Legendary nurse, Madeleine Leininger, Ph.D., dies at 87

A native of Sutton, Neb., Dr. Leininger is recognized as the founder and international leader of transcultural nursing, the study and practice of providing culturally compatible care for people of diverse cultures.

Madeleine Leininger, Ph.D., 87, adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, died in Omaha on Aug. 10, from lung failure. A native of Sutton, Neb., she is recognized as the founder and international leader of transcultural nursing, the study and practice of providing culturally compatible care for people of diverse cultures.

A visionary leader, Dr. Leininger was ahead of the times in envisioning the critical need to prepare nurses to generate research and practice transcultural nursing. She launched the field in the mid-1950s. In the 1960s, she coined the terms "culturally competent" and "culturally congruent care," which were adopted by federal agencies, universities, therapeutic health centers and accrediting agencies.

A nurse and anthropologist, Dr. Leininger long held the view that in order to make health care effective for people of diverse cultures, health professionals needed to establish educational programs and culturally competent care practices. She and her colleagues studied about 100 cultures worldwide and have established transcultural nursing courses worldwide.

"She was a nursing theorist who made nursing very personal," said Mary McNamee, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and former assistant dean for administration for the UNMC College of Nursing. "She was passionate in what she did and a very forward-thinking leader who was in tune with the times. She moved nursing forward. It was exciting to have her here on campus and talk about her theory. She also was very approachable."

Omahan Mary Ambrose-Maystrick, niece of Dr. Leininger, said of her aunt, "She was a woman ahead of her time. She saw the need for the blending of differences in cultures and using the strengths of each in the U.S. and the world. She was determined and a hard worker. She cared about anyone she'd meet on the street. She always had a friend while sitting on a train or airplane."

Ann Van Hoff, a retired nurse who knew Dr. Leininger, said Dr. Leininger was well liked and well known. "She was one of those very interesting people you meet. She worked all over the world and really had a vision of nursing and taught us culture was important in understanding our patients."

Dr. Leininger, who served at UNMC since 1997, was emeritus professor of nursing and anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit. She remained an active lecturer, consultant, theorist and author. She also served as dean and professor of nursing at the University of Washington and University of Utah and director of three university research centers.

She served as president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and founder of the Transcultural Nursing Society and the Human Care Theory and Research Organization. In 2009, she was inducted into the Nebraska Nursing Hall of Fame. She is the author of 30 books, has published more than 200 articles and given more than 1,500 lectures.

A vigil service will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday at Heafey-Heafey-Hoffmann Dworak-Cutler, West Center Chapel, 78th and W. Center Rd. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, 15353 Pacific St.,  and on Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church in Sutton.

To read more about Dr. Leininger, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_Leininger. If you would like to add to a tribute to her online, go to: http://www.madeleine-leininger.com/en/tributes.shtml

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to the Transcultural Nursing Society Foundation. For more information, go to: http://www.tcns.org/Foundation.html.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.


Vicky Cerino
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-5190