Elizabeth Downes

Elizabeth Downes

Professor, clinical track, Betty Tigner Turner Clinical Professorship | Family Nurse Practitioner, NP-C | Assistant Dean for Global Health/Co-Director of the Lillian Carter Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility | Emory Global Health Institute Faculty Fellow


Dr. Elizabeth Downes is a Professor, clinical track, a Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Educator and Clinical Scholar with more than 30 years of experience working in partnership with ministries of health and academic institutions to strengthen the capacity and competency of nursing workforces around the world. She has advanced nursing education and clinical training in more than a dozen countries, including Ethiopia, Fiji, Liberia, the Bahamas, Mozambique, Sudan and Zimbabwe. She developed an Advanced Practice Nursing (APN) curriculum for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Western Pacific that resulted in the production of a sustainable nursing workforce to meet the region’s health care needs.

She has served as an international consultant to The Carter Center, an organization founded by President Jimmy Carter to advance peace and health worldwide and has played a key role in the development of faculty continuing education and national curriculums for nursing schools in countries throughout Africa. She co-authored a textbook for educators, Educating Health Professionals in Low-Resource Countries, which has shaped education and clinical training for health care professionals in low-income countries. Domestically, she leads several programs to improve health outcomes and access for vulnerable populations, including refugees and migrant farmer workers.

She is the Betty Tigner Turner Clinical Professor in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University where she serves as the Assistant Dean for Global Health and co-Director of the Lillian Carter Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Academy of Nursing and the National League for Nursing’s Academy of Nursing Education.  Her more recent accomplishments include completing the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Global Nurse Leader Institute (GNLI) Scholar program and certifying as an ICN/CGFNS Global Nurse Consultant.

Areas of Expertise

Global Health
Public Health Public Health Nursing
Teaching And Learning


Murray, J.P., Wenger, A.F.Z., Downes, E.A., & Terrazas, S.B. (2011). Educating health professionals in low resource countries: A global approach. New York, NY: Springer.

Downes, E.A. & Graham, A.R. (2011). Health care for refugees in the United States. Clinician Reviews, 21 (3).

Howett, M., Connor. A. & Downes, E. (2010). Nightingale theory and intentional touch in management of tinea pedis in vulnerable populations. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 28 (4) 244-250. (PMCID 20660909).


As a health care professional and an educator, my ultimate goal is to improve the health and well-being of people, and I do this not only through my care for patients and communities but by preparing health care professionals of excellence for today’s dynamic health care environment.  I believe that to be an effective educator one must fully engage with and be a role model for students.  Providing students opportunities to develop their own knowledge and challenging them to identify their strengths, weaknesses and biases are essential.  John Dewey argued that genuine education grows from worthwhile, meaningful experiences that provide the student opportunity and motivation for learning.  It is my job as an educator to facilitate these experiences.

My own work with vulnerable populations has been influenced by the teachings of Paulo Freire and I see that education and health care are neither neutral nor innocent.  Health care professionals must critically examine the social determinants of health as well as the structures of health care and even the influence of their own education. They must take a critical look at the roles they play within this complex web. This examination of health care within a larger social context should be, I believe, lifelong. I continually evaluate my work in this regard, and facilitate student opportunities to do so as well.  This requires that I remain open to diverse opinions and ideas.  This, too, allows for modeling behaviors as I try to identify the biases and blinders I bring to encounters with students, patients and colleagues, even as I challenge students to do the same.

I believe my nursing and teaching are strongly intertwined.  My work in global health has evolved from direct patient care to population-focused care to educating nurses to educating educators and preparing change-makers.  As demonstrated by my work with the Carter Center in Liberia and Ethiopia, I educate educators from within a participatory framework, preparing them to reflect on the present conditions and adapt and develop educational methods appropriate to the local setting.  I believe education is more powerful when it pushes us to reflect on the present and make change to improve it.

Influencing health through education is a powerful opportunity and presents many challenges.  My aim is to demonstrate enthusiasm, curiosity, respect and compassion as I seek to cultivate these traits in students.