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Maj Gen Irene Trowell-Harris

Board Member

Military officer and nurse Major General Irene Trowell-Harris was born on September 20, 1939 in Aiken, South Carolina to Irene Battle Trowell and Frank Trowell. She graduated from the Columbia Hospital School of Nursing in 1959 and the Aerospace School of Medicine Flight Nurse Branch in 1964. Trowell-Harris went on to receive her B.A. degree in health education from New Jersey City University in 1971, her M.P.H. degree from Yale University in 1973, and her Ed.D. degree in health education from Columbia University in 1983.

In 1963, Trowell-Harris was commissioned into the Air National Guard, where she served as a clinical nurse, flight nurse, and flight nurse instructor and examiner in New York. In 1985, she was promoted to nurse administrator; and the following year she became the first Air National Guard nurse to command a medical clinic. In 1987, Trowell-Harris was named nurse advisor to the Air National Guard chief at the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1993, she was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the first African American woman general in the National Guard, and was named assistant to the Air National Guard director for medical readiness, doctrine and planning and nursing services in the Office of the Surgeon General. In 1998, Trowell-Harris was promoted to major general and appointed assistant to the director of the Air National Guard for human resources readiness, where she served until her retirement from the Air National Guard in 2001. In 2000, Trowell-Harris was named director of the Office of Health Care Inspections for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The following year, she was appointed director of the Center for Women Veterans for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013. Trowell-Harris has taught at the Uniformed Services University, New York Medical College, Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing, and University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Trowell-Harris has chaired nurse recruitment for the American Red Cross, Queens Division, New York; the ad hoc committee on physical fitness for the Air National Guard; and the Air National Guard Human Resources Quality Board. She has also served on the boards of New Jersey City University, the Lee A. Archer Jr. Youth Flying Program, and RedTail Flight Academy and is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. In 2013, she established the Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris Endowed Leadership Fund at the American Nurses Foundation.

Trowell-Harris’s numerous honors and awards include the Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service Medal, three honorary doctorates, the Dr. James D. Weaver Society Award, and the VA Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the Community Award. In 1998, Trowell-Harris became the first woman to have a Tuskegee Airmen Chapter named in her honor, the Major General Trowell-Harris Chapter, in Newburgh, New York. In 2019, she was recognized by the Yale University School of Public Health as one of four Yale women pioneers in public health.

Trowell-Harris resides in Arlington, Virginia. Major General Irene Trowell-Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 10, 2022.

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