In Memorium: Ruth Harrell, M.P.H., B.S.N.

Ruth HarrellLongtime public health leader, energetic advocate, and former Public Health Nursing Director Ruth Harrell passed away December 31 at her home in Flomaton. Mrs. Harrell retired from the department in 1998, but not from public health.

From her days as a staff nurse with the Conecuh County Health Department and throughout her 60-year nursing career, she worked tirelessly and effectively on behalf of healthcare causes. A beloved leader who was state nursing director from 1987 to 1993, Mrs. Harrell held many posts and served on task forces and committees at the local, state and national levels.

For decades, Mrs. Harrell served in numerous leadership positions with the Alabama Public Health Association, and the association created the Ruth Harrell Nursing Scholarship in her honor. This was especially fitting because she inspired many students to enter the nursing profession and served as a mentor to others in public health. She was a two-term past president of both the Alabama State Nurses’ Association and the nonprofit advocacy group, VOICES for Alabama’s Children, and was president of the Association of State and Territorial Directors of Nursing among many other leadership and advisory roles.

Among her professional awards, Mrs. Harrell was inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame, the Alabama Nursing Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Public Health Association Hall of Fame. She was elected employee representative on the Alabama State Personnel Board where she served for nine years. In 2008, she was honored by her alma mater as the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Public Health’s Alumnus of the Year.

Active in rural health concerns, especially in improving access to medical care, she helped establish schools of osteopathy in Alabama, chaired the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, and participated in many faith-based and volunteer activities in her community. Her passion and zeal for improving and advancing public health will be greatly missed.