CRNA Helped Save Martin Luther King’s Life After 1958 Stabbing

CRNA Helped Save Martin Luther King’s Life After 1958 Stabbing

By the time an assassin’s bullet killed Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, the much-loved – and much-hated – SCLC leader knew he might never see his daughters grow up. Once he entered the spotlight during the 1955-56 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts, King and his family lived through his remaining years like a city under siege, constantly calculating acceptable risks and trying to anticipate the next threat.

King was a target of violence throughout his non-violent crusade for civil rights, and 10 years before his assassination, he had a very close brush with death. He continued his work for another decade, partly due to the skills of Goldie Brangman, CRNA , MEd, the nurse anesthesiologist who treated him in 1958.

Brangman worked at Harlem Hospital for 45 years and directed its nurse anesthesia educational program for some three decades, and in 1973 became the first (and to date, only*) Black president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). In the December 2015 issue of the AANA Journal, she shared her recollections** of that September 20, 1958, day when King was rushed to Harlem Hospital.

In 1958, King’s would-be killer was not a white supremacist but a mentally ill 42-year-old Black woman stirred by the conspiracy theories, anxiety, justifiable paranoia, and mistrust that spread through terrorized Afro-American communities during the “long, hot summer” era of the mid-1960s. Convinced that the civil rights leader was a “communist” and a “flimflam artist who pimped the community,” she armed herself with a pearl-handled letter opener and attended the book signing. When she neared King, she aimed right for his heart and managed to drive her makeshift knife six centimeters into his chest.

King was rushed to nearby Harlem Hospital with the letter opener still in his chest. His treatment was initially delayed when a bizarre political debate erupted. Being anxious over his reelection chances, New York Governor Harriman initially urged hospital staff to transfer Dr. King to Columbia-Presbyterian or Mount Sinai Hospital.

As the AANA article put it, the governor was worried “that Harlem Hospital was not fit to treat Dr. King, but he also wanted to show respect for the Black community by endorsing Harlem Hospital and its staff.” The vacillating politician was finally persuaded that the future Nobel Peace Prize winner was in good hands.

By 1958, King was already a widely recognized public figure at the center of the increasingly heated debates over segregation and racial injustice. Brangman recalled that their patient was engulfed by a crowd even as he was rushed into surgery. “To this day,” she said, “I don’t understand why they allowed so many people in the OR.” The team examined his wound and found that the weapon had penetrated King’s sternum. Brangman said the tip of the letter opener was tightly lodged between Dr. King’s innominate artery and aorta. Her team was on edge, knowing that “Every breath would move the blade.” She is confident that “The time saved by [performing the surgery] then and there at Harlem Hospital did save King’s life.”

The AANA article reminded readers that the danger of the situation was exacerbated by the fact that CRNAs had little technological assistance in the 1950s, so thoracic surgery did not necessarily include mechanical ventilation or paralysis.

Brangman recalled, “You bagged them in those days; you could sense [respiratory] changes like compliance that way.” They used manual blood pressure determinations and monitored their patients by “listening, looking, and feeling. You had your hand on the patient the entire time.”

Once Brangman and anesthesiologist Dr. Helene Meyer placed King under anesthesia, surgeons worked for over two hours to remove the letter opener. The surgery left King with a scar, a constant reminder and warning that he could be taken at any moment. As he told a friend, “Each morning as I brush my teeth and wash my face, I am reminded by the cross-shaped scar on my chest that each day could be my last day on this earth.”

Thanks to Harlem Hospital’s team, King survived his first significant brush with death for ten crucial, history-making years, and millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief. A white admirer from White Plains, New York, was moved to cheer the minister’s recovery in a letter that became famous:

“I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing to say that I’m so happy you didn’t sneeze.”

The earnest missive delighted King, so he shared it with various audiences over the next decade. In fact, during his final speech in Memphis, Tennessee, he read it aloud once more and added, “I want to say tonight that I, too, am happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

While King may have been unaware that in 1958, his CRNA’s skilled “listening, looking, and feeling” helped preserve his life, nurse anesthetists can take pride in knowing that one of their own played a key walk-on role in history.

**A special thank-you to Ebony magazine for saving and sharing the 2015 AANA story on Brangman.

Practicing Antiracism in Nursing with Actionable Allyship

Practicing Antiracism in Nursing with Actionable Allyship

Racism in nursing affects all of us—whether we have witnessed it, experienced it firsthand, or examined our own biases rooted in race . Likewise, confronting racism that is decades in the making requires collective action. In the summer of 2022, the American Nurses Association (ANA) unanimously voted “yes” to adopt the ANA Racial Reckoning Statement. This momentous action began as an overdue journey to acknowledge a racist past and recognize that the actions of today will impact the future of nursing as a whole.

The statement was only a first step to lead nursing to an equitable future—and requires change and allyship across the nursing profession. According to the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing (the Commission)—launched in early 2021 by the American Nurses Association (ANA), National Black Nurses Association, National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations, and National Association of Hispanic Nurses—allyship is an ethical duty through intentional interventions, advocacy, and support to eliminate harmful acts, words, and deeds. It includes creating space to amplify voices that are not traditionally heard, recognized, or welcomed.

What Is Allyship?

“It’s easy to call yourself an ally, but putting your words into action is paramount to making a real impact,” says Cheryl Peterson, MSN, RN, Vice President of Nursing Programs at the ANA, is helping to lead these efforts. “Allyship is about supporting colleagues and patients from marginalized backgrounds by recognizing your privilege and speaking out against discrimination and racism.”

“Nurses of color face discrimination, isolation, and unequal treatment that affect their mental and physical health and can drive them out of the nursing profession for good,” says Peterson. “Allyship imparts these nurses—who we work alongside every day—with support, reassurance, and solidarity, knowing that they are not alone and what is happening to them is wrong.”

“As a white nurse, it is natural to feel uncomfortable and initially believe that maybe you don’t have a place in this conversation,” says Peterson. “Looking within oneself and recognizing your personal and institutional biases is the first step to becoming an authentic ally. Without this discomfort, we aren’t propelling ourselves and the profession towards true inclusion and diversity.” 

Anyone can and should be an ally to those facing discrimination. This can include using privilege, resources, or influence to challenge injustices and advocate for fairness and equality.

Where To Start?

Allyship is an ongoing commitment that requires continuing education, self-reflection, and action to help foster safe and liberating environments. Nurses and nurse leaders can assess their allyship with just five questions developed by the Commission and ANA—the self-assessment scores participants across a spectrum to identify where they are in their journey to allyship.

As nurses continue to practice allyship, actions adapted from the Commission’s list of Ways To Be Anti-Racist in Nursing become second nature.

  • Maximize Curiosity & Minimize Certainty

Get curious about the people you work with to understand them better and avoid making assumptions about who they are. Ask yourself: “Why am I thinking this about this person? Where did this originate from, and do I know it to be true?” By first challenging your preconceived notions, you can then work to create a safe environment where underrepresented people feel comfortable sharing their experiences and how they have been affected by racism.

  • Be Genuine

Do what you say you are going to do and keep your word. If you do not practice trust, you cannot be an ally. Actively listening to the lived experiences, concerns, and needs of others without judgment or interruption will build trust. Authenticity and sincerity are essential qualities of an ally. Without these qualities, you cannot create a safe space for others to feel secure opening up to you.

  • Support Authenticity 

Allow people to be authentic by accepting them for who they are—not what you want or expect them to be based on your own biases. Authenticity in allyship is crucial for building trust and fostering meaningful relationships with marginalized individuals or groups. If nurses are expected to be from the same background, innovation within the nursing profession will cease. Without new perspectives, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to propel the workforce into the future.

Allyship requires self-awareness to recognize and address implicit biases affecting your thoughts and interactions with colleagues. The path to allyship begins with education and staying informed about issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as the unique challenges marginalized populations face. The following steps include deciding how you can use your unique position to support colleagues, stand up to discriminatory acts, and work to make your workplace more inclusive.

Vanderbilt University’s New Center to Focus on Understanding and Addressing Health Inequalities  

Vanderbilt University’s New Center to Focus on Understanding and Addressing Health Inequalities  

Vanderbilt University’s new interdisciplinary center seeks to unravel the roots and repercussions of health-related inequalities.

The Vanderbilt Center for Research on Inequality and Health, a trans-institutional collaboration between the College of Arts and Science  and the School of Nursing, will bring together leading Vanderbilt researchers with deep expertise in economic and social inequality, population health science, LGBTQ+ health policy, and gun violence to explore the health impacts of these interrelated areas of study.

Led by international subject matter experts, the center’s scholarship will deepen society’s understanding of the causes of health-related inequalities, how they intersect, and how they affect population health. The center’s research will inform potential solutions to these challenges through advocacy, intervention, and public policy.

The center is part of Discovery Vanderbilt, an Office of the Provost initiative initiative and one of three pathways in the university’s Dare to Grow campaign to support and extend the resources underpinning Vanderbilt’s most innovative research and education.

“It’s so exciting to support this center’s launch as part of Discovery Vanderbilt,” says Provost C. Cybele Raver. “This represents a bold step forward in our unwavering commitment to addressing crucial societal issues through collaborative research and interdisciplinary exploration.”

The Center for Research on Inequality and Health will be led by Christopher “Kitt” Carpenter, E. Bronson Ingram University Distinguished Professor of Economics and Health Policy. Tara McKay, assistant professor of medicine, health, and society, and Shelagh Mulvaney, associate professor of nursing and biomedical informatics, will be associate directors. The center will be in an expanded, renovated space on the third floor of Buttrick Hall, in Vanderbilt’s historic core, allowing for even more collaboration and interdisciplinary exploration.

“I am honored to lead this innovative effort to connect and amplify Vanderbilt’s outstanding scholarship on inequality and health,” says Carpenter. “From our new physical space to hiring exceptional new faculty to fostering new collaborations across disciplines, the center is well-positioned to be a global leader in this area.”

“This center will be important not only as an intersection of scholarly disciplines but also as an intersection of ideas—a place to discuss and debate these urgent topics with the aim of arriving at applicable solutions,” says Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

Featured Research at Vanderbilt Center for Research on Inequality and Health

Mulvaney, an expert in digital health equity, works with colleagues in the School of Engineering Institute for Software Integrated Systems and the University of Kentucky to improve nutrition and obesity-related inequalities. Mulvaney and the UKY team recently developed an app called Children Eating Well, or CHEW, that encourages healthy shopping and cooking, nutrition education, family health behavior goal setting, and family mealtimes. The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be implemented in Head Start centers throughout Kentucky this year.

Julie Ward, assistant professor of medicine, health, and society, is an expert on public opinion about firearms in the U.S. With her existing collaborators at Johns Hopkins University and with new collaborators at the CRIH, Ward will investigate questions related to firearm ownership and racial equity through the National Survey of Gun Policy and new research avenues. These data will offer insight into racialized experiences of firearm victimization, ownership, and related risks that inform and shape public policy and the national conversation about firearms.

Carol Ziegler, professor of nursing and recently appointed member of the Metro Nashville Board of Health, will work to address climate-related health inequalities in Nashville and beyond. With her community partners, colleagues, and undergraduate students working on immersion projects, Ziegler will design and prototype initiatives to leverage carbon offset dollars with social impact, boost investments in lower carbon emissions, and promote economic, physical, and mental health for low-income families in Nashville.

The center will also explore: How did state policy environments shape mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic? What does changing public opinion on carrying guns in public spaces mean for population health and well-being? How are adverse childhood experiences related to educational and health outcomes later in life? Does accessing an affirming healthcare provider improve health outcomes for LGBTQ+ people?

“The center represents an innovative approach to addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time,” says Timothy P. McNamara, interim dean of the College of Arts and Science. “We are proud to collaborate with our esteemed colleagues in the School of Nursing, bringing together leading experts across disciplines to address health inequality.” Dean of the School of Nursing Pamela Jeffries adds, “The partnership between our two schools illustrates what Vanderbilt does best: radical collaboration that leads to greater discovery and solutions to global challenges. I look forward to seeing how the cutting-edge scholarship coming out of the center will make a real difference in the lives of individuals, communities, and populations.”

Building the Nursing Pipeline by Addressing Social Determinants of Learning

Building the Nursing Pipeline by Addressing Social Determinants of Learning

The U.S. nursing shortage is projected to hit the hundreds of thousands, and the ability to educate and train nurses is more vital than ever. Yet, prospective caregivers still encounter barriers within nursing education that can limit their degree completion. And this disproportionately includes college applicants from diverse communities.

The nursing leadership team at Adtalem Global Education  helps nursing schools better meet the needs of their students through the Social Determinants of Learning (SDOL). Principles that emphasize access over exclusivity and put students at the center, and ultimately, help decrease the nursing shortage. If adopted more widely, the framework can help nursing schools better meet the needs of their students and, ultimately, help reduce the nursing shortage.

