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photo of Ernest Grant
photo of Ernest Grant
Dr. Ernest Grant

Representing all of the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses is a big undertaking.

Especially during this global pandemic, when medical supplies are limited, personal protective equipment can be hard to obtain, and the whole health care system is under strain.

Dr. Ernest Grant, a UNC Greensboro alumnus, holds that responsibility.

“It’s vitally important that we do everything we can to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19,” he says.

As president of the American Nurses Association, he is advocating for those on the front lines. He wants them to get the personal protective equipment they need. He is working with and encouraging government authorities to monitor supply chains to ensure that vital medical equipment goes where it is most needed. 

And through videos and social media – and through interviews with news outlets ranging from MSNBC to Fox News – he continues to spread this message: Follow your local and state directives about sheltering in place. 

Physical distancing – also called social distancing – is making a big impact. It helps keep the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, as it helps limit the spread of COVID-19. It has helped “flatten the curve” in the spike of coronavirus cases. 

“I know it’s very difficult. I’m a bit frustrated, myself, with having to stay indoors most of the time, but we all must do our part,” he says. 

Also, give blood if you can, he adds. “The Red Cross needs the blood supply, so if you are healthy, consider making an appointment for one of the blood services donation centers.”

He praises everyone who plays a role in the health care system, from the cleaning crews to the receptionists, from the lab technicians to the surgeons.

An expert in burn care, he oversaw the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center’s Outreach and Prevention Program, located in Chapel Hill, for many years. 

Grant holds two UNCG degrees, an MSN (’93) and a PhD (’15).

When he received that doctorate, he became the first African American male to earn a doctorate degree in nursing from UNCG. In 2010, he’d been elected the first African American male president of the North Carolina Nurses Association. In 2018, he was the first male to be elected president of the American Nurses Association. 

A trailblazer, he is keen to help and inspire the next generations of nurses. He grew up with limited means, the youngest of seven children in the small town of Swannanoa in the North Carolina mountains. 

“I’ve always wanted to make the way easier for those who come after me,” he says.

In honor of his mother, he established the Ernest J. Grant Endowed Scholarship in Nursing to provide support for multicultural male students with financial need. 

“I could not have gotten this far in my career without the education I received at UNCG.”

UNCG and its School of Nursing help transform lives. And the nursing graduates go on to help save lives, no matter the challenge. 

Even – and especially – when the unexpected happens and when crises arise.

“In typical nursing fashion,” he said, “we rise to that occasion.”

Below, watch Ernest Grant’s video on what you can do to help in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Story by Mike Harris, University Advancement
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

 
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