3 Notable Black Nurses Who Changed Nursing in New York City

NursingJanuary 06, 2023

Goldie D. Brangman, CRNA, MEd, MBA, the first African American president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), part of the surgical team who treated Dr. King after an assassination attempt.

January 16 marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and to honor the holiday, we’re taking a look at the important role of African-American nurses in the nursing field. Notable Black nurse professionals have made significant contributions to New York City public health. We profile three of them, past and present, in honor of MLK Day. 

Jessie Sleet Scales (1865-1956). Originally from Canada, Scales is credited for being the first Black public health nurse in New York City and the United States. She received her nurse training in Chicago before moving to New York City, where she was hired by the Charity Organization Society on a short contract to be the organization’s first Black district nurse in 1900. At the time, tuberculosis was a huge public health issue in the African-American community. Because the community had limited access to healthcare, Scales was instrumental in helping people access treatment—so much so, she was hired full-time after that 2-month assignment. In her district nurse position, Scales’ career expanded to include childbirth, cancer, heart disease, and other health issues. Her pioneering role inspired other health organizations to hire Black public health nurses in the city. 

Goldie D. Brangman (1920-2020). Nurse Brangman is credited with being an accomplished certified nurse anesthetist who made significant contributions at Harlem Hospital, a training ground for many African-American nurses, immigrants, and other medical professionals of color. She co-founded the School of Nurse Anesthesia at Harlem Hospital in 1951, where she was also director of the School of Nursing. She served as the first African-American president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, and notably, she was part of the surgical team that operated on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Harlem Hospital after a 1958 assassination attempt. 

Catherine Alicia Georges (1944-present). With a professional career that spans decades, Professor Georges is still hard at work. She’s a professor and chair of Lehman College’s Department of Nursing at City University of New York, where she has taught for more than 40 years. Her mission is to diversify the nursing field and ensure better access to nursing education. She is a sought-after speaker who addresses nursing and healthcare issues around the globe with a commitment to eliminating the health disparities of minority and disadvantaged groups. She served as president of the National Black Nurses Association (1987-1991) and has received numerous other accolades. 

We thank these change-makers for their advocacy. If you’re inspired to consider a career in nursing, St. Paul’s School of Nursing with campuses in Queens and Staten Island can help. Visit our website, or call (855) 822-3018 to speak to one of our nursing admissions advisors to schedule a campus tour.