LDI Senior Fellow and Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN received the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) 2021 Health Care Leader Award at the organization’s recent annual Health Policy Conference.

The invitation-only, 48-year-old organization has 2,500 Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) involved in the generation and dissemination of nursing knowledge related to health policy and practice. Its annual leadership award recognizes an influential national leader’s contributions to organizational excellence.

University of Pennsylvania Nursing School Dean Antonia Villarruel
Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN

Invaluable Leader

“Dr. Villarruel is an invaluable leader who understands how health is achieved and the pivotal role nurses play in promoting it,” said AAN President Eileen Sullivan-Marx, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Her career has demonstrated her profound dedication to improving community wellness by launching programs and centers for research, as well as serving as a leader and advisor to the federal government and countless organizations.”

A bilingual and multicultural researcher, Villarruel is Director of Penn Nursing’s World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership, which focuses on reducing maternal mortality in Latin America.

COVID Disparities

Earlier this year, Villarruel became Co-Director of the newly-funded National Institute of Health’s Philadelphia Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities (CEAL). The local research initiative is one of 10 across the country established to expand and coordinate evidence-based planning efforts to address disparities in COVID-19 testing, vaccine uptake, and treatment. CEAL is co-led by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

CDC Program

Villarruel is also founder of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationally implemented ¡Cuídate! program. The initiative, whose name is the Spanish term for “Take care,” is a community educational and therapy program designed to reduce HIV sexual risk among Latino youth 13 to 18 years of age. Villarruel has been the PI and Co-PI of seven randomized clinical trials focused reducing sexual and other risk behaviors in Latino and Mexican populations.

She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. She serves as Chair of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Culture of Health Program Advisory Committee, Chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellows Subcommittee for the Selection Review Process, and as Co-chair of the Strategic Advisory Council of the AARP/RWJ Future of Nursing Campaign for Action.

Villarruel earned an MSN from the University of Pennsylvania, and her PhD in Nursing from Wayne State University.


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