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Columbia dean embraces her passion for social justice

Monday October 14, 2013
Bobbie A. Berkowitz, RN
Bobbie A. Berkowitz, RN
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An early career choice led Bobbie A. Berkowitz, RN, PhD, NEA, FAAN, to embark on a nontraditional professional journey that continues to shape her passion for health equity.

Currently the dean and Mary O’Neil Mundinger Professor of Nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing and senior vice president of Columbia University Medical Center, Berkowitz began her nursing career as a public health nurse in a rural community where she saw the social inequities that are common to such areas.

“My first role out of college was as a PHN in a rural community in Washington State in which I worked with a very vulnerable, at-risk population,” she said. Berkowitz said her work with these families, a lot of whom were dealing with chronic disease and umemployment, fueled her passion for social justice. “It shaped my career,” she said.

From there, Berkowitz began working to help reshape health policy in Washington State. She took a job as deputy secretary for the Washington State Department of Health and volunteered to serve on the Washington State Board of Health and the Washington State Healthcare Commission, where she helped develop a road map for the state’s health reform legislation. She also served as chairwoman of the board of directors of a group health cooperative.

It was in these types of nontraditional nursing roles that Berkowitz believes she has made the biggest impact. Her induction into the American Academy of Nursing proves her work as a nurse has had an impact. Her election to the Institute of Medicine served as confirmation that her commitment has affected healthcare in general.

“Others may not think of nurses for those roles, but nurses can absolutely assume leadership roles in policy and public health,” she said.

Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Nurse.com (Nursing Spectrum), the magazine will celebrate 25 key members of the New York/New Jersey nursing community in 2013.


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