Margaret Wilmoth, PhD, MSS, RN, FAAN
Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Wilmoth is the 2021 Penn Nursing Outstanding Alumni Award winner. She was previously featured as an alum; as this year’s winner, we wanted to share an update to her professional journey.
Peggy has had dual careers that simultaneously advanced the profession of nursing in highly diverse areas. She is a leader within the traditional nursing field of academia and in the medical sector. But Peggy has also excelled in the less conventional routes of military and health policy careers, which stemmed from her childhood dream of becoming an Army nurse. Peggy’s professional drive has led her to balance the challenging demands of both academia and the Army Reserve, but she credits two factors that keep her (and other reservists) motivated:
“We do it for the love of the country. And we do it because of those whom we serve alongside of—our battle buddies—that keeps us motivated to do this juggling act.”
Peggy is a 1993 graduate of the PhD Program at Penn Nursing. Prior to that she earned her BSN and MSN from the University of Maryland. She later earned a Masters of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College. Early in her career, Peggy examined the impact of cancer and other chronic illnesses on intimacy and sexuality. More recent work examined psychiatric evacuation from the theater of war and deployment-related health policy. She is currently leading a group working to understand the well-being of reserve-connected military children and to define military families as a unique population with distinct health needs. She is currently one of five former military nurses working to restore funding in the National Defense Authorization Act to the TriService Nursing Research Program, a unique source of federal research funding to active, reserve, and retired military nurse researchers and doctoral students who serve in the military.
In 2008, Peggy was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing and served as the first chair of the Military/Veterans Health Expert Panel. She also served on the HRSA National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, is active in the North Carolina Nurses Association and was involved with the Georgia Nurse Leaders Coalition, and the Georgia Action Coalition on the Future of Nursing. Additionally, Peggy is a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow, having served her fellowship in 2009-2010 with Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Peggy had a concurrent 35-year career in the U.S. Army Reserve where she commanded units of various size and complexity. She was selected as the first nurse and female commanding general of a medical brigade with responsibility for wartime readiness of all the U.S. Army Reserve medical assets in the Southeastern United States, including Puerto Rico. She completed her career with a promotion to Major General with assignment to the Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and served as the Deputy Surgeon General for the Army Reserve—she was the first woman and nurse selected to serve in this role. During this time she represented Army Medicine contributing to the policies that allowed transgendered individuals to serve openly in the Armed Forces and those that allowed women to serve in all military occupational specialties in the Army.
Prior to her role as Deputy Surgeon General, Peggy was the Assistant for Mobilization and Readiness in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense and led the examination of psychiatric evacuation from the theater of operations which contributed to a modified deployment policy around pre-existing psychiatric conditions and psychotropic medication use. Additionally, Peggy was appointed two terms on the Army Reserve Forces Policy Committee and was the Deputy Chair in her final term of service. Her other accolades include: the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Expert Field Medical Badge, and she holds the 9A Proficiency Designator in Medical-Surgical Nursing awarded by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. She is also a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit.
Peggy is currently the inaugural Executive Vice Dean and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Prior to that role, she was the first Dean of the Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions at Georgia State University and led a restructuring of the college, creating new educational opportunities for students within the health care arena. Peggy’s impressive resume highlights the breadth of experience that a nursing background can ignite. She is a groundbreaking nurse and has set the stage as the “first” in a variety of recognized leadership positions and exemplifies what it means to be an Outstanding Alumni.
Random Fact: Peggy counts ballroom dancing, running and yoga among her favorite hobbies.