Marla Salmon | University of Portland

Marla Salmon

Marla Salmon ’71, ’72, ’93, ’99 received the American Academy of Nursing’s highest honor when she was recognized as a Living Legend in the field of nursing in the fall of 2021. She is indeed a living legend. A leader in the field for decades, Salmon’s impact on health policies, health education, and the entire field of nursing as a profession is national and global in scope. Salmon served as the director of the Division of Nursing with the US Department of Health and Human Services and held dean positions at Emory University and University of Washington. She was also a member of the Clinton White House Task Force on Healthcare Reform and the chair of the World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Group on Nursing and Midwifery. She continues to teach as a professor of nursing and global health, and as adjunct professor of public policy and governance at UW. But for all these major achievements, Salmon remains a humble, keen observer. She sees the stresses on nurses today, and says she has shifted her mode of teaching to individual coaching, knowing people are bringing such vastly different experiences and crises to their learning at the moment. When she reflects on her education at University of Portland, she speaks to what she calls the time-transcending, discipline-blending gifts that she feels her education offered her. She learned to ask hard questions here and as a nursing/political science major, she was encouraged to follow those questions into a public policy nursing career that brought those questions to bear. “UP allowed me to put nursing in a broad context,” she says, “and I saw it as a source of public good.” In the northern agricultural California town where she grew up, she became attuned to certain injustices—the mistreatment of migrant workers and the long-term consequences of the World War II detention centers on the livelihoods of Japanese American family friends. Her UP education gave her guideposts for leadership—she was a student Board of Regents member—and a goal to be unapologetic about doing good. Her professors (dean V.J. Huffman in particular) encouraged her to dare to think big and imaginatively: Why not apply for that Fulbright? Why not apply to be an observer of the World Health Organization? She did earn that Fulbright and she did go to Geneva, Switzerland, for the WHO assembly as a student observer during the cholera epidemic. She watched the proceedings from up in the gallery looking down at the assembled officials. Years later, she was among the officials looking up, with a firm understanding of how she got there. Her amazing journey fills her with gratitude for her husband, Jerry Anderson; her children and parents; and God.