Afaf I. Meleis, M.S. ’64, M.A. ’66, Ph.D. ’68, is the recipient of the 2023 UCLA Award for Professional Achievement, one of the highest honors bestowed on UCLA alumni. Meleis has made an outstanding and impactful contribution to the field of nursing, with an international reputation for excellence.
A renowned scientist and leader, Dr. Meleis listens to marginalized voices to empower women to achieve optimum health. Through her research, she advanced Transitions Theory, a framework for helping nurses facilitate healthy life changes in patients, which has been translated globally into policy, research and practice. She has mentored hundreds of nursing students from across the globe, advancing knowledge to drive change in policy and care.
Dr. Meleis was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, where she was inspired by her mother, a pioneer in nursing education. She came to UCLA, where she earned a master’s degree in nursing, a master’s in medical sociology and a doctorate in sociology.
Through her work as an educator, she has improved the field of nursing, empowering women burdened by societal inequities to speak up and create change. In her three decades at University of California, San Francisco, she helped establish one of the first nursing Ph.D. programs in the United States. In 2002, she became dean of family and community health for the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, where the Urban Women’s Health Think Tank launched under her leadership.
Although Dr. Meleis formally retired in 2016, she continues to work as a speaker, mentor, consultant and theorist. She co-chaired the Congress on Women’s Health and was the keynote speaker for UCLA’s School of Nursing’s 2018 Research Day.
Dr. Meleis has received numerous awards, including the UCSF Medal, the University’s highest honor, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York Great Immigrants award. In 2015, she was named a Living Legend of the American Academy of Nursing.
Dr. Meleis is highly published, having authored seven books and more than 200 articles in social science, nursing and for women’s health journals. She has reached the pinnacle of nursing achievement, and her tireless work has paved the way for countless others to carry on her legacy.