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Scholarship Honors Homer G. Phillips Hospital Nurses

After joining Goldfarb School of School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, Nancy Ridenour, PhD, APRN, FAAN, The Maxine Clark and Bob Fox President, began to search for ways to help the underserved and increase the number of Black nursing students. She found inspiration in “The Color of Medicine,” a documentary about the historic Homer G. Phillips Hospital that served the St. Louis Black community from 1937 until 1979.

Named after its major benefactor, a St. Louis-based Black lawyer and civil rights advocate, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was the world’s largest Black hospital of its time. In addition to treating patients, it was one of the few, fully equipped hospitals in the country where black doctors, nurses, laboratory and X-ray technicians and medical record librarians could receive training.   

“The community rallied around the hospital because there wasn’t equal opportunity for African Americans who wanted to become nurses and doctors. The Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing met a great need and also provided great care for the community,” says Dr. Ridenour.

“It really resonated with me because we want to increase the diversity in the nursing workforce, to have nurses that look like the patients we care for and to remove finances as a barrier for people to become nurses.”

As a result, Dr. Ridenour decided to create a Goldfarb scholarship that would honor the graduates of the Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing. Thanks to her generosity, the Homer G. Phillips Nurses Alumni, Inc. Scholarship was established in 2020 at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The alumni group, after which the scholarship is named, was founded in 1922 with the graduates of St. Louis City Hospital Number 2 School of Nursing, which later became the Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing. At the time the latter closed,  1,036 had graduated from the nursing program, says Jobyna Foster, the alumni group’s outreach coordinator and a former president.

“We take great pride in being excellent nurses,” she says of her former colleagues, most of whom are now retired. “We loved our work.”

Based on the alumni group’s data, the organization had 60 financial members throughout the United States at the time of its last reunion in 2017.

Yvonne Jones, current president of the group, explained that most of the Homer G. Phillips students were from other states, particularly the south, because there were no other options for Black applicants.

“We couldn’t go anywhere else,” she says. “But once you graduated from Homer G. Phillips, they would hire you on the spot.”

Yvonne said the Goldfarb scholarship named after the Homer G. Phillips alumni group has personal meaning because she remembers the challenges of paying for a nursing education.

“At that time, the tuition was $385,” says Yvonne, who graduated in 1968. “My mom, bless her heart, had a hard time even getting that together because she cleaned offices.”

Millicent Tsike, the first recipient of the Homer G. Phillips Nurses Alumni, Inc. Scholarship, also knows about the financial burden of attending nursing school. Born and raised in Ghana, she hopes to work toward improving health care services provided to underserved and rural communities.

Because of the scholarship, Millicent says she has been able to concentrate on her classes through the academic year without having to hold a job.  

“I made it to the Dean's List last semester because I had ample time to study hard for my classes since I wasn't working,” Millicent says. “This scholarship is an immense kickstart for my nursing career as I don’t have to juggle a job with school and can give my undivided attention to my studies.” 

As for the near future, she says, “I am excited about the prospects of joining the already active student body promoting diversity in nursing where I can volunteer in social research aimed at gaining a better knowledge of diverse communities and health concerns peculiar to these minority groups.”

To learn how you can help provide scholarships to promising students, please contact Marilyn Sheperd, (314) 286-2241 or [email protected].  

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