Among the core principles are:

  • Student Admissions: The process evaluates factors beyond standardized test scores and GPA.
  • Student Success: Personalized learning approaches encourage strong student outcomes.
  • Mindfulness: An 8-week program integrated into a pre-licensure BSN program helps manage the stress that can hinder student progress.

Daily Nurse spoke with Karen Cox, PhD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, president of Chamberlain University and member of the leadership team at Adtalem Global Education, who helped create and implement a learning framework to adjust for those factors. She’s committed to assisting students to overcome all barriers, including past academic performance. As a healthcare executive and a former clinical nurse specializing in pediatric intensive care, burn care, and infectious diseases, she leads the largest school of nursing in the U.S. with nearly 38,000 students across 23 campuses and online programs. As a result, Chamberlain University is the leading grantor of bachelor of science in nursing degrees to underrepresented minority students in the U.S.

building-the-nursing-pipeline-by-addressing-social-determinants-of-learning

Karen Cox, president of Chamberlain University, talks about how the Social Determinants of Learning can help schools build a nursing pipeline

Prospective nursing students encounter barriers within nursing education that limit their degree completion, and this disproportionately includes college applicants from diverse communities. What can nursing schools do to adjust those factors?

First, nursing programs don’t tend to look at students as a whole. Their gold standard is the GPA. And that gets them the students with the most privilege and advantage. Those will be students that are usually independent or dependent, do not have to work full time, are very likely to be highly successful and pass the boards at a high rate.

As long as the profession generally does that, diversity in general, and I’m talking about ethnic and socio-economic diversity, diversity won’t be accomplished because people are more than their GPA. And so our approach is what nursing and other parts of higher ed talk about holistic admissions. And that’s where you look at the person, their life experiences, and their GPA, but you also try to understand what was behind that GPA if it was lower. And figure out if they will likely succeed, knowing they need more support.

And that’s where the Social Determinants of Learning framework comes in. We did a study at Chamberlain that shows only 30% of success or progress is related to people’s academic abilities. Seventy percent is related to psychosocial factors. So we have students that are independent, work full time, and if they lose a job, or if their car breaks down on the way to one of their clinicals, they can’t figure out what to do to get there. Those are nuisances to many people, but it could be the difference between success and failure to our students. So you have to look at supporting people. I will tell you I saw a school admitting students before they accepted your application. You have to take a test that you have reliable transportation, which is code for lots of things. But number one, if you say yes, and then you don’t, they won’t have to work with you on it. And what I find so interesting is that nursing is the most caring profession. And we’re not caring for students, and then we wonder why they’re not as caring for patients and families as we’d like them to be.

So we role model that level of care. And nurses have to accept people in all situations, all walks of life. And if nursing faculty can’t accommodate that, it doesn’t send the right message. Some schools say, “We want more diverse students, but we can’t get them.” And it’s not just that some diverse individuals haven’t had privileges. So you’re setting up another factor that could cause structural racism. You build the procedures that are the advantage—the majority group.

As a leadership team member at Adtalem Global Education, what are you doing to create and implement a learning framework to adjust for those factors?

A couple of different things. As mentioned in the admissions piece, we look at the faculty role differently. Faculty teach a class for three hours once a week or twice a week. And go home. Faculty are coaches and mentors, and guides and help us identify resources that students need. And then, we ensure we have the requisite resources that we need on-site or connections. We recently identified an organization that can help people who find themselves without a home and how to navigate that system and find them housing. We can’t provide all these things for people, but we can help them identify what that looks like in a crisis.

Food insecurity is an issue for many of our students, and we’re working to make sure we have either food available, or a pantry available on campus, but also, if we can’t, for whatever reason, have a connection and a seamless way to work with community services. So it’s paying attention not just to their learning but the things that get in the way of their learning. The other piece we’re doing at Chamberlain is that our students have to work full-time. But we don’t want them to work in retail, not because it is bad, but because it’s a couple of things. Retail work isn’t as flexible in considering the schedule of nursing clinicals and courses. But the bigger issue is if they can work in a hospital or healthcare setting, that’s one more experiential option where they see healthcare in action. And they get some hands-on experience. And they get to know an employer. It’s called “Earn to Learn” because the next step is that so many state boards now allow students to do some of their clinical work in an organization while getting paid not all but some hours for each specialty. And again, they’re not with faculty in the same way as they are typically, so they get yet another look at the day in the life of nurses. The nurse has extra pair of hands. And so we feel like it’s important. And if we had had something like this setup before COVID started, we’d have over 13,000 pre-licensure students nationwide. We could have been a force to support the workforce in a very seamless, organized ready-to-go way.

