Nancy Woods, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a legend in nursing – locally, nationally and internationally. In fact, she was named a “Living Legend” by the American Academy of Nursing in 2017. The recognition came after decades of research, teaching and leadership that have shaped not only the practice of nursing, but also the education and careers of legions of nurses.
Woods has had a sustained impact on nursing science through her individual program of research in women’s health and through institutional leadership and advocacy that helped establish the National Center and then National Institute of Nursing Research. In her time as Dean of the University of Washington School of Nursing, Woods launched the first Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program on the West Coast, advanced equity and inclusion, and led the School of Nursing the number 1 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings.
Woods’ nursing career in the State of Washington started as a staff nurse at the University of Washington Hospital, during graduate school. She earned her Master of Nursing from the University of Washington in 1969. She also holds a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Woods joined the faculty of the UW School of Nursing in 1978 and held numerous leadership positions in addition to teaching physiological nursing, family and child nursing and biobehavioral nursing. Her leadership positions included Director of the Office of Nursing Research Facilitation, Chair of the Department of Parent and Child Nursing, Director of the Women’s Health Nursing Research Training Program, Director of the Center for Women’s Health Research, Associate Dean for Research and, finally, Dean of the School.
During her Deanship, Woods publicly apologized for the school’s history of failing to adequately support and admit African American students and other students from underrepresented backgrounds and support their efforts to complete their education. She used this apology to not only recognize the pain of the past, but to be a catalyst for action. The funding sources and academic opportunities she created have increased the number of underrepresented students in doctoral programs and fellowships. After her Deanship, she served as the Interim Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, leading the development and expansion of her earlier work.
Throughout her tenure as Dean, Woods served as a nursing representative on many federal agencies. She was a leadership member of the Advisory Committee on Women’s Health in the National Institutes of Health Office of Women’s Health Research. Her leadership on the VA National Committee for Geriatric and Research helped foster the expansion of nurses at local and national levels to impact services in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Woods also served as President of the American Academy of Nursing, the North American Menopause Society and the Society for Menstrual Research.
Woods is known for her leadership and research in women’s health throughout the world. She, in collaboration with colleagues, conducted the first prevalence study of perimenstrual symptoms in the U.S. and subsequently identified a variety of symptom patterns women experienced across the menstrual cycle. Her groundbreaking work in women’s health, led to the establishment of the first NIH-funded Center for Women’s Health Research at University of Washington School of Nursing.
With Ellen Mitchell, Woods established the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal study of women during the menopausal transition and early post-menopause, which involved recruiting over 500 women, some of whom were followed for up to 25 years. Woods is an investigator for the Women’s Health Study, studying both frailty and aging in this large population, and for the MsFLASH study of symptom management approaches for hot flashes and related symptoms.
Woods has published more than 300 articles as an individual and in collaboration with other professionals. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including five honorary doctoral degrees from universities in the United States and other countries. In addition to being named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing, Woods’ honors include the Distinguished Contribution to Nursing Science Award from the American Nurses Foundation in 1992, the Distinguished Contribution to Women’s Health Award from the American Psychological Association in 1994, the Pathfinder Award from the Friends of the National Institute for Nursing Research in 2003 and the Trailblazer Award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health in 2016.
In so many ways, Wood’s contributions to nursing science, research, practice and education will extend far beyond her lifetime.