From patient care to health care advocacy and burn education, Ernest Grant is in the business of making a difference. And with a newly established scholarship fund, he’s impacting the lives of minority male UNCG nursing students as well.
Grant received his master’s degree in nursing from UNCG in 1993 and became the first African-American male to graduate from the university with a doctorate degree in nursing in 2015.
“I’ve always wanted to make the way easier for those who come after me,” he said.
One of seven children raised in a poor family in the North Carolina mountains, Grant understands the importance of a helping hand. He couldn’t have made it through nursing school without assistance from others. Now, nearly 40 years into his own successful nursing career, he’s passing it on.
Nursing school is difficult enough without the added stress of figuring out how to make ends meet along the way. Grant hopes the scholarship will eliminate the distractions associated with the cost of tuition, books and supplies.
“It may mean the difference between that person becoming a nurse or not,” he said.
In a field dominated by women, it’s important to encourage young men to pursue careers in nursing.
“I think the public needs to see more men in nursing, period,” he said, adding that only 3 to 10 percent of practicing nurses are male. “A nurse is a nurse. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.”
Grant has worked at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill since 1982. He only planned to work in the burn unit for a year, but 34 years later, he’s still there.
“I really feel that burns were my calling,” he said
These days Grant spends less time in the clinical setting, and more time out in the community advocating for burn awareness and care. One of the ways he does that is as vice president of the American Nurses Association (ANA). He’s the first man to hold that position in the organization’s 120-year history.
“I’m able to help determine the future of nursing and the future of health care,” he said. “Nursing is the most trusted profession the public has. It’s a big honor.”
Grant hopes to continue breaking the glass ceiling by becoming the first male president of the ANA at some point. Ultimately, however, what matters is that he’s making an impact.
“The most important thing is knowing that you’re able to make a difference in someone’s life every day,” he said. “I always tell students that I have never regretted choosing the nursing profession. To me, it is the greatest way to be able to serve mankind.”
Story by Jeanie McDowell, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations