Although there are still relatively few minority nurses who have been inducted into the American Nurses Association (ANA)’s prestigious Hall of Fame, their number slowly and steadily continues to grow. The most recent minority nurse leader to be honored for a lifetime of exceptional contributions to advancing the profession of nursing is trailblazing educator, researcher, author and advocate Hattie M. Bessent, EdD, MSN, RN, FAAN. The ANA proudly presented Dr. Bessent with its Hall of Fame Award at the association’s 2008 Biennial House of Delegates meeting, held this past summer in Washington, D.C.

“As an African American woman, Dr. Bessent is responsible for breaking down many cultural, educational and professional barriers,” says ANA president Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR. “As an educator, her work has impacted generations of nurses. As a health care professional, her strength and leadership has inspired women from all walks of life. Dr. Bessent serves as a role model to all nurses and ANA is grateful for her life-long dedication to nursing.”

Dr. Bessent, whose specialty is psychiatric nursing, is one of those extraordinary nursing leaders who truly deserve the title Living Legend. During her long and distinguished career, she has published landmark research studies and designed programs that have made an impact in reducing health disparities and improving the health of minority communities. A prolific author, Dr. Bessent has published three books as well as many journal articles and monographs. She has held numerous fellowships and consultancies and has advised virtually every U.S. president since Eisenhower on mental health issues.

Dr. Bessent is perhaps best known for her pioneering efforts not only to increase the representation of minorities in the nursing profession but to help them develop into leaders. For more than 15 years, she spearheaded the ANA’s Ethnic Minority Fellowship Program (now known as the SAMHSA/ANA Minority Fellowship Program), a national initiative dedicated to developing a cadre of minority nurse leaders in the fields of mental health and substance abuse nursing. Dr. Bessent also launched, and continues to direct, Project LEAD (Leadership Enhancement and Development), which prepares minority nursing faculty to assume leadership positions in academia.

Other minority nurses in the ANA Hall of Fame include Dr. M. Elizabeth Carnegie, Dr. Luther P. Christman, Mary Eliza Mahoney, Estelle Massey Osborne, Mabel Keaton Staupers and Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail. The complete list of Hall of Fame inductees is available at www.nursingworld.org (click on “About ANA,” then “Where We Come From,” then “Hall of Fame”).

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