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Karen Wambach, Ph.D., RN, IBCLC, FILCA, FAAN

Karen Wambach portrait
Professor Emerita

Professional Background

Dr. Karen Wambach began her nurse educator career at KU School of Nursing in 1992. During her 28 years of teaching, she taught and mentored students across all program levels. In 2015 she assumed the coordinator role for the BSN Honors program and in 2016 she became the inaugural Director of the Ph.D. in Nursing program. As Director of the Ph.D. program, Dr. Wambach led the recent curricular revision and the development of the post DNP to Ph.D. program. Highlights of Dr. Wambach's teaching and mentoring include teaching the measurement course in the Ph.D. program for 17 years, the theory courses in the MS program for 13 years, chairing 19 Ph.D. Dissertations, 67 MS and DNP projects, and 16 BSN Honors projects. Dr. Wambach was recognized with several teaching awards over the years, including, the prestigious Chancellor's Club Teaching Professor (2017-2020), the Phyllis Keeney Lawrence Teaching Award (2010), and the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching (2001).

Dr. Wambach's research program across 31 years focused on breastfeeding promotion, education, and support. Her research was funded through international, national, and regional professional organizations; the National Institutes of Health; the KUMC Research Institute, Frontiers and Endowment Association, and KU SoN Office of Grants and Research. Her early research focused on describing childbearing women's breastfeeding experiences to identify factors leading to premature breastfeeding cessation. Her research ultimately shifted to intervening to promote and support breastfeeding among adolescent mothers. She designed, led, and disseminated the results of the first U.S. randomized trial of breastfeeding education/support for adolescent mothers (NIH-R01 NR07773). Over the last several years her interprofessional research collaboration has focused on multibehavioral interventions to educate and support pregnant and parenting adolescent mothers in breastfeeding, healthy eating/active living, and depression prevention (e.g. NIH-5R21HD088913). She has been recognized for her research through the University of Kansas Medical Center Faculty Investigator Research Award (2004) and the MNRS- Honor a Researcher Award (2008). Dr. Wambach has disseminated her clinical, education, and research scholarship products through 96 conference podium/poster presentations; 37 peer-reviewed paper publications; and 21 books, chapters, and clinical practice guidelines. In addition, in August 2018 Dr. Wambach was appointed Interim Associate Dean for Research serving in that role until February 2019.

Dr. Wambach is a longtime member of the Midwest Nursing Research Society, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nursing, AWHONN - the American Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the International Lactation Consultant Association (she led the research committee for 6 years and served on the Board of Directors 2009-2012), and the American Nurses Association. Dr. Wambach, a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) since 1997, was inducted as a fellow to the International Lactation Consultant Association in 2012 and the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) in 2015. She serves on the AAN Breastfeeding Expert Panel. Finally, Dr. Wambach served in faculty governance at KU School of Nursing and KU Medical Center every year since 1992; she led almost every SoN and Medical Center committee, including SoN Steering and Faculty Assembly Steering Committee; SoN Research and Faculty Assembly Research Committee; and the SoN Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure; Curriculum; Student Admission and Progression; and PROFITS committees. In 2019, Dr. Wambach received the Honorary Alumnus Award from the KU Nursing Alumni Association, capping her career with the exceptionally valuable honorific of the KU Jayhawk!

Education and Training
  • Ph.D., University of Arizona
  • MS, University of Arizona
  • BSN, University of Minnesota

KU School of Nursing

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