Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, one of the most powerful nurse leaders in the country, learned the art of healing from the ground up—as a young girl in rural Kentucky who helped her great-grandmother, the daughter of a slave, heal the people around her.
Malone recalls picking locally grown medicinal plants for her great-grandmother in the wilds of the Kentucky prairie, helping her great-grandmother mix them together to create powerful herbal medicines, and using them to help return the sick to good health.
Inspired by her great-grandmother and her seemingly miraculous ability to heal, Malone developed a passion for health and health care. “I just wanted to do that thing that I saw her do so well,” she says.
In 1966 Malone enrolled in the nursing school at the University of Cincinnati and soon after won a scholarship to finish her undergraduate work and earn a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing. A mentor saw leadership potential in the young nurse scholar and encouraged her to pursue a doctoral degree. “My mentor said, ‘If you’re not interested in being a leader, you shouldn’t be here,’” Malone recalls. “I had to make a decision about whether to be a leader. I thought she would get rid of me if I decided against it, so I said to myself, ‘OK. I’ll be a leader.’”
And that is precisely what she has become. Malone beat out some 400 other applicants for a slot in the University of Cincinnati’s doctoral program in clinical psychology and began her coursework two weeks after her second child was born.
She graduated in 1981 and began ascending the ladder of nursing leadership, becoming president of the American Nurses Association in 1996; deputy assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1999; general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom in London in 2001; and chief executive officer of the National League for Nursing in 2007. She also serves as a National Advisory Committee member for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholars program.
Now in her fifth decade in the profession, Malone is focusing on one of the biggest challenges of her professional life: implementing the recommendations of a transformational report on the future of the nursing profession that was released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2010. She is focusing specifically on the report’s recommendations to advance nurse education, enhance the diversity of the profession, and cultivate future nurse leaders—all key ways, as she sees it, to help her carry out her great-grandmother’s legacy of healing those around her.