Former SWHR Board member and dedicated women’s health advocate Colleen Conway-Welch, PhD, RN, died on Oct. 12 after a battle with cancer.
“Colleen Conway-Welch was an extraordinary advocate for women’s health and a longtime supporter of the Society for Women’s Health Research,” SWHR President and CEO Amy M. Miller said. “That’s why SWHR awarded her with the Health Education Visionary Award at our awards dinner earlier this year. Colleen made a lasting impact here at SWHR with her commitment to the field.”
Dr. Patricia Grady, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Nursing Research, presented the award to Conway-Welch for her longtime dedication to health education and women’s health. See a video clip of her award acceptance speech below.
Florence Haseltine, PhD, SWHR’s founder and a longtime friend of Conway-Welch, recruited her to the organization’s Board of Directors. “As we started the Society, we needed like-minded people who understood that women needed to be included in clinical research and to have their needs addressed,” Haseltine said. “Research to benefit humanity was Colleen’s passion. She was a focused and driven advocate who greatly helped develop SWHR as an active board member.”
Conway-Welch served as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing for nearly 30 years, during which time she transformed the school into one of the top advanced practice nursing programs in the country. When she began her tenure, the school had 100 students. Today, the enrollment totals nearly 900, and the school is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s best graduate schools.
Her interest in women’s and infant’s health influenced Conway-Welch’s nursing career, starting with her first job as a labor and delivery nurse and eventually leading her to become a certified nurse midwife. She brought her vast expertise to national commissions on AIDS, public health preparedness, and Medicare. She was a member of the National Academy of Medicine and an American Academy of Nursing Living Legend for her profound contributions to the nursing profession, health education and public policy.
“To make a difference, you have to take risks, and I’ve been relatively successful in taking risks,” Conway-Welch said in a video shown before the SWHR award presentation.
In 2017, Conway-Welch issued a matching challenge gift to SWHR, and for every dollar raised from individual supporters, she matched the donation. Her generous gift so inspired SWHR’s donors that we exceeded our goal. The challenge raised needed funds to support SWHR’s mission to improve women’s health through science, policy, and education. SWHR is grateful for this generous financial support and Conway-Welch’s leadership during her time on the SWHR Board of Directors.