How has Chamberlain University become the leading grantor of bachelor of science in nursing degrees to underrepresented minority students in the U.S.? 

So right now, getting into nursing school takes work. And I’m not saying it should be easy. But a 3.8 or 3.9 gets you looked at for nursing admission. What we do is look, again, we have students with a 3.2, who turn out to be extraordinary nurses with a high level of resilience and a high level of passion and excitement about being in the nursing profession. And so it’s about feeling that belonging. And if you walk onto one of our campuses, you will immediately see the diversity. It’s not in pockets. It’s prominent. And we’re so proud of it because of our scale. We can have an outsized impact on sending diverse nurses into the workplace. And the bigger we get, the more outsized that impact is.

So nursing graduates match what it’s like out there in the real world?

Exactly. Health equity has a chance. And we feel very strongly about that. I can’t tell you the disappointment when you read about well-educated Black women who died in childbirth. I tell people we see that disparity because it’s not normal, and you shouldn’t ever die at birth. But if two people get colon cancer, colon cancer is bad no matter what. So it’s hard to measure when you look at outcomes, but it’s harder and takes longer. But when you’re talking about something that’s supposed to be a normal part of life, yeah. It’s just stark.

Some of it comes down to not listening to or believing people. And if somebody says, I don’t feel right, and this is going on, I always tell students and new nurses, if a patient says or a parent says, this is not right, then something’s wrong. You stop in your tracks. And you investigate, and you get a colleague to look at it. The worst that can happen is everything’s okay. But often, patients know their kids, especially when you work with children and their families. And so what I think the piece about structural racism, there are lots of factors in healthcare. But the fundamental thing of listening and trusting someone and not just making assumptions or the notion of biases that have no basis effect.

How can the framework – the Social Determinants of Learning help other nursing schools better meet the needs of their students and, ultimately, help decrease the nursing shortage?

Education overall is about elitism, it’s about the best of the best going to the best schools. And the best, you know, promulgating that notion that it’s for the people with the highest abilities, the money to go to school. And so, we published that framework in 2021. And we’ve had a lot of interest. I would say the interest has been more at the faculty level than the leadership level. We plan to speak about it at a few conferences, but it’s a fairly new kind of name that we put on and developed this framework. I think that if people are honest, they know that your chances of diversifying go down dramatically if you don’t have a holistic admissions process. Still, we’re going to struggle with this because this was developed and discussed ten years ago at a national level how important the holistic admissions process is, and it’s just simply not there to the degree it needs to be.

When you sat down and created the SDOL framework, what did you envision as the desired outcome for nursing schools and the nursing profession?

It was to scale it, share it, and disseminate and hopefully get the attention of people who go to it who say to themselves, “Oh, yeah, I can now see that I know the social determinants of health because I teach that.” Now I can see how you brought that out to somebody in education. And, of course, this has applicability past nursing for any education situation looking at people’s barriers. And what can you do about those barriers? If you want to do something, there are a lot of people who still like the survival of the fittest. You met ten people, and two aren’t making it, and that’s okay. That’s not Chamberlain. We take it personally when we lose a student we went with and invested in. And that could be a real asset to the profession.

When creating this framework, you anticipated there would be pushback. What are your thoughts about selling the idea and having it makes sense?

The narrative is that everybody should have a level playing field and be at a certain place. And we’re not talking about not having the same outcomes. We’re talking about coming into a program. The other pieces, it takes more people, more work, different structures, different ways of organizing classes. Some schools will say they don’t have the dollars to do it. Or they don’t see the need. And that’s why I think that, at some point, the accrediting bodies will have to talk about being more holistic. But they don’t. They’re going about their business. They’ve got a busy school. They got plenty of applicants. They have twice as many applicant slots. In their mind it doesn’t make a difference, but it sure does nationally.

