Thomas Watters, first male nursing student at the UVA School of Nursing
Thomas Watters, an ex-Navy corpsman, was admitted in 1963, the School's first male nursing student.

Some 62 years after UVA Nursing’s 1901 founding came its first enrolled male student, Thomas Watters, an ex-Navy corpsman who was admitted in 1963, a year after the program opened to men. Watters – who became nursing class president – would go on to graduate in 1966 and join the U.S. Army’s nurse anesthetist program.

It would be six more years, however, until the School’s first male faculty member – Kenneth Rinker, MSN, RN, then director of nursing services at UVA Hospital – would be hired.


Percentage of men across all UVA Nursing programs, graduate and undergraduate (2018)

Much has changed in the intervening years. Today, more than a fifth of the School’s faculty are male and occupy important teaching, research and mentoring roles in the School and at clinical sites. Too, a growing proportion of the student body is male – from just under 10 percent of current undergrads to 27 percent of CNL students, 20 percent of master’s students, 16 percent of DNP students and 12 percent of PhD students – rates that hover at or above the national rate of men in nursing, roughly 10 percent.

UVA’s men in nursing are an integral part of the place, too.

MAN Club – that’s Men Advancing Nursing, a student group open to all genders – seeks to build awareness of men in nursing through community events, like voter registration, hygiene demonstrations and hand-washing clinics at local elementary schools. Hyper-aware of the endless refrain of questions male nurses still get, MAN Club co-president Ryan Thomas says they’re out to challenge the status quo – and “spark a new narrative.”

With the pending publication of the 2nd annual MAN Club Calendar for 2019 (order through Thomas -, it’s important to remember that compassion and kindness aren't gender-specific – and that at UVA and elsewhere, men are finding their rightful place in the noblest profession.

“Without a doubt,” says Thomas, “it’ll take much more than a calendar to make nursing more diverse, but we hope to spark a new narrative reflecting nursing’s diversity now, and into the future.”

Here, here.


This #FlashbackFriday brought to you by the and Men Advancing Nursing Club at UVA.