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Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing, has brought innovative thinking and fresh approaches to her leadership of Penn Nursing. 

Penn Nursing Dean Antonia VillarruelA leader from the start

When Dr. Villarruel arrived at the School in 2014, she knew she had formidable shoes to fill. The legacy of Penn Nursing is long and storied, and she took it upon herself to ensure that the School’s renown for leadership, innovation, and outreach would be sustained for years to come.

Throughout her tenure, she has been steering the School to use its institutional excellence to advance the  science of nursing, to turn our knowledge into effective healthcare policies and best practices, to develop expert leaders and educators, and to engage diverse communities in the pursuit of better healthcare for all

Innovation, outreach, and access

Dr. Villarruel believes strongly in the Penn Compact 2020 and supports efforts to promote Penn Nursing as an innovative environment with world-class faculty that enables diverse students to prepare for leadership roles in improving health. She has overseen the development of a strategic plan to ensure that Penn Nursing remains a national and international force for improving healthcare through nursing science, education, research, and practice. 

In addition to serving as dean and on the faculty, Dr. Villarruel directs the WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership at Penn Nursing. The center works with the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to help reduce maternal mortality in Haiti, with potential replication in Bolivia, and to develop leadership in nursing education and research.

She has fostered a renewed partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) that uses an academic-practice model to narrow the gap in healthcare disparities and meets the needs of underserved patients in our community.

She has also worked hard to bolster the Living Independently for Elders (LIFE) program—an integral part of our clinical practice and community outreach—that provides quality care for elderly residents of West Philadelphia and beyond. Through her leadership, we’ve partnered with Trinity Health PACE in efforts to continue to provide care to elders and their families in the West Philadelphia community and beyond.

Vision for the future

While Penn Nursing is already the top nursing school in the world, Dr. Villarruel’s leadership focuses on also being the preeminent intellectual and transformative force in improving health through nursing. She is creating a shared vision for Penn Nursing and empowering the faculty and staff to implement that vision. Key tasks already underway include developing research areas for the future, diversifying the incoming faculty, and further integrating the research, education, practice, and global missions of the School, UPHS, and the University.