Woman Veteran Author Book Corner Highlight - March 2021
Read the blog about Irene Trowell-Harris, Air Force Veteran and her book Bridges: A Life Building and Crossing Them on VAntage Point!
This quarter’s author an Air Force Veteran Irene Trowell-Harris, who served in the New York Air National Guard 1963-1986 and 1994-2001 and the Force active duty 1987-1993. She wrote “Bridges: A Life Building and Crossing Them.” The book is provocative, informative, inspirational, and thought provoking. The book depicts astounding leadership, challenges from a cotton field to 2-star general. It highlights what can be accomplished with determination of not just crossing but building bridges for others to cross for success. It highlights the challenges and opportunities for a trailblazing minority woman as a commander and general officer in a predominantly male environment. Her story of accomplishments inspires others to emulate her career success.
“Bridges: A Life Building and Crossing Them.” The book is provocative, informative, inspirational, and thought provoking. The book depicts astounding leadership, challenges from a cotton field to 2-star general. It highlights what can be accomplished with determination of not just crossing but building bridges for others to cross for success. It highlights the challenges and opportunities for a trailblazing minority woman as a commander and general officer in a predominantly male environment. Her story of accomplishments inspires others to emulate her career success.
Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris is the former Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Women Veterans. She was nominated in June 2001 and approved by the White House on October 2, 2001 and served as director until September 2013. In this role, she was the primary advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on legislation, programs and issues related to women Veterans. Prior to her appointment, Dr. Trowell-Harris served as Director of VA’s Office of Inspector General’s Healthcare Inspections Regional Office in Washington DC. In this position, she directed a multidisciplinary staff of inspectors responsible for conducting oversight reviews to improve the economy, effectiveness, and efficiency of VA’s programs.
Concurrent with her position in VA’s Office of Inspector General, Dr. Trowell-Harris served over 38 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard (ANG), retiring as a Major General in September 2001. During her military career, Dr. Trowell-Harris held numerous senior leadership positions, including chief nurse executive; flight nurse examiner; commander; advisor for nursing and readiness, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, assistant to the director and Board of Directors, ANG; and military representative to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) for the ANG. She was a 1997 Air Force representative for the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces Conference held in Istanbul, Turkey and speaker for the Air Force in Pretoria, South Africa at an International Women’s Conference.
Dr. Trowell-Harris is an adjunct graduate faculty member at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and served as an ex-officio member to the DACOWITS and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA’s) representative on the White House Council on Women and Girls. She also served as a senior social and policy specialist for the American Nurses Association. Born n in Aiken, S.C., Dr. Trowell-Harris is a graduate of Columbia Hospital School of Nursing, New Jersey City University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in health education. She earned a master’s degree in public health from Yale University and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Dr. Trowell-Harris was the first female and nurse to command a medical clinic and first African American female in the history of the National Guard to be promoted to general officer. She is also the first to have a mentoring award and a Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., Chapter named in her honor. Dr. Trowell-Harris is the recipient of numerous awards, most notably the Air Force Distinguished Service and Legion of Merit awards; the Dr. James D. Weaver Society Award, named for the distinguished Pennsylvania Congressman and Air National Guard Flight Surgeon; the Eagle Award from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for her contributions to aviation; the Air Force Association’s National Aerospace Award for Department of Veterans Affairs Employee of the Year 2010, given for the most outstanding performance of duty as a VA employee and her consistent dedication to the well being of our Veterans, the VA Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the Community Award; and numerous Outstanding Performance awards. She is a Distinguished Alumna of New Jersey City University, Yale and Columbia universities, and was inducted into the Columbia University Nursing Hall of Fame and the Yale University School of Medicine Honor Roll for her dedication to public service. She was honored as one of the “21 Leaders of the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews in NYC and was selected October 2014 by the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation as a National Business Women’s Week award recipient for 2014 as a decorated military veteran and veterans advocate.
She is a Charter Member of the Women’s Memorial and National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. In December 2013, she established the Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris Endowed Leadership Fund at the American Nurses Foundation. The purpose of the Fund is to support policy and leadership development of nurses — especially those with military experience and in non-traditional roles. In addition, in March 2016 she established the Irene Trowell-Harris Endowed Scholarship Fund at Yale School of Public Health for Nurses at the Yale School of Nursing. Preference for nurses pursuing advocacy and policy issues. Dr. Trowell-Harris was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of nursing November 3, 2018 as one of 195 highly distinguished nurse leaders from 29 countries around the world. Recognized as one of 4 accomplished Yale women pioneers in public Health at Yale Magazine Fall 2019). She was appointed to the New Jersey City University Board of Trustees on March 13, 2020.
