In 1994 Howard University’s Division of Nursing established the M. Elizabeth Carnegie Endowed Visiting Professorship in Nursing Research to serve as a catalyst for enhancing research productivity among both faculty and students. In conjunction with the professorship, the Division of Nursing holds a conference to provide a forum for the dissemination of research findings pertaining to the elimination of ethnic and racial disparities in health.

This annual visiting professorship and research conference are named in honor of Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, RN, DPA, FAAN, the pioneering African-American nurse, educator, administrator, researcher, editor, publisher, civil rights activist and humanitarian. Her numerous contributions to nursing, to improving the plight of minorities and to the advancement of knowledge have won her the respect and admiration of both national and international communities.

Dr. Carnegie’s historical ties to Howard University stem from her employment early in her career at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.–whose diploma program in nursing laid the foundation for the current BSN program at Howard, which was established in 1969–and from her brief tenure as an undergraduate student at the university from 1939-1940. Over the years, the annual Mary Elizabeth Carnegie Research Conference at Howard University has earned the distinction of evolving into the largest African-American nursing conference devoted exclusively to research on el After 10 years of fostering interest, commitment, development and dissemination of research on health disparities, it was time to celebrate! For the milestone 2004 10th anniversary conference, we decided to move the event off campus to a hotel setting, shift the marketing focus from a local to a national audience, expand the duration of the conference from one day to three days, include a gala banquet and recognition ceremony to honor the achievements of nurse researchers, and focus the programming on increasing individual and collective research capacity.

To showcase the challenges and triumphs of both past and present efforts in health disparities research, the conference’s theme was “Celebrating 10 Years of Disseminating Nursing Research on Reducing Health Disparities: The Past Inspires the Future.” This theme provided the context of the conference and was carefully woven throughout the event and its related activities.

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The objectives of the conference were to discuss research findings and methodologies pertaining to a variety of issues relating to the elimination of health disparities among vulnerable populations; to correlate research findings and the application of such findings to at-risk populations; and to utilize new and expanded researchable ideas and opportunities to generate and enrich current scientific work.

Sharing Strategies, Issuing Challenges

Held March 10-12, 2004 at the Wyndham Hotel in Washington, the 10th anniversary conference began with a half-day pre-conference entitled “Cultivating a Research-Focused Environment in Schools of Nursing with Limited Research Portfolios.” The purpose of this session was to discuss and analyze the efforts and successes of Howard University’s Division of Nursing over the past 10 years in building research interest and capacity among its faculty and students, so that attendees from other academic institutions could learn from them.

For example, since 2000 the Division of Nursing has been collaborating with Yale University School of Nursing in New Haven, Conn., on a project designed to encourage talented minority nursing students at the baccalaureate level to pursue careers in health disparities research. The Yale-Howard Scholars Program gives Howard BSN students the opportunity to travel to the Yale campus for hands-on research internships and mentoring. When they return to their studies at Howard, they continue to receive research experience and mentoring, as well as encouragement to continue on for advanced degrees after they complete their baccalaureate. The program has been praised by the National Institutes of Health as a model partnership program for developing a pool of minority nurse scientists.

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The pre-conference, led by Dorothy Powell, RN, EdD, FAAN, associate dean and professor at Howard’s Division of Nursing, was designed for faculty affiliated with schools of nursing that are challenged to have productive research programs because of hectic teaching and clinical responsibilities and limited support services. Topics covered included strategies for building partnerships, student immersion experiences, networking, energizing the faculty, creating a research focus and modifying the mission and culture of a nursing program.

The first full day of the conference featured a plenary session followed by presentations of scholarly papers and posters, culminating with the recognition gala. Each year, an eminent African-American nurse leader, researcher and scholar serves as the Carnegie Visiting Professor. On the occasion of the professorship’s 10th anniversary, Rhetaugh Graves Dumas, RN, PhD, FAAN, dean emerita of the School of Nursing, vice provost emerita and Lucille Cole Professor of Nursing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, was named visiting professor.

In her keynote address, “Caring About the Health of Racial and Ethnic Minorities: Challenges to the Health Professions,” Dumas challenged the eager and attentive audience to consider why the elimination of health disparities must be a national priority. “Clearly, the imperative to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health arises not only as a matter of morality and social justice but also as a matter of economic necessity–for this nation and all of its major institutions,” she stated.

Continuing the momentum, Martha Hill, RN, PhD, FAAN, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and co-vice chair of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, presented a compelling paper based on Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, the committee’s acclaimed report documenting widespread pervasiveness of disparities throughout the health care system. In the spirit of the Division of Nursing’s commitment to cultivating the next generation of nurse scientists, the plenary session concluded with a stellar presentation, “Factors Related to Causal Attributions to Cervical Cancer,” by Tracy Brewington, a senior nursing student at Howard University and a 2003 Yale-Howard Scholar.

