As executive director of the Washington Center for Nursing (WCN), Sofia Aragon, JD, BSN, RN, has a deep commitment to building a diverse nursing workforce to advance health equity in Washington state. Under her leadership, WCN has significantly increased research and data on the nursing workforce; uncovered the greatest gaps in diversity and most imminent shortages of nurse practice areas; and identified a need to accelerate efforts to recruit and retain nurse educators and leaders. Because having a nursing workforce that reflects Washington’s increasingly diverse community is essential to improving the health of our entire population, Sofia has built crucial partnerships around the state to identify and implement strategies to create a more robust and diverse nursing workforce.
In 1975, Sofia immigrated to Seattle with her parents; her mother was one of the many hundreds of Filipino nurses recruited to practice in the U.S. Sofia credits her journey in nursing to her mother and her journey in advocacy to her experience as a registered nurse advocating for patients both in the hospital and community health settings. Her desire to be a stronger patient advocate led her to pursue a law degree and engage in health policy at the state level.
Sofia earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington (UW) in 1994; a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Seattle University (SU) in 1997, graduating cum laude; and a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University — Chicago School of Law in 2002.
As a registered nurse and attorney, Sofia worked in Olympia for over a decade to advocate for access to affordable health care, protecting public health, workplace safety, and ensuring the perspectives of diverse communities are included when developing public policy — first as the legislative and policy manager for the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and then as senior governmental affairs advisor for WSNA. Sofia has served on numerous statewide advisory committees under Governors Locke, Gregoire and Inslee, including serving as chair of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. She grew WSNA’s representation to include the School Nurse Organization of Washington and ARNPs United of Washington State.
Sofia promotes diversity and equity through various coalitions, boards and commissions. At WSNA, she co-founded the Racial Equity Team (RET) Lobby. The work of the RET won numerous awards from the Children’s Alliance, the King County Human Services Coalition, the Minority Executive Directors Coalition, and the American Federation of Teachers.
Sofia enjoys teaching about the legislative process, policy analysis and advocacy. She taught leadership as adjunct faculty at the SU College of Nursing and was a legislative externship site supervisor for the SU School of Law, where she precepted law students within WSNA’s legislative program. As president of the Washington State Association of Nurse Attorneys, she worked with the SU Continuing Legal Education department and College of Nursing to develop a “Nursing and the Law” series for nurses and practicing attorneys. Today, she serves as affiliate instructor for the UW School of Nursing, providing guest lectures and precepting nursing students earning their bachelor’s, master’s and DNP degrees.
In 2019, Sofia was successfully elected to the Burien City Council, where she chaired the Burien Airport Committee to address health disparities experienced by communities living under the flight path of SeaTac Airport; passed a proclamation against anti-Asian hate that addressed bias, discrimination and hate crimes exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic; and was appointed to the Washington State Public Health Advisory Board by Gov. Inslee to represent the Association of Washington Cities. In 2022, the Burien City Council elected Sofia as mayor.
In 2017, WSNA awarded Sofia with the Ethics and Human Rights Award, which honors nurses who support ethical and human rights issues in Washington state through partnership with communities. Her continued passion to apply her experience and expertise to shape public policy will make a difference in the lives of nurses and Washingtonians for years to come.