Contact: Christine Phelan Kueter: 434-982-3312
(5-21-2012) It was in the dog days of July 1967 when young nurse Nancy Milio (pictured left, with patient Tommie, in 1966) watched the “Detroit Holocaust” unfold just steps away from the Moms and Tots Center (interior, pictured below) she helped open the previous year in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. By the end of the four-day riot, some 36 people were dead, 2,000 were injured and 3,000 had been arrested and jailed.
The clinic, however – despite its miraculous proximity to the violence that unfolded that week – remained unscathed.
Its protection was intentional. Milio, whose journal offered detailed notes about shootings, deaths and burning buildings, noted that the center’s exterior had been emblazoned with a “B.” It was only later that she realized it had been protectively marked to ensure it was spared; the B stood for “soul brother.” In other words, part of the fabric of community.
“The building was not to be touched as it belonged to the people there,” wrote Milio.
Milio, later a professor of nursing atthe University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recently bestowed her notes and photographs from the clinic to the University of Virginia School of Nursing’s Nursing Center for Historical Inquiry, a national repository for nurse memorabilia that aims to inform today’s practice by examining its past. U.Va. School of Nursing professors Arlene Keeling and Mary Gibson recently garnered a $20,000 grant from the Jefferson Trust to digitize Milio’s notes and photographs, creating a Web site and, ultimately, an analysis of the significance of her work. Pam DeGuzzman, professor of nursing, was the first to discover Milio's collection as a PhD student, and published an article on it: "Addressing disparities in access to care: Lessons from the Kercheval Street Clinic in the 1960s," in Policy, Politics and Nursing Practice.
“Examining problems through a historical lens may provide insight that can be recycled today as health care professionals and policy makers consider once again how best to come to grips with problems like health care disparities,” says Keeling.
Much of the new Milio collection details the process of finding funding for the Mom and Tots Center and offers a glimpse into her determination to have the place staffed “almost exclusively with community members.”
“The project, if it was to be, was to belong to the people it was intended to serve, so they had to struggle to shape it, and I with them for a while,” recalled Milio in her journal. “Then, it would be theirs.”
Milio donated her papers to the Center in 2011.
The Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry was established at U.Va. in 1991 to support historical scholarship in nursing and preserve and study nursing history.