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Profile: Mary Elizabeth Carnegie

Mildred Fennal was surprised to find out the woman she was talking with years ago at a Chi Eta Phi meeting was nursing pioneer Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, RN, DPA, FAAN.

“She was just so regular of a person,” said Fennal, RN, PhD, CNS, adding that she had to work to maintain her professional composure after learning she had met such an influential figure in nursing and nursing education.

Carnegie (1916-2008) was the first African-American board member of the Florida State Nurses Association in 1948. She started the baccalaureate nursing program at Hampton University, a historically black university in Virginia, and from 1945 to 1953, she was dean of the School of Nursing at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical College, which is now Florida A&M University, according to her biography from the Virginia Nursing Hall of Fame.

At Florida A&M, Carnegie helped the School of Nursing become the first in Florida to be accredited by the National League for Nursing and “began her push for the advancement of minority nurses,” according to the biography.

“She did an awful lot of firsts,” said Fennal, a nurse of 41 years who lives in Tallahassee, Fla., and is the president of Chi Eta Phi Sorority Inc.

Starting in 1953, Carnegie edited several nursing publications, including the American Journal of Nursing, Nursing Outlook and Nursing Research.

Carnegie also wrote “The Path We Tread: Blacks in Nursing Worldwide 1854-1994,” a book Fennal read “line by line” after meeting the author.

While America has changed since Carnegie broke racial barriers in the 1940s, African-Americans still make up a small percentage of the nursing population, Fennal said. But with Carnegie’s accomplishments, “there are more opportunities for them,” she added.

Carnegie’s achievements in nursing transcend race. She contributed, not only to nursing for African-Americans, but “to the profession of nursing,” Fennal said. — Karen Long

By | 2011-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 April 29th, 2011|Categories: National|0 Comments

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