National Institute on Aging

Yale School of Public Health Names a Scholarship After an African American Alumna

The executive master’s degree in public health scholarship at the Yale School of Public Health is being named in honor of Irene Trowell-Harris, a distinguished school alumna known for her barrier-breaking accomplishments and generous support of education. The $10,000 scholarship is available to every person who enrolls in the new online Executive M.P.H. program regardless of financial need. The program is designed for professionals interested in acquiring a strong public health education and hands-on leadership and management training.

Dr. Trowell-Harris was the first African American woman in the history of the U.S. Air National Guard to be promoted to brigadier general and subsequently, in 1998, to two-star major general. She was also the first nurse and first woman to command an Air National Guard medical clinic when she was appointed commander of the 105th U.S. Air Force Clinic in Newburgh, N.Y. A lifelong leader in health care for veterans, Dr. Trowell-Harris served two presidents as director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Women Veterans, which monitors the welfare of more than 1.9 million women who have served in the Armed Forces. Dr. Trowell-Harris’ journey as a trailblazing African American woman in the Armed Services is captured in her most recent book Bridges: A Life Building and Crossing Them (Fortis Publishing, 2015) .

Dr. Trowell-Harris was one of 11 children who grew up on a South Carolina cotton farm that belonged to her grandfather, Jim Trowell, who had been enslaved. She was the first member of her family to attend college, using $61.25 in coins collected by her local church congregation to pay her initial tuition when she was admitted to a segregated nursing school. She went on to become a flight nurse in the New York Air National Guard and served as a medical crew director during the Vietnam War Era.

Dr. Trowell-Harris later earned a master’s degree in public health administration at Yale in 1971 and furthered her education at Columbia University where she earned a health education doctorate.

Commenting on having a scholarship named in her honor, Dr. Trowell-Harris said that “my career has been defined by leadership, collaboration and mentoring coupled with giving back and paying it forward for current and future generations. Investment in education provides student benefits for a lifetime.”


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