Chamberlain can influence, and as we grow with purpose and quality in mind, the more that we have, the more have to listen to us. We aren’t just going to sit over here. We’re in a category of one in terms of our mission, scale, and national presence. And so we’ve been more about just making sure that we have that impact and that people know about it and see it and the people who see it or the health system leaders locally hiring our graduates

Anything else to add?

There is a study that came out recently that talked about how many lost years and lost dollars occur in this country because of health inequities. And when we say the cost of healthcare in the U.S. is unsustainable, and I believe it is, one big component is addressing health disparities. And if we got busy and worked on that, we could work together across sectors. We could make an impact.

Nurse of the Week: Former ALC Student Turned Nurse Leader Elizabeth Anh-Trinh Stulac

Nurse of the Week: Former ALC Student Turned Nurse Leader Elizabeth Anh-Trinh Stulac

Nurse of the Week Elizabeth Anh-Trinh Stulac, RN/BSN is an established nurse leader working toward a Ph.D., but she remembers where she came from. So, earlier this month she went back home to Elk River, Minnesota to share a message with graduating seniors at tiny Ivan Sand High School, the alternative learning center she graduated from herself in 2008.

“It is not a secret that when you go to an ALC school, sometimes people view you as being a bad kid, an outcast, or not smart enough to make it in a traditional high school. I am here to tell you: That is false.”

Stulac, who later graduated from college Summa Cum laude and in the top 15 percent of her class, is studying for a doctorate in transcultural nursing while working as a charge nurse in the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 intensive care unit. Her older sister, now a nurse practitioner, was a high school dropout who eventually earned her GED. Thus, Elizabeth Anh-Trinh Stulac knows just how grave an error it can be to make assumptions about someone’s capabilities.

When the latest Ivan Sand grads gathered on June 7 for their graduation ceremony, she urged them to believe in themselves and get in touch with their own leadership skills.

First, the alumna told them, don’t buy into stereotypes of Alternative Learning Center students! “Here I was at the Mayo Clinic, the No. 1 ranked hospital in the world, and they were telling me the strengths that I brought to their organization.” The RN, who is also Mayo’s Rapid Response Team Nurse and chairs two committees (in her spare time), flatly informed the 2022 class: “It is not a secret that when you go to an ALC school, sometimes people view you as being a bad kid, an outcast, or not smart enough to make it in a traditional high school. I am here to tell you: That is false.”

The 2008 Ivan Sand grad can speak from experience: “Through the many leaders that I have worked with throughout the years, I have come to realize that one of the greatest predictors of success is your perception of yourself. I am here to tell you all today, as you graduate from Ivan Sand Community School that you are not an outcast, you are not a bad kid, and you are not the many things society has made you believe about yourself. But in fact, you are a class of potential leaders.”

After stressing the importance of assessing yourself on your own terms and not those imposed on you by others, the RN told the class of future leaders to write down their short-term and long-term goals,” and determine what they need to do to achieve them. Then, with a hat tip toward the Mayo onboarding process, Stulac added, “I would also recommend identifying your own personality type, and the strengths that each of you carries individually.”

And never assume defeat. Her sister, Stulac says, “is one of the smartest people I know.” ALC students learn early that “Life is messy.” After all, “Not all of you come from traditional families. Many of you are working to help support your families. Opportunities are not given equally to each person. But the feeling that you get when you achieve your goals, having overcome those barriers, is worth the hard work and worth the bad days — because you will have many bad days. Success does not come free; you must work hard for it.”

With her NP sister’s example in mind, as she concluded Stulac reminded them, “Your success is not only your own but the people who look up to you. I know that some of the greatest leaders are here among us tonight, and I am so excited for you and the impact that you will make on the world that we live in, and what you will achieve!”

A good message for all graduates to live by. Fort the full story on the graduation ceremony, see here.

Lauder Donates $125 Mil for Tuition-Free Program to Recruit and Deploy NPs in Underserved Communities

Lauder Donates $125 Mil for Tuition-Free Program to Recruit and Deploy NPs in Underserved Communities

This fall, the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) is launching the Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Program, which will recruit and prepare a diverse cadre of expert nurse practitioners (NPs) to provide primary care to individuals and families in underserved communities across the U.S.

Largest gift ever

The $125 million donation by Leonard A. Lauder, Chairman Emeritus of The Estee Lauder Companies, to create this first-of-its-kind, tuition-free Program is the largest gift ever to an American nursing school. Mr. Lauder is a Penn alumnus. The gift comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the nation’s acute shortage of primary care providers, and persisting inequities in access to quality healthcare.

