Remembering Nancy Kaufman ’71 (1949-2021)

By Caitlin Clark

Nancy Kaufman smiling and hugging a child

Nancy Foreman Kaufman ’71 lived and breathed the Wisconsin Idea. She dedicated her life to the service of others and demonstrated impeccable leadership through her numerous personal and professional endeavors. For over 50 years, she dedicated her career to population health, public policy, and the profession of nursing. She practiced in acute health care settings, public health administration, a national health foundation, and a large health care system. She tirelessly supported the next generation of nurses in advocating for positive health outcomes for all, especially among the most marginalized populations. She also aspired to ensure that the expertise of nurses is represented in all health care arenas.

After receiving her bachelor of science in nursing from the School of Nursing, she went on to become the first nurse to be admitted and receive a graduate degree in Administrative Medicine from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. She held positions in Wisconsin’s government from 1971 to 1991 and, in her last post, was the deputy director of public health for Governors Thompson, Earl, and Dreyfus. She served for twelve years as the vice president of programs at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She served for five years as the vice president of philanthropy at Aurora Health Care. She was the founding principal of the Strategic Vision Group, a health consulting firm based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Nancy served in numerous leadership positions throughout her career, including on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Infectious Diseases, and as a member of the National Advisory Councils for the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Council on Smoking. Nancy also worked on global health issues with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in Geneva at the World Health Assembly and tobacco treaty negotiations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. She was a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.

Perhaps one of her most rewarding experiences, though, was giving back to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Nancy chaired the School of Nursing’s Board of Visitors and the School of Medicine’s External Community Grant Review Committee. She was also a member of the School of Medicine and Public Health’s Dissemination and Implementation Advisory Committee. She also treasured her time mentoring UW nursing students. In 2019, Nancy received the Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO) Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of her service to not only the university, but her career in public health policy change in Wisconsin, nationally, and globally.

In an interview with School of Nursing staff after receiving the award, Nancy was asked why she gives back to the university. She said, “I am a big believer in paying back time, talent, and treasure to the institutions that gave me the skills to launch and succeed in my public health career.”

In early 2021, Nancy’s health began to decline. With a poor prognosis, she and her husband Ira Kaufman decided to establish a fund in her name to support the School of Nursing. The Nancy Kaufman Leadership and Public Health Fund was created, in close collaboration with Ira, to honor their request. Ira and the Kaufman family have asked that any gifts in her honor be directed to support this fund. It reflects not only Nancy’s lifetime of impact on health through the nursing profession and health policy but is also an expression of Ira’s deep love and admiration for Nancy. Though the School of Nursing community deeply misses Nancy, her legacy will stay with us forever.

Honoring Nancy Kaufman

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