Born in Iowa, Colleen Conway Welch attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and received her BSN in 1965. She went on to receive her MSN from the Catholic University of America and her nurse midwifery education at Catholic Maternity Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to receiving her Ph.D. in Nursing from New York University in 1973, she served in numerous clinical positions across the country including staff and charge nurse, parent-child nursing instructor and clinical nurse specialist, among others.
She moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1984 to join Vanderbilt University School of Nursing as Professor and Dean, serving as the second longest sitting Dean of Nursing in the United States.
While at Vanderbilt, she met and married the love of her life, Ted Welch and began the university’s Bridge Program, a hybrid program where college graduates complete 12 months of a “bridge,” accredited as a BSN equivalent, before completing a 12-month Masters in Nursing. She also began Vanderbilt’s Nurse-Midwifery major in the master’s program as well as the Medical Center’s nurse-midwifery service. Today, certified nurse-midwives assist women to deliver over 3,000 babies.
Beyond her contribution to Vanderbilt’s educational and patient care options, she has been influential among community and governmental affairs. She was elected to the IOM (now the National Academy of Medicine), the premier health-related advisory institution to Congress. She was appointed to the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institute of Health, a group that advises on current research issues and future priorities in research and was appointed by President Reagan to the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic. She was also appointed by President Bush to the Board of the Kennedy Center for the Arts and the Presidential Commission on Emergency Preparedness. She has received many local, regional and national awards and has served and currently serves on a number of corporate boards.
A dedicated community advocate, devoted educator and established clinician, Colleen Conway Welch is a 2016 inductee of the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame.