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Nursing dean Antonia Villarruel speaking during an event on March 22, 2018.

Credit: Idil Demirdag

Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel will receive the 2021 Health Care Leader Award from the American Academy of Nursing for her impact in shaping health policy.

The American Academy of Nursing will present the award to Villarruel during the 2021 Health Policy Conference — called “Healthy Lives for All People: Advancing Equity, Science, and Trust” — from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9. Members of the Academy praised Villarruel for recognizing the vital role that nurses play in improving the nation’s health on a daily basis.

The Health Care Leader Award was founded in 2008 for influential leaders committed to improving the nation’s public health.

In September 2020, Villarruel was reappointed as dean of the School of Nursing. First appointed in 2014, her second term will run through June 2026. She is the sixth dean of the Nursing School, the second Penn alumni to hold the position, and the first to have prior and current National Institutes of Health funding.

Under Villarruel, Penn Nursing has been ranked the No. 1 nursing school in the world every year since 2016 by QS World University and received an approximate doubling of NIH funding. Penn Nursing also launched a formal Academic Practice Partnership with Penn Medicine and created global outreach initiatives in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Villarruel, who comes from a bilingual and bicultural background, is focused on working with Latinx populations, health promotion and education, and addressing health inequities, according to her faculty biography on the Penn Nursing website.

“Her career has demonstrated her profound dedication to improving community wellness by launching programs and centers for research, as well as serving as a leader and advisor to the federal government and countless organizations. I am thrilled to present her with the Academy’s Health Care Leader Award,” Academy President Eileen Sullivan-Marx told Penn Nursing News.

Villaruel serves as the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership at Penn and a chair of the National Academy of Medicine Culture of Health Program Advisory Committee.

She is also the founder of ¡Cuídate!, a program implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at reducing irresponsible sexual behavior among Latinx adolescents. Villaruel co-leads the NIH-funded Philadelphia Community Engagement Alliance to address COVID-19 Inequities across diverse populations.