“Have You Seen the Nurse?": A Conversation with St. Philip School of Nursing Alumnae

February 22, 2024

Victoria Tucker
Victoria Tucker

Living Legacies Series

Start time: 12:00 p.m.

End time: 1:00 p.m

Location: College of Health Professions Auditorium (900 E Leigh St, Richmond, VA 23298)

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By the end of the 19th century, formal nurse training programs afforded women a pathway into higher education. Yet from the beginning, nursing education was based on racialized exclusionary policies. During the Jim Crow Era, the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) opened St. Philip Hospital and School of Nursing in 1920 as a segregated institution to provide care for Richmond’s Black community and to prepare Black nurses. For over four decades, St. Philip School of Nursing served as a premier training program for Black women across the United States. Virginia was also the site of massive resistance in the 1950s and continued to maintain racialized segregation in education. Black students remained barred from MCV’s School of Nursing until 1957. This form of professional marginalization and exclusion were costly for nurses, patients, and the community at large. Black nurses were at the center of health and community activism. Nursing was more than a vocational calling, it was also a form of self-actualization, agency, and resistance. Historical accounts rarely center Black nurses’ voices, experiences or contributions in healthcare.

This Living Legacies event, moderated by Tori Tucker, RN, PhD, with VCU Health, features two St. Philip alumnae who will share their stories, insider anecdotes, and the importance of remembering the history of St. Philip Hospital and School of Nursing. Introduction by Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FAAN, College of Health Professions & School of Nursing.


Co-sponsors: The Office of Health Equity, Humanities Research Center, HRC Health Humanities Lab, VCU Health, School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing.

About the Speakers

Victoria Tucker, RN, PhD, with VCU Health, is a Residential Fellow at the Humanities Research Center, 2023-24, and a member of the HRC Health Humanities Lab. Tucker is an interdisciplinary scholar and palliative care nurse whose research engages the history of nursing and health care; race and education in the South; and public history. She uses oral histories to examine the important but largely unchronicled moment at the intersection of American and nursing history: the experiences and contributions of Black nurses in Virginia during the transition from segregation to desegregation.

Mary Gilbert Holmes, RN is a Piedmont Sanitorium '57 and St. Philip ‘59 graduate. Holmes worked as a head nurse at UVA Hospital in the early 1960s, a staff nurse at Lynchburg General Hospital, and as a Public Health nurse for the Lynchburg Health Department. She was the recent recipient of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ 2021 Humanitarian Award (Lynchburg, Virginia). 

Burlette Cooke Trent, RN is a St. Philip '54 graduate, she worked at Dooley Hospital caring for pediatric patients and as a head nurse at Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Trent retired from the Veterans Affair Medical Center after nearly thirty years of distinguished leadership and service.

Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FAAN is Executive Director for Inclusive Leadership Education and Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Belonging in the College of Health Professions, as well as Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University. Davis is the inaugural executive director of inclusive leadership education for the Department of Health Administration at Virginia Commonwealth University.