Nation’s First Nurse Practitioner Receives the Surgeon General’s Medallion


As the co-founder of the world’s first nurse practitioner program, Loretta C. Ford, EdD, RN, PNP, NP-C, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP has just been named the recipient of the Surgeon General’s Medallion for her contributions to public health. It’s considered the third-highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Public Health Service and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

It also makes a fitting birthday present. Dr. Ford is celebrating her 100th birthday today, December 28th, 2020.

Dr. Ford is responsible for creating the profession that’s become an essential component of our nation’s healthcare system. We applaud Dr. Ford for everything she’s done for this country. Discover her amazing story.

The Mother of NPs

Despite its many flaws, 2020 is known as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. All year long, we’ve been paying tribute to Florence Nightingale, known as “The Mother of Nursing,” who created the first school of nursing in 1860, which elevated the craft to a respected profession, especially for women.

Dr. Ford followed in Nightingale’s footsteps when she founded the world’s first nurse practitioner program at the University of Colorado in 1965 along with her colleague Nate Silver. It was officially known as the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NPN) Program, which expanded the field of nursing to include fundamental issues such as disease prevention and the promotion of wellness.

Over the years, more schools started offering nurse practitioner programs, which melded practice, treatment, education, and research. Boston College went on to develop one of the earliest master’s programs for NPs.

She went on to become the founding dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing in 1972. She used this position to advance the NP profession throughout academia, influencing educators and administrators at schools across the nation.

By 1985, there were around 22,000 and 24,000 NPs all over the nation. That year they got together to form the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), so that these providers could speak with a unified voice. Dr. Ford is the inaugural member of the Fellows of the AANP (FAANP), a special title reserved for providers that have made a lasting impact on the NP profession.

Over the course of her long career, Dr. Ford has also authored more than 100 publications, while having served as a consultant and lecturer to multiple organizations and universities.

A Fitting Honor

The Public Health Service made the announcement on the eve of Dr. Ford’s 100th birthday. The news is being celebrated across the industry. And nurse practitioners couldn’t be happier.

David Hebert, JD, Chief Executive Officer of the AANP, was thrilled when he heard the announcement. 

“As we celebrate Dr. Ford’s 100th birthday, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to this titan of American health care. From co-creating the NP profession to advocating for patient access to NP care, she has played a profound role in strengthening health care access and choice for America’s patients,” he said.

Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, President of the AANP, added:

“Dr. Ford has received this recognition for her vision and commitment to the health of our nation. Thanks to her trailblazing efforts, millions of patients have access to high-quality health care from NPs, the provider of their choice, and the profession has grown to more than 290,000 strong.”

Making a Difference Today

The power of NPs continues to grow year after year as more providers pursue this title. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of nurse practitioners practice primary care, treating a range of conditions and illnesses. NPs have also played an instrumental role in the fight against COVID-19.

According to recent surveys conducted by the AANP:

“60% of NPs are testing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients in a wide variety of settings, putting the health and well-being of their patients ahead of their own. AANP joins a grateful nation in recognizing NPs for their leadership and sacrifice, as well as honoring those health care professionals who lost their lives in service to their patients and communities,” said Thomas.

The role of NPs has changed over the years. Several states have passed NP full practice authority laws so that they can prescribe medication and make treatment recommendations without the supervision of a doctor. The AANP and NPs across the country continue to sponsor legislation that would give them more freedom and independence from doctors and physicians.

The issue often comes down to gender, considering 64% of doctors and physicians identify as male, while 90% of nurse practitioners identify as women. Doctors opposing such legislation have argued that NPs aren’t as qualified as doctors, while NPs say they have the education and training necessary to treat patients on their own.

The nation is also facing a severe shortage of primary care providers, a problem that’s only expected to get worse in the years to come as demand for healthcare services continues to soar. With full practice authority, NPs would be better suited to fill the gaps as they help their patients combat a range of growing health concerns. 

Dr. Ford has forever changed the nursing profession. Nurse practitioners all over the country continue her legacy by doing what they do best, taking care of their patients.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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