WASHINGTON, DC – University of Maryland Celebrates Shirley Nathan-Pulliam a trailblazing Jamaican nurse turned politician is the latest person celebrated with her name on a University of Maryland School of Nursing building, amid acclaim from university as well as Maryland state officials calling her a phenomenal graduate of the school.
Shirley Nathan-Pulliam was honoured at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held in Baltimore this Monday, January 30, under the theme “Seeds of Change.” The recognition for Ms. Nathan Pulliam’s work includes her name being put on the newest multi-million dollar wing to the nursing school. The first Jamaican-born person to attend the UM School of Nursing, Nathan-Pulliam did the honours, cutting the ribbon to formally open the new facility.
The University also celebrated another alumna, Esther McCready, the first black woman to attend the nursing school.
President of the University of Maryland Dr. Bruce Jarrell lauded Nathan-Pulliam for her outstanding work in healthcare. He further announced that in recognition of her selfless contribution and public service, she will be awarded a University of Maryland honorary doctorate in public health.
The conferring of the honorary doctorate will coincide with Ms. Nathan-Pulliam’s 84th birthday in May. Declaring herself “a champion for the poor, the underserved and the needy”.
Nathan-Pulliam said in her acceptance remarks, with her children, grandchildren, and grandchildren also present: “This is a tremendous honour and I am glad that I am alive to see it.”
UM School of Nursing dean Dr. Jane Kirshling explained that the school where Nathan-Pulliam got her start was honouring the work she and Esther McCready had done – work that will impact future nursing students as well. “It’s really an important part of our history to recognize these two phenomenal alumni [who] both opened doors to generations of nurses of color to be able to enter the profession, and to make a difference in the lives of the people that they care for.”
Kirshling told the gathering at Monday’s ceremony at the School of Nursing that she wanted other nursing students to know their single actions can be just as impactful if they, too, stayed persistent. “Their actions can make a difference similar to action Shirley Nathan-Pulliam has taken,” said Kirshling. “So continue to push for equality, continue to push for health equity issues, just stay in the present moment to advocate on behalf of all people of Maryland.”
Of the two alumnae that were honoured, Dr. Dr. Kirshling singled out “their bold actions, fortitude, perseverance, and their abiding commitment to equity and justice.” She went on to explain that the objective behind the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing expansion was to remember the past while honoring the future. Ms. Nathan-Pulliam was also cited as the first Jamaican-born and first Caribbean person to ascend to the Maryland General Assembly in its more than 300-year history.
“When we think of her incredible legacy her journey from Jamaica to Baltimore working in hospitals across the state and the work she has done in the state senate and the impact he has had, I think it is often easy to forget just how forward thinking Shirley Nathan Pulliam was from the moment she step foot in public office over a 30 year period,” offered President of the Maryland State Senate William Ferguson in his tribute.
“This woman impacted and changed hundreds of lives by promulgating healthcare bills and others,” the state senate leader continued. “On the behalf of the Senate of Maryland I just want to sincerely say thank you for living a life of service, a life of purpose that we can all live to emulate every day.”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Adrienne Jones described Shirley Nathan-Pulliam as a trailblazer and outstanding voice in Annapolis, the Maryland state capital city, “and an advocate for her community. She has been the champion for health and equity and for women. In her first year in office, she secured $2.6 million for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment center for low income women.
“She sponsored so many healthcare bills that last year we named one in her honor. Shirley is a model for people in public service and I cannot think of a more deserving person to have their name on the university of Maryland school of nursing building than Shirley Nathan-Pulliam.”
A large contingent of Jamaican Marylanders joined the university officials and state and local Baltimore leaders on hand to witness the inauguration of the new School of Nursing wing.
Born in Sherwood, in the parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, Ms. Nathan-Pulliam grew up in Kingston, where she attended Mico Teachers’ College (now The Mico University College). She later migrated to Britain and became a nurse before migrating to the United States, distinguishing herself in the field of healthcare, before turning to representational politics in the state of Maryland in 1994. A Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates, she represented District 10, Baltimore County, from January 1995 to January 2015. In 2014, she was elected to the Senate of Maryland.
Shirley Nathan-Pulliam has also been an active member of the Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora communities, notably in Maryland.
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