Cowell Honored for Profound Impact on Nursing Profession
For nearly half a century, Julia Muennich Cowell has given herself to the nursing field as a teacher, administrator, practitioner, researcher, advocate, and all-round champion of her profession. Most of her career has been spent in key leadership positions at Chicago’s Rush University, including overseeing community and mental health nursing and working to secure funding for primary care services.
Continuously active in supporting her community and professional field, Julia has deservedly received a plethora of honors that commemorate her years of selfless service to nursing, with the latest being her 2017 College of Nursing Outstanding Alumni Award to be presented at the UC Distinguished Alumni Celebration on April 20.
Julia notes that her career was nurtured at key points along the way by treasured associates who filled critical roles at just the right times.
“I have had such fabulous mentors and colleagues,” she says. “Marguerite Bozian was the Public Health Nursing instructor at UC who gave me my first glimpse of a nursing education career. She showed me that family life didn’t have to limit a career. Our dean, Ruth Dalrymple, counseled me about the role of a graduate education in my academic achievement. And Dr. Judith Sullivan at the University of Illinois at Chicago gave me the chance to grow as a faculty member and researcher. All of these women were successful themselves and provided unique advice to grow.”
Their interest also helped model the kind of leader Julia became.
"For me, success as a leader is measured in the success of those being led." — Julia Muennich Cowell, PhD, '68
“A colleague of mine once asked how I knew if I was a good leader,” she recalls. “I didn’t have to think too long to answer that one. For me, success as a leader is measured in the success of those being led. I reflect on the successes of my former students and faculty, and feel great pride in their accomplishments.”
A Passion that Unites
These traits don’t go unnoticed by her peers. Elaine Miller, a UC professor of nursing and editor of the journal Rehabilitation Nursing, nominated Julia for the Outstanding Alumni Award.
“Julia is very motivated to improve practice and to mentor others toward that goal,” she says. “She has always been passionate about nursing and consistently goes that extra mile. Not surprisingly, she’s an excellent communicator and team builder, and then excels at maintaining the performance of those teams.”
Improving the practice of nursing necessarily involves embracing and even driving change. That’s a challenge for some, but Julia has never feared change.
“As a young nurse, much of what was considered best practice was based on tradition,” she says. “As years have passed, nursing has engaged in evaluating outcomes and then making changes based on evidence. Such changes are often radical, but scientifically sound.”
According to Miller, Julia made many contributions to improve evidence-based practice as the executive editor of the Journal of School Nursing, the official research publication of the National Association of School Nurses. She has also been an NIH-funded researcher; chair of Rush University’s Department of Community, Systems, and Mental Health; chair of the board of directors of the Visiting Nurse Association Foundation of Chicago; and developer of the original School Nurse Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago that led to the initial credentialing for school nurses. Such work creates a lot of ripple effects — and it only scratches the surface of Julia’s positions and achievements.
There’s a lot for Julia to look back upon, yet unsurprisingly she spends much of her time thinking ahead.
“The nursing profession’s greatest challenge in the next decade concerns the corporatization of health care,” she says. “Corporatization forces nursing employers to limit cost, and since professional services are the major cost, staffing is rarely optimal. This problem exists in acute care settings, long-term care settings, and in the community.
“In my specialty areas of school and public health nursing, educational criteria of nurses are often determined by cost — the less education, the lower the cost. The corporate focus will limit nurses’ evidence-based practice. To address this challenge, nursing needs to seize opportunities to lead — on boards of directors, school boards and boards of health.”
The UC College of Nursing congratulates Dr. Julia Muennich Cowell on her career and selection as the college’s Outstanding Alumna for 2017.