-1957.


After 1957-58 employment at Fort Miley VA Hospital in San Francisco, California, Dr. Wilson completed her MSN at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case-Western University, in Cleveland, Ohio in 1959 and returned to Duke University. During 1968-1971, after completing her doctorate (Ed.D.) at Duke University, Dr. Wilson served as visiting professor and consultant in nursing with the Rockefeller Foundation at the faculty of Ramathibodi, Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand as she assisted nursing and medicine in developing educational and patient care programs in the new research medical center there.

In 1971 she returned again to Duke and was appointed dean of the School of Nursing, a position she maintained until 1984, where she became assistant to the chancellor for health affairs. Dr. Wilson pioneered innovative nursing programs in both education and patient care. Together with Thelma Ingles, a Duke nursing colleague, she developed the first-ever clinical master's program in nursing in 1955-56. Hanes Project, a primary nurse program within the MSN curriculum in 1961-2, admitted patients to a nurse as well as a physician, and Dr. Wilson was the developing director. In 1963 she developed and served in the first clinical nurse specialist position at Duke Medical Center, continuing her faculty appointments in the School of Nursing and Medicine and receiving a special appointment in the Department of Nursing Services at Duke Hospital; she is the only nurse to have a triad appointment in the medical center.

Among many other accomplishments as dean, Dr. Wilson re-established the graduate program of the School of Nursing, and her influence assisted in retaining the School of Nursing during 1978-80, a time of university retrenchment. As a member of professional, academic, and community organizations, Dr. Wilson has served in numerous capacities. She has also lobbied for nursing and health issues in the state and federal levels, as well as assisting in the drafting of bills and the writing of their regulations when approved. She was a presidential appointee the Federal Advisory Committee for Nursing.

An early nurse activist in legislative policy on matters relating to health and nursing in particular, Dean Wilson was often a lead representative of nursing organizations at the state and federal levels. She helped draft nursing bills, presented testimony to Congress, and collaborated with other nursing deans to advance a health-care agenda. She also worked to promote inter-institutional collaborations. Her efforts culminated in dual appointments of faculty and clinical staff members between Duke and Veterans Administration hospitals.

Dean Wilson carried her service commitment into the local community and far beyond. Among many other involvements, she has served on the boards of the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program, the American Cancer Society, Triangle Hospice, and the Women's Forum of North Carolina. She has worked with the Rockefeller Foundation in Thailand to design a research-driven medical center with a new nursing curriculum. She has also been elected to both the prestigious Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Nursing. As a member of the latter organization, she helped give direction to the 1983 Nursing Study, which recommended a National Institute of Nursing Research; she later helped select the institute's first director. She also served as a presidential appointee on the National Council of Nurse Training of the United States Public Health Service.

Many honors have been accorded to Dr. Wilson, including being the first women from the medical center to receive the Duke University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service (2006). She was elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (1976) and the American Academy of Nursing (1976). In recognition of her enduring support for the university and for the School of Nursing in particular, the School of Nursing building named as one of its important features "The Ruby L. Wilson Patient Assessment Lab," in Dean Wilson's honor. In 2007, the Ruby L. Wilson Professorship was established in her honor. She was awarded the inaugural Duke University School of Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Duke University Alumni Association in 2008. In 2009, Dr. WIlson was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing. The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing honored Dr. Wilson with its 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Education

  • EdD - Duke University
  • MSN - Case Western Reserve University

Awards and Honors