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Afaf Ibrahim Meleis is a Professor of Nursing and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing and Director of the School’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership from 2002 through 2014. This followed her 34-year tenure as a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
Meleis was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Her mother was a prominent nurse in Egypt, having been the first nurse to earn MPH and PhD degrees at an Egyptian university. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Alexandria in 1961. She earned an MS in nursing (1964), an MA in sociology (1966) and a PhD in medical and social psychology (1968) from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to coming to Penn, she spent more than 30 years on the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco.
Meleis is a nurse scientist and medical sociologist. Over the course of 5 decades her scholarly contributions have informed generations of nurses around the world and influenced their education, practice, and research programs. Her writings and research have advanced knowledge in global health, women’s health, culturally-competent practice, interprofessional education and the epistemological analysis of the discipline of nursing. Much of her life’s work has been dedicated to uncovering the experiences and the voices of vulnerable women who are burdened by societal inequities, multiplicity of roles, differential compensation and rewards, and the gender divide. She used this knowledge to redefine women’s work and contributions and to develop Transitions Theory, which is used globally and is translated into policy, research, and evidence-based practice.
Meleis is the author of more than 200 articles published in peer reviewed, interdisciplinary, and international journals. She is also the author of 50 chapters, 7 books, and numerous monographs, proceedings, and policy papers. Her books continue to be used nationally and internationally, chief among them, several editions of the ground breaking Theoretical Nursing: Development and Progress and Transitions Theory: Middle Range and Situation Specific Theories in Research and Practice. Her co-edited book, Women’s Health and the World’s Cities, innovatively examines the relationship between global urbanization and women’s health and is just one example of her far-reaching research, as it was widely disseminated through international networks, conferences and launches, which in turn inspired collaboration and change.
While at the University of California, San Francisco, Meleis published an award-winning book that is used by faculty and nursing doctoral students worldwide and continued her work on transitions theory. Theoretical Nursing: Development and Progress, first published in 1985, provides an historical perspective on nursing through a feminist post-colonial analyses of the forces that are driving nursing care, education, research, and administration. In the book she provides frameworks for developing analytic skills and integrating knowledge that defines the discipline of nursing. Meleis is working on the sixth edition of the book.
Meleis has used transitions theory to acknowledge the role of nurses as they help people go through health/illness and life transitions. Like Theoretical Nursing: Development and Progress, nursing faculty and students use this work to develop research programs. Meleis, and the nurses she has mentored, have used transitions theory to study many types of transitions such as the immigration transition, the transition of caregivers, the transition of patients with cardiovascular events, the transition to motherhood, and the menopausal transition, as well as the transition of women toward integrating their roles while enhancing their wellbeing.
Her book, Transitions Theory: Middle Range and Situation Specific Theories in Nursing Research and Practice (2010), is a collection of more than 50 articles published from 1975 through 2007. The book covers developmental, situational, health/illness, and organizational transitions, as well as congruent nursing therapeutics, and it includes Meleis's historical research and practice perspective on transitions. Nurse-researchers use the book as a framework for developing research programs, clinicians use it for developing models of practice, and educators use it to develop curricula.
A reflection of the international impact of Meleis’s work is evident in her world-wide (in over 40 countries) consultations, invited keynotes, and mentorship of hundreds of students, faculty, clinicians, and administrators. Her leadership in the International Council on Women’s Health Issues played a central role in inspiring scholarship in women’s health and in bringing together world leaders to form partnerships to improve the lives of women. Her leadership is also evident in the many boards and committees she actively participates in, including her role as a board member of Aga Khan University and a board member of The Buck Institute for Research on Aging. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (formally IOM) and co-chaired its Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, as well as a board member of The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Faculty Scholars program. She also co-chaired the Harvard-Penn-Lancet Commission on Women and Health, the results of which were recently published in a full Lancet issue in 2015.
Meleis, A. I. (2016). The Undeaning Transition: Toward Becoming a Former Dean. Nursing Outlook. 64 (2), 186-196.
Langer, A., Meleis, A., Knaul, F. M., Atun, R., Aran, M., Arreola-Ornelas, H., ... & Claeson, M. (2015). Women and health: the key for sustainable development. The Lancet, 386(9999), 1165-1210.
Meleis, A.I. (2011). Theoretical nursing: Development and progress (5th Ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Meleis, A.I., Birch, E., Wachter, S. (Ed.). (2011). Women’s Health and the World’s Cities. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press
Bhutta ZA, Chen L, Cohen J, Crisp N, Evans T, Fineberg H, Frenk J, Garcia P, Horton R, Ke Y, Kelley P, Kistnasamy B, Meleis A., Naylor D, Pablos-Mendez A, Reddy S, Scrimshaw S, Sepulveda J, Serwadda D, Zurayk H. (2010). Education of health professionals for the 21st century: a global independent Commission. Lancet, 375(9721):1137-8.
Meleis, A.I. (2010). Transitions Theory: Middle Range and Situation Specific Theories in Research and Practice. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
Meleis, A.I. (2005) Safe womanhood is not safe motherhood: policy implications. Health Care for Women International, 26(6), 464-471.
Meleis, A.I. & Dracup, K. (2005). The Case Against the DNP: History, Timing, Substance, and Marginalization. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. 10 (3), Manuscript 2:
Meleis, A.I., & Im, E. (2002). Grandmothers and Women’s Health: From Fragmentation to Coherence. Health Care for Women International, 23 (2), 207-224.
Meleis, A.I., & Lindgren, T. (2001). Show Me a Woman Who Does Not Work! Journal of Nursing Scholarship, Third Quarter,33(3) 209-210.
Meleis, A.I., Sawyer L., Im, E., Schumacher, K., & Messias, D. (2000). Experiencing transitions: An emerging middle range theory. Advances in Nursing Science, 23(1), 12-28.
Meleis, A.I. (1998). Revisions in knowledge development: A passion for substance. Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, 12(1), 65-77.
Meleis, A.I. (1997). Immigrant transitions and health care: An action plan. Nursing Outlook, 45(1), p. 42.
Meleis, A.I., Messias, D.K.H., & Arruda, E.N. (1996). Women's work environment and health: Clerical workers in Brazil. Research in Nursing and Health, 19, 53-62.
Meleis, A.I. (1996). Culturally competent scholarship: Substance and rigor. Advances in Nursing Science, 19(2), 1-16.
Meleis, A.I. Hall, J. M., & Stevens, P.E. (1994). Scholarly caring in doctoral nursing education: Promoting diversity and collaborative mentorship. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 26(3), 177-180.
Meleis, A.I., & Trangenstein, P.A. (1994). Facilitating transitions: Redefinition of a nursing mission. Nursing Outlook, 42(6), 255-259.
- Alligood, Martha Raile; Tomey, Ann Marriner (eds.) (2010). Nursing theorists and their work (PDF) (7th ed.). Mosby/Elsevier. pp. 416–418. ISBN 978-0-323-05641-0. Retrieved November 21, 2015.