“This is the most timely and consequential gift not only for our university but for our country. It is unprecedented in its potential to address America’s most critical need of providing primary health care to all who currently lack it by investing in nurses,” said former Penn President Amy Gutmann.

“Growing the number of nurse practitioners who are prepared and committed to working in underserved areas is the most practical and inspiring way to ensuring a healthier country. I am grateful and honored that Leonard would make this gift to Penn Nursing, and thrilled to know that it will have an immediate impact that will last far into the future.”

Nurse practitioners are leaders on the front lines of care, a role never more important as Americans confront a primary healthcare shortage in their communities. With their advanced clinical training and graduate education, nurse practitioners have the knowledge and skill to supervise and manage critical aspects of care in a decision-making capacity, from patient diagnosis, to ordering and interpreting tests, to prescribing medication. Nurse practitioners deliver high-quality primary care to people of all ages, such as treating common illnesses, managing chronic conditions, and providing preventive care that helps patients stay healthy.

Nurse practitioners are also able to take on key leadership roles, from managing and operating walk-in or community clinics to leading interdisciplinary teams within health systems. The new Program will better the lives of patients and communities most in need, while providing a pathway for the many nurses interested in advanced education who may not otherwise have the means to pursue it.

The Program

  • Structure: Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Fellows will enroll full-time in a two-year, rigorous Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program at Penn Nursing.
  • Community Practice: Fellows will complete at least 50 percent of their clinical education at community partner sites in the greater Philadelphia area that provide direct patient care, an invaluable experience that will prepare Fellows to meet the complex needs of patients and families throughout their careers. Every Fellow will be expected to commit to practice or service in an underserved community for two years after graduation.
  • Recruitment: Penn Nursing will select 10 Fellows to begin classes this fall, growing the program enrollment through 2026 when it will reach its annual target enrollment of 40 Fellows, continuing in perpetuity. By 2027, the program will have enrolled 140 excellent nurse practitioner students. Fellows will need to show a demonstrated commitment to working in underserved neighborhoods, where they are needed most, and to promoting health equity.
  • Tuition: All participants in the program will enter the workforce free of graduate school debt, receiving student aid to cover their tuition and fees and thereby eliminating any potential financial barriers for nurses and others who wish to enroll. Fellows with greater financial need will also receive stipends to help with living expenses.
  • Program Leadership: Penn Nursing will name the first endowed Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Professor, who will oversee curriculum innovation, support of community sites, and program implementation.
  • Penn Community Partnership: Penn Nursing will provide support for select community partner sites to support the clinical education of Fellows while providing professional development and networking opportunities and access to School and University resources.

“Penn Nursing has a long history of advancing science, promoting equity, practice excellence, and preparing leaders. That’s why Mr. Lauder’s gift is so meaningful. The synergy between Penn Nursing and the Program will improve the health of underserved patients and families, by uniquely preparing primary care nurse practitioners, who will work with them in their communities. The sustained investment in the education and careers of primary care nurse practitioners and communities is unprecedented. We are excited by the opportunity to lead this important Program and to extend its impact beyond Penn Nursing,” says Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel. “We are deeply grateful to Mr. Lauder for recognizing and investing in this critical need, and for partnering with us in this ambitious endeavor.”

NPs are “key” to health care in underserved communities

Stephen P. Fera, Executive Vice President of Independence Blue Cross, which is one of the community partners that will be involved in the new initiative, noted that nurse practitioners are key to improving individual and community care. Said Fera: “Bolstering the nurse practitioner workforce is a means to improve access to care and strengthen the health care safety net provided by health centers. This is a key priority of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and our partnership with Penn Nursing has been synergistic in efforts to prepare nurses to work in community-based settings. The Program will build and strengthen our individual and collective efforts toward improving the health and well-being of communities.”

“Now more than ever, the country needs greater and more equitable access to quality primary care—and highly-skilled nurse practitioners are the key to making that happen,” said Leonard A. Lauder. “The program will ensure that more Americans receive the essential health care services that everyone deserves, and I’m so pleased to be working with Penn Nursing on this initiative. I look forward to welcoming our first class of future nurse practitioners this fall. I know their expertise will be matched only by their commitment to serving our communities.”