Carol E. Ware Professor in Mental Health Nursing
Director, Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing
Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics

The history of health care looks very different through the eyes of nurses.

Dr. Patricia D’Antonio is an internationally recognized historian of nursing whose research demonstrates nurses’ strong influence on health, social mobility, diversity and the development of cultural and health care norms. Her most recent work on early 20th century health demonstration projects in the United States, for example, shows that nurses were central in promoting the current norms of primary care: regular physical examinations, prenatal and dental care, and hearing and eye checkups. She also argues that nurses slowly changed prevailing health beliefs, in ways that not only set the stage for our current health care system but also reflected and refracted political, gendered, racialized, and social norms.

Dr. D’Antonio directs Penn Nursing’s Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, a resource for scholars worldwide. The Center works with historians of nursing and healthcare to place the history of nursing at the center of debates about health policy, practice, and the education of a new generation of clinicians.

For Dr. D’Antonio, writing the history of nursing means evaluating both successes and failures. In another book, American Nursing, she drew on firsthand accounts by white and African-American men and women nurses to discover how these groups historically viewed themselves and each other. She found that a strong nursing identity bridged some historical divides within systems of care and education that reinforced strong gender and racial hierarchies.


  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 1992
  • MSN, Catholic University of America, 1982
  • BS, Boston College School of Nursing, 1977