In Memoriam: Nursing Pioneers

Jun 15, 2011, 3:47 PM, Posted by

The nation lost two nursing leaders and legends in recent days.

Luther Christman, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., the first male dean of a school of nursing in the United States and creator of the Rush Model for Nursing, passed away last week in Nashville, Tenn., at age 96. A psychiatric nurse, Christman was named dean of Vanderbilt University’s school of nursing in 1967. In 1972, he helped establish, and became the first dean of, Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago. He also served as vice president for nursing affairs at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center where he established the “Rush Model for Nursing,” in which clinical nurse specialists serve both as practicing experts and nursing school faculty. The model emphasizes physician-nurse teams, quality assurance and research.

Christman was also a champion for men in the nursing profession, perhaps because of the discrimination he encountered earlier in his career.

He was denied a job at the start of World War II in the Army Nurse Corps because of his gender and was defeated when he ran for president of the American Nurses Association in 1968—a loss attributed in part to his gender. Christman helped establish the National Male Nurse Association, now the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, and served as its chairman until his death.

Among his other accomplishments: member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Science; named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing; awarded three honorary degrees; first man to be inducted into the American Nursing Association (ANA) Hall of Fame; and has namesake awards given in his honor by ANA, the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, and Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honor society.

Also notably, Jo Eleanor Elliott, M.A., B.S.N., R.N., F.A.A.N., passed away May 1 at the age of 87. Elliott worked as Director of the Division of Nursing, United States Public Health Services at the Department of Health & Human Services from 1980 to 1989.

She served as president of the American Nursing Association (ANA) from 1964 to 1968. Elliott was present at several historic moments, including when President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, which the ANA had strongly supported. She also was at the signing of the Nurse Training Act to Aid Professional Nurse Education.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to this pioneer, and referenced Elliott’s work in a June 2010 speech on health care reform, noting that the ANA was the only major health care organization to support Medicare from the start. He acknowledged Elliott "for the courage and leadership she showed."


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.