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More than 70 scholarly papers and poster presentations were featured in concurrent sessions throughout the conference. The research papers focused on topics such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular health, adolescent health, violence, international health and women’s health. The presenters, who hailed from across the nation, included novice and expert researchers as well as Howard University Division of Nursing students, most of whom had completed an intensive research internship.

The poster presentations also covered a wide range of subjects, such as intimate partner violence, integrating genetics education into the nurse practitioner curriculum, the development of a mid-level provider curriculum focusing on the hepatitis C virus infection, and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Honoring Three Generations of Nurse Researchers

At the end of the first day, more than 250 persons elegantly dressed in evening attire convened to honor the achievements of former, current and future nurse scientists. The audience was dazzled and charmed by the illustrious Mistress of Ceremonies, Brigadier General Clara L. Adams-Ender, U.S. Army, Retired, as she presided over the special 10th anniversary formal gala designed to pay tribute to Dr. M. Elizabeth Carnegie, the various Carnegie Visiting Professors from 1994 to the present, and outstanding representatives of the next generation of health disparities researchers.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Carnegie has championed the cause of African-American nurses. Throughout her nursing career, she has cared for a culturally diverse patient population, served as a catalyst for the racial integration of professional nursing organizations, investigated and published books on the history and roles of black nurses and promoted educational opportunities for black nurses. Because of Dr. Carnegie’s pioneering efforts, she has received numerous honors and awards. She was inducted into the American Nurses Association’s Nursing Hall of Fame in June 2000 and is the recipient of eight honorary doctorate degrees.

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“I was overwhelmed by the palpable expression of love [embodied in the 10th anniversary conference tribute],” Dr. Carnegie said afterwards. “Because words were inadequate to interpret the breadth of my emotions, I could only respond by rendering tears of joy and a heartfelt thank you!”

Howard University’s annual M. Elizabeth Carnegie Endowed Visiting Professorship provides a unique opportunity for leading African-American nurse researchers to share their work, motivate others and provide mentoring and consultation to aspiring nurse scientists. To commemorate the professorship’s 10th anniversary, all of the past visiting professors were invited to the conference to be recognized for their continued support.

In addition to the current Carnegie Visiting Professor, Dr. Rhetaugh Graves Dumas, the other visiting professors who attended included: May L. Wykle, RN, PhD, FAAN, FGSA, dean and professor, Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing; Ora L. Strickland, RN, PhD, DSc (Hon.), FAAN, professor, Emory University, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing; Loretta Sweet Jemmott, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor and director of the Center for Urban Health Research, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; Sandra Millon Underwood, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Nursing; Cynthia Flynn Capers, RN, PhD, dean and professor, University of Akron College of Nursing; Faye Gary, RN, EdD, FAAN, professor, Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing; and Juanita W. Fleming, RN, PhD, FAAN, interim vice president for Academic Affairs, Kentucky State University, and professor emeritus, University of Kentucky School of Nursing.

Finally, reflecting the conference’s theme of “The Past Inspires the Future,” Howard University Division of Nursing honored a cadre of 20 researchers as Emerging Nursing Stars in Health Disparities Research. For more details about the Stars, refer to the article on page TK.

Continuing the Work

The final day of the conference began with an Idea Incubation Breakfast, sponsored by Yale University School of Nursing. This forum provided an opportunity for novice and expert researchers to network and dialogue about shared interests, ideas and opportunities for future collaboration. After the breakfast, the conference activities continued with a half day of breakout sessions and poster presentations.

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In summary, the 10th anniversary Carnegie research conference was a resounding success. Reflecting the seriousness with which the elimination of minority health disparities is being addressed by the nursing profession, the event attracted more than 400 participants from across the United States. This national appeal underscored the relevance and high level of interest in this critical issue.

“The success of the conference was in the number of current and future nurse scientists and consumers of research who were able to rally around [the issue of] health disparities and explore potential directions for helping to resolve this national crisis,” commented Veronica Clarke-Tasker, RN, PhD, MBA, MPH, associate professor and chair of the Research Committee at Howard University Division of Nursing, who was honored the previous evening as one of the Emerging Nursing Stars.

Despite the great strides that have been made toward the understanding and eradicating of racial and ethnic health disparities over the past 10 years, the disparities continue and there is still much work yet to be done. It will take current and future generations of nurse researchers, as well as researchers from other disciplines, to reverse the appalling patterns of health among people of color. The initiatives in the Division of Nursing at Howard, such as the Carnegie research conference, are intended to be both a catalyst and a cultivator of ideas for eager minds to commit to the challenge of making a significant difference in the lives of America’s most vulnerable populations.

We think we are off to an excellent start! Visit us on the World Wide Web at www.howard.edu to see a pictorial overview of the conference, order a videotape of the plenary session and learn how you can contribute to the M. Elizabeth Carnegie Endowed Visiting Professorship in Nursing Research.

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