The Pittsburgh Black Nurses in Action Evelyn Paige Parker Scholarship Brunch is an annual event that is attended my many, year after year. On June 20, at the LeMont Restaurant nearly 200 gathered for a delightful celebration.
This year, BNIA recognized the original Emergency Medical Service Freedom House. There was a trio of keynote speakers who were former Freedom House employees: George McCary III, Walter Brown and Darnella Wilson. They spoke about the Freedom House’s early days. In the 1960s, calls for emergency medical services often went unanswered in the low-income and predominantly African American Hill District of Pittsburgh. So in 1967, Freedom House began to train underemployed and unemployed men and women in the neighborhood as emergency medical technicians. Starting in Presbyterian and Mercy hospitals in 1968, they became the first paramedics in the United States, and a bold initiative was born, funded in part through a grant from The Department of Transportation. From 1967 to 1975, Freedom House recruited and trained more than 50 EMTs, owned five sophisticated mobile intensive care units, and operated a nationally acclaimed emergency service around the clock. This service was not limited to Hill District residents; the Freedom House Ambulance Service covered a large percentage of the City of Pittsburgh. Not only was the Freedom House Ambulance Service successful in providing emergency care to a neglected community; it also broke new ground in offering a real opportunity to undereducated and poor young people, many of whom stayed in emergency medical services throughout their careers.
This year’s scholarship recipients were two deserving nursing students: Adrianna Gilbert Furby who received the UPMC Scholarship and Yolanda Henry who received the Evelyn Paige Parker Scholarship. The recipient of Pittsburgh Black Nurses in Action Living Legend Award, which is known as The Mary Eliza Mahoney Award, was Adena Johnson Davis, BSN, RN.
Davis graduated as one of the first African American students from the University Of Pittsburgh School of Nursing in 1947. After graduating from Pitt, Davis went on to have a long career at Magee-Woman’s Hospital, now of UPMC, and the Veterans Administration hospital, where she became head nurse. Acknowledgement as a “real nurse” was hard to come by as she progressed through her program and even into her professional career, but she was persistent. There is now a full year scholarship endowed in her name through the University of Pittsburgh, which started in 2001. Davis was also the first Black member of the Nurses Association.
This year, two nursing graduates of Robert Morris University served as Mistress and Master of Ceremonies: Toniya Durante and Christopher Byers.
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