What is your full name? Irene Trowell-Harris
What city and state do you reside in? Arlington, VA
What are you doing now, significant moment(s) during your service and other unique information? I am retired from the Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs and currently serving on numerous policy committees including the American Academy of Nursing Military and Veterans Expert Panel, New Jersey City University Board of Trustees, Tuskegee Airmen Foundation Board of Trustees, Lee Archer Red Tail Flying Program Board of Directors and Mt. Olive Church Branches of Hope Committee.
Significant moment moments include: Helping and observing the joy of women veterans when their claims were approved, attending National Summits on women veterans, proving their input on policy issues, and being nominated to be recognized at the White House by President Obama. Other significant moments include serving in senior positions as Flight Nurse Examiner, Chief Nurse Executive, Commander, Advisor to the Chief Nurse Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, Director, Center for Women Veterans, and Director, Patient Care Inspections, Office Health Care Inspections.
Unique opportunities include: Being selected by the USAF to speak at an International Women’s Conference in Pretoria, South Africa and to serve as part of a NATO team in Istanbul, Turkey. Also, serving on the White House Council on Women and Girls representing the Secretary of VA.
What was your Military branch, career field, and years of service? Served over 38 years in the New York Air National Guard 1963-1986, 1994-2001 and United State Air Force active duty 1987-1993. Professional area nurse.
What were your tours, deployments, and campaigns (OIF, OEF, Vietnam, Gulf War, etc.)? Served during the Vietnam Era and Gulf War 1963-2003.
What notable commendations did you receive (Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Achieve Medal, Combat Action Achievement, etc.)? Air Force Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with one oak leaf cluster; National Defense Service Medal with service star; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
What was your fondest or proudest memory during your military service? Mentoring young women and men to excel in their professional careers. Next was graduating from Flight Nurse School at the Aerospace School of Medicine, Flight Nurses Branch, Brooks AFB, TX.
What was your inspiration for becoming an author, or writing this book (for instance, a childhood dream, a significant life experience, a person)? My inspiration was observing a jet airplane flying over while I was picking cotton at age 13 in Aiken, SC. That experience inspired me to prepare myself to become an Air Force Flight Nurse. I wrote this book to inspire others to excel in their profession career regardless of their humble beginnings by building bridges for them to pass over for career success.
How has your military experience shaped your creativity or how you express yourself? Having served over 38 years in the military my entire career was influenced by this experience. My career has been defined by leadership, mentoring and collaboration. Despite some life challenges, I was able to earn senior flight nurse wings, 2 stars as Maj Gen in United States Air Force, a doctorate, wrote two books, chapters in two others, and became a Senior Service Executive as Director, Center for Women Veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and White House Appointee serving two presidents.
What advice would you give other women Veterans who may be considering becoming an author? Go for writing the book! First make an outline of your life and career starting from the beginning (family, home, school, college, military service with tours, challenges & how you resolve them, jobs, accomplishments, and recommendations, interview family members and friends. If you consider yourself not to be a good writer, get a Ghostwriter to assist you with organization, editing, flow, book type, photos, etc. Carefully review all options for publishing: self-publishing, do homework on publishing companies such types of books they publish – military, veteran, science, etc. Then decide based your book type and the expense of publishing.
How do you believe that women Veteran authors can be instrumental in shaping society’s understanding of women Veterans’ military experience and their contributions? Women Veteran authors can be instrumental in shaping society’s understanding by showcasing their experiences, challenging military assignments, special tours, and contributions widely in social media. This includes how we are mentoring young women, assisting them in obtaining scholarships, collaborating with schools, assisting new graduates with employment, educating young women about how the political system works, pursuing policy that support women veterans and using social media to educate society about women veteran successes.
What were some of your obstacles and challenges in writing this book? My challenges included organizing a mass amount of information, chapter flow, photos, making sure my messages were clear, publishing expenses, editing and time commitment while employed full time.
What are your recommendations for illustrating, book cover selection, and the publishing process? Based on your book topic and purpose – select a cover to showcase your message (eye catching), for example I used a book cover with a bridge to draw attention to my challenges of building and crossing bridges. Make illustrations speak to your book purpose and showcase vivid examples in photos or other examples. The publishing process is incredibly challenging – first decide if you will self-publish, employ a publisher company, seek help of a ghostwriter, or have another person write the book for you.
What is one significant thing we should know about you? Wrote two books and published chapters in two other books on women veteran policy and leadership.
How has writing this book helped you? Helped me to improve academically, socially, mentally, writing skills and become more active in policy development and mentoring.
What is your favorite quote? “Your whole comes alive when you have the determination to follow a dream. To create change, to do what is right over what is easy, and have the courage to value tomorrow as much as you do today. I’ve done this my entire life and know it to be true.”
If you could choose one woman from any point in time to share a meal, who would she be? Sojourner Truth