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Remembering Madeleine Leininger, leader in transcultural nursing and former dean of the UW School of Nursing


Date: August 21, 2012
By: Ashley Wiggin,, 206-221-2456

“I envisioned that if one million nurses were prepared in transcultural nursing, they could make a great difference in the quality of care to cultures that were often avoided, misunderstood and neglected due to cultural negligence and related problems.”

--Madeline Leininger, in a 2009 speech to the Transcultural Nursing Society

Madeleine LeiningerMadeleine LeiningerMadeleine Leininger, PhD, LHD, DS, CTN, RN, FAAN, FRCNA, former dean of the UW School of Nursing, passed away on Friday, August 10, 2012 at her home in Omaha, Nebraska. She served as Dean of the UW School of Nursing from 1969-1974. She is recognized worldwide as the founder of transcultural nursing. Leininger was considered to be “ahead of the times” in envisioning the critical need to prepare nurses to generate research and practice in transcultural nursing. She launched the field in the mid-1950s. In the 1960s, she coined the term “culturally congruent care,” which was adopted by federal agencies, universities, therapeutic health centers and accrediting agencies.

Noel Chrisman, professor in the department of Psychosocial and Community health, and current lead for the graduate sub-specialty in Cross-Cultural and Global Health, recalls Dean Leininger’s impact on the school.

“The establishment of the cross cultural nursing program, and creating an overall awareness of cross cultural nursing were her major contributions,” he said. “Aside from that, she also led the movement towards the requirement to have a PhD to be a faculty member in the school of nursing, which has had a lasting impact on nursing education.”

A nurse and anthropologist, Leininger long held the view that in order to make health care effective for people of diverse cultures, health professionals needed to establish educational programs and culturally competent care practices. She and her colleagues studied about 100 cultures worldwide and have established transcultural nursing courses worldwide.

Leininger received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Washington in 1965 after conducting fieldwork with the Gadsup of New Guinea.  During her deanship at the UW SoN, the school began a required undergraduate course in cross cultural nursing and the first graduate program in cross cultural nursing in the U.S.  In her next Dean position at the University of Utah, she instituted the first PhD degree in Transcultural Nursing.  In 1968 she founded the Council on Nursing and Anthropology and in 1974 founded the Transcultural Nursing Society and founded the Journal of Transcultural Nursing to support the research of the society. Her career included positions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where she served since 1997, Wayne State University and the University of Utah as well as the UW School of Nursing.

“She leaves a legacy in the many nursing faculty she mentored and taught and the transcultural programs she developed,” Chrisman said. “She taught many of today’s leaders in transcultural nursing and her ideas are still in use.”

Leininger served as president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and founder of the Transcultural Nursing Society, as noted above. She also led the Human Care Theory and Research Organization. In 1998, she was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing and named a Distinguished Fellow in at Royal College of Nursing in Australia. In 2009, she was inducted into the Nebraska Nursing Hall of Fame. She authored over 30 books and published more than 200 articles and gave more than 1,500 lectures.

To read more about Dr. Leininger, go to If you would like to add to a tribute to her online, go to: In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to the Transcultural Nursing Society Foundation.