Mary Mahoney Award

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Recognizing significant contributions to advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.
Mary Mahoney Award


Established in 1936 by the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, the Mary Mahoney Award has been conferred by the ANA since 1952, following the dissolution of the NACGN in 1951. The award is named for Mary Elizabeth Mahoney, the first African American graduate nurse in the U.S. It was established to honor her active participation in nursing organizations and her efforts to raise the status of African American nurses in professional life. The Mary Mahoney Award recognizes significant contributions, by an individual nurse or a group of nurses, to integration within the nursing profession.

Mary Eliza Mahoney graduated from the Training School of Nurses, New England Hospital for Women and Children, in 1879. During her 40 years in nursing, she provided exemplary patient care and made outstanding contributions to nursing organizations. In 1909, she gave the address at the Colored Graduate Nurses. That association established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936, in recognition of example to nurses of all races. When NACGN merged with ANA in 1951, the award was continued.

2014 Recipient

Vernell P. DeWitty, PhD, MBA, MSN, RN
Maryland Nurses Association

Dr. Vernell DeWitty is a nurse leader who has dedicated her career to improving the workplace for nurses and advancing diversity in the nursing profession. For the past seven years, she has directed New Careers in Nursing (NCIN), a unique national initiative to increase nursing workforce diversity and baccalaureate preparedness. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and housed at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, NCIN is directed at second-degree nursing students enrolled in accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing programs.

Dr. DeWitty’s work has created helpful and powerful tools to assist NCIN-funded nursing education programs in recruiting, retaining and supporting diverse nursing students. The result is the development of nationwide retention, mentorship and leadership development programs designed for current and future generations of minority nurses and nurse leaders. Her leadership has helped create a diversity pipeline to ensure a culturally competent workforce that can maximize the nation’s ability to achieve health equity.

Thus far, 2,994 students from multicultural backgrounds in 130 schools and 41 states have entered nursing thanks to the NCIN program. An additional 337 schools have applied for funding to critically examine the ways in which their constituents perceive, think about, feel about, and act toward people in other groups, in an effort to create educational equity for multicultural groups.

This innovative approach led to a heightened awareness of the need to embrace the rich dimensions of diversity, allowing diverse groups to come together to address issues and propose solutions with the ultimate goal of promoting and establishing a spirit of acceptance, quality, inclusion and respect.

She also led the formation of an expert committee to design the Doctoral Advancement Network, an online mentoring program for advancing nurses to the doctoral degree. The goal is to guide prospective graduate students and their mentors through the application process and navigate the graduate school experience.

Dr. DeWitty’s leadership qualities, expertise and drive to stimulate diversity and inclusiveness have provided a platform for advancing the nursing profession.

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