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10 things you didn't know about Ernest Grant, the first male ANA president

Ernest Grant is no stranger to "firsts."
Ernest Grant is no stranger to "firsts."

Registered nurse Ernest Grant has been making headlines for the past year, starting in January when he became the first male president of the American Nurses Association. In the first 12 months of his two-year term, he's been taking to stages and social media to publicize and comment on issues that drive the nursing profession and greatly affect the nation's health care. Just two of the most prominent issues are supporting a proposal to get rid of unnecessary limits on APRN practice and the ANA's new position statement on the nurse's role in medical aid for the dying, released in June.

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Amidst all the publicity, though, there are still aspects of this standout nurse's work history and experience that the nursing family is unaware of.

Here are 10 fascinating bits about the ANA's first male president: 

1. He's from the South. Grant comes to the nursing profession from Swannanoa, a small town in North Carolina. He was the youngest of seven kids in a segregation-dominated time, and his father died when he was 5. Still, Grant remembered his upbringing affectionately. "It was a great town–like the fictional Mayberry–where you could leave your home unlocked and your keys in the car," he told Spartan Scholarship System. "It also was a town that epitomized the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' My mother worked in the post office, and she knew everyone. I couldn't get in trouble without her finding out. It was worse than being the preacher's kid."

2. Being the first male ANA president isn't his first "first." According to the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where Grant earned his master's degree in nursing in 1993, Grant became the first African American male to graduate from the university with a doctorate degree in nursing in 2015. In 2010 he was elected the first African American male president of the North Carolina Nurses Association and he is also the first male elected as vice president of the ANA.

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3. He's a Baby Boomer looking out for millennials. According to the Spartan Scholarship System, Ernest James Grant was born on October 6, 1958, in the heyday of the Baby Boom. Now in his early 60s, he is reaching out to the generation that will tend to the world and be faced with an increasing nurse shortage. According to a January 2019 Nurseslabs interview, "one of Grant's main aims as President of the ANA is to encourage more millennials to join. He intends to talk to young nurses and listen to what they feel they want from the organization. Active involvement in professional organizations from early in his career played a significant role in Grant's own personal and professional achievements–many of which are firsts in the history of nursing. Grant also advocates for greater diversity concerning more men and persons from minority groups in the nursing profession to ensure quality and culturally competent care for patients."

4. He aspired to be a doctor and started nurse life as a licensed practical nurse. According to the Spartan Scholarship System, Grant's first choice of career was being a medical doctor, but family funds didn't allow for that kind of education. At the insistence of his high school guidance counselor, he began an LPN program at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College in the fall of 1976. "If it wasn't for the community college system, I would not be where I am today," he told SSS. "It was a leg up to continue my education. I went to a one-year nursing program and decided that I really loved nursing."

5. Grant is an internationally recognized burn care expert. He has worked at the University of North Carolina's Jaycee Burn Center since 1982, becoming the overseer 20 years ago. He has coordinated prevention programs nationally and internationally.

6. Grant was at Ground Zero. According to UNCG, "after Sept. 11, 2001, he volunteered at the Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and cared for patients injured during the attacks on the World Trade Center. For his service he received the Nurse of the Year Award from then president George W. Bush." His nurse research expertise has also allowed him to consult with the South African government about preparing fire safety curricula.

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7. His burn prevention ideas began in the early days. Grant has assisted various U.S. military branches in preparing troops for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in 2013, he received the B.T. Fowler Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Education Council for his prevention efforts within the state. But according to SSS, the need for prevention occurred to him in his first months as a burn nurse. He told the publication about a toddler who was around the same age as his nephew. "The child had been underfoot in the kitchen as his mother prepared dinner–chicken fried in a pot of hot oil. When she turned away for a moment, the child pulled the pot of hot grease down on top of himself, sustaining deep, life-threatening burns. Most burn nurses will tell you that for almost every burn injury, they can clearly see the possibility of prevention."

8. He's wary of fireworks. According to SSS, "Grant lobbied the state legislature, citing data from a five-year study, for the revision of a law passed in 1993 that allowed the sale of fireworks to all people of all ages. The law now restricts sale to those age 16 and older, and Grant continues to work on tighter restrictions."

9. He's a scholar who endows a scholarship. After earning his own doctorate, Grant created the Ernest J. Grant Endowed Scholarship in Nursing. It recognizes and provides support for multicultural male students with financial need seeking degrees in nursing. According to the Spartan Scholarship System, "this scholarship fund has been created by the donor to honor his mother, Mrs. Annie B. Grant, who always wanted to be a nurse, but was not afforded the opportunity."

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10. He's a joiner and he wants you to join, too. Many of Grant's firsts come back to his willingness to get involved with professional organizations, according to nurseslabs.com. "He recalls that after having served on various committees in the hospital, a friend told him that to be a real professional, he needed to join his professional organization."

Grant listened, joining the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) and the ANA in 1985. This involvement showed him his aptitude for leadership, he told NL. “All the leadership skills I gained from serving in nursing and other organizations have brought me to where I am today.”