University Buildings Named for Jamaican-Born Nurse Who Became Maryland’s First Black Senator

University Buildings Named for Jamaican-Born Nurse Who Became Maryland’s First Black Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam

The University of Maryland has honored Shirley Nathan-Pulliam by naming a building in the university’s School of Nursing after her. Nathan-Pulliam, the first Jamaican-born individual to attend the School of Nursing, was featured at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 30, 2023, for the school’s newest, multi-million dollar wing.

Nathan-Pulliam was praised by Dr. Bruce Jarrell, the University of Maryland president, for her outstanding work in health care. In addition to having a building named for her, she will also be awarded an honorary doctorate in public health from the university. This will coincide with her 84th birthday in May 2023. Describing herself as a “champion for the poor, the underserved, and the needy,” Nathan-Pulliam said it was an honor to receive the award, adding that she was “glad I am alive to see it.”

According to Dr. Jane Kirshling, dean of the UM School of Nursing, Nathan-Pulliam was honored by the school where she started her career in recognition of alumni who paved the way for future generations of nurses of color to enter the nursing profession. Dr. Kirshling added that she wanted the ceremony honoring Nathan-Pulliam to inspire other nursing students to know that their actions can also have a major impact and that they should continue pushing for equality, health equity, and advocacy for all of Maryland’s people. State officials in Maryland described her as “a phenomenal graduate” of the nursing school.

Nathan-Pulliam also served in Maryland’s General Assembly for some 30 years, the first person born in the Caribbean and the first person born in Jamaica to do so in the Assembly’s 300-plus years of history. Adrienne Jones, the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, called Nathan-Pulliam a “trailblazer and outstanding voice in Annapolis,” the state’s capital. She added that Nathan-Pulliam had long been a champion for women, health, and equity. During her first year in government, she obtained $2.6 million for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer for low-income women. She also sponsored many health care bills, with a bill in 2022 being named in her honor.

Nathan-Pulliam was born in Trelawny, Jamaica, and grew up in Kingston. She attended Mic Teachers’ College before migrating to Britain. She became a nurse there and then went to the United States and distinguished herself in the health care field before serving in representational politics for the first time in 1994. A Democrat, she represented Baltimore County’s District 10 from 1995 to 2015, and in 2014, was elected to the Senate of Maryland. She has long been active in Maryland’s Jamaican and Diaspora communities as well.


About the author

Staff Writer