Faye Glenn Abdellah was born on March 13, 1919 in New York to a father of Algerian heritage and Scottish mother. Her family subsequently moved to New Jersey where she attended high school. On May 6, 1937, she and her brother witness the explosion and destruction of the dirigible HINDENBURG. The fire subsequent to the ignited hydrogen killed many people. On an interview, she narrated, “Having no training in what to do in an emergency situation, I could only view the tragedy of the poor scorched victims exiting the dirigible.
It was then that I decided that I would never again be powerless to assist when people were in so dire a need for assistance. It was at that moment that I thought that I’ve got to do something; I’ve got to become a nurse. ” NURSING CAREER Following high school, she started her nursing program in Fitkin Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Neptune, New Jersey wherein she received the nursing diploma in 1942.
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From 1942-1944, she studied Chemistry in Rutgers University, and then furthered her education at the Teacher’s College of Columbia university in New York City in which she received her Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts and Doctor of Education Degrees. Concomitantly, she worked as a health nurse at a private school. Her first administrative position was on the faculty of Yale University from 1945-1949. In 1949, she met Lucile Petry Leone who was the first Nurse Officer and decided to join the Public Health Service. Her first assignment was with the division of nursing that focused on research and studies.
They perform studies with numerous hospitals to improve nursing practice. During the wartime, the Public Health Service became a part of the Navy and she was assigned to work with the Korean people during the Korean War years. As a senior officer, she was alternatively assigned to Japan, China, Russia, Australia, and the Scandinavian countries to identify the role of the Public Health Service in dealing with various health problems. She was able to assist and initiate, in an advisory role, numerous studies in those countries. ACHIEVEMENTS
She had a forty-year career as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Public Health Service, where she served as the Chief Nurse Officer: achieved the rank of a two star Flag Officer, the first nurse in any Service to do so; functioned as Deputy Surgeon General under the tenure of VADM C. Everett Koop: and after retirement founded the only federal graduate school of nursing. Her name is universally synonymous with the highest ideals and values of the nursing profession and she has been twice honored on the floor of the United States Senate.
As the first nurse and the first woman to serve as Deputy Surgeon General, Dr. Abdellah developed educational materials in many key areas of public health, including AIDS, the mentally handicapped, violence, hospice care, smoking cessation, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Dr. Abdellah, after teaching at several prestigious universities, founded the Graduate School of Nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and served as the school’s first dean. Beyond the classroom, Dr. Abdellah presented workshops around the world on nursing research and nursing care.
Dr. Abdellah’s work has been recognized with 77 professional and academic honors, including the prestigious Allied Signal Award for her pioneering research in aging. She is also the recipient of eleven honorary degrees. As a leader in health care, she has helped transform the practice of nursing and raised its standards by introducing scientific research into nursing and patient care. Her leadership, her publications, and her accomplishments have set a new standard for nursing and for women in the health care field