Alumni in the News


Dr. Ernest Grant

Representing all of the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses is a big undertaking.

Especially during this global pandemic, when medical supplies are limited, personal protective equipment can be hard to obtain, and the whole health care system is under strain.

Dr. Ernest Grant, a UNC Greensboro alumnus, holds that responsibility.

“It’s vitally important that we do everything we can to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19,” he says.

As president of the American Nurses Association, he is advocating for those on the front lines. He wants them to get the personal protective equipment they need. He is working with and encouraging government authorities to monitor supply chains to ensure that vital medical equipment goes where it is most needed.

And through videos and social media – and through interviews with news outlets ranging from MSNBC to Fox News – he continues to spread this message: Follow your local and state directives about sheltering in place.

Physical distancing – also called social distancing – is making a big impact. It helps keep the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, as it helps limit the spread of COVID-19. It has helped “flatten the curve” in the spike of coronavirus cases.

“I know it’s very difficult. I’m a bit frustrated, myself, with having to stay indoors most of the time, but we all must do our part,” he says.

Also, give blood if you can, he adds. “The Red Cross needs the blood supply, so if you are healthy, consider making an appointment for one of the blood services donation centers.”

He praises everyone who plays a role in the health care system, from the cleaning crews to the receptionists, from the lab technicians to the surgeons.

An expert in burn care, he oversaw the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center’s Outreach and Prevention Program, located in Chapel Hill, for many years.

Grant holds two UNCG degrees, an MSN (’93) and a PhD (’15).

When he received that doctorate, he became the first African American male to earn a doctorate degree in nursing from UNCG. In 2010, he’d been elected the first African American male president of the North Carolina Nurses Association. In 2018, he was the first male to be elected president of the American Nurses Association.

A trailblazer, he is keen to help and inspire the next generations of nurses. He grew up with limited means, the youngest of seven children in the small town of Swannanoa in the North Carolina mountains.

“I’ve always wanted to make the way easier for those who come after me,” he says.

In honor of his mother, he established the Ernest J. Grant Endowed Scholarship in Nursing to provide support for multicultural male students with financial need.

“I could not have gotten this far in my career without the education I received at UNCG.”

UNCG and its School of Nursing help transform lives. And the nursing graduates go on to help save lives, no matter the challenge.

Even – and especially – when the unexpected happens and when crises arise.

“In typical nursing fashion,” he said, “we rise to that occasion.”

Below, watch Ernest Grant’s video on what you can do to help in the COVID-19 pandemic.


When Jana Welch Wagenseller ’76 arrived at UNC Greensboro in the fall of 1972, she never imagined she would change the face of oncology nursing in the Southeast. She was just taking the first steps in fulfilling her parents’ dream of a college education for their daughter and her own dream of being a nurse.

“I had always liked all things medical since I was a young girl,” Jana remembers. “I liked the science, I liked working with people, I liked solving puzzles and I especially liked caring for others. I chose UNCG because it had the best nursing program in the Southeast. I have never regretted that choice.”

That education became the foundation of an extraordinary career of service. Jana worked at Duke Medical Center in increasingly critical roles, including head nurse of inpatient oncology. When she became the administrative director of the affiliations program at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, she developed cancer programs in communities throughout the Southeast, changing the face of cancer treatment for many individuals. She retired in 2004 as the associate director of the cancer network at Duke University Health System.

In retirement, Jana’s dedication to service continued at her alma mater. A past president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, she served on the Students First Campaign Committee for the School of Nursing and the Chancellor’s Search Committee. She currently acts as the chair of the School of Nursing Advisory Board and sits on the Excellence Foundation Board of Directors.

In 2015, to honor her parents, Jana created the Jana Welch Wagenseller Endowed Program Fund through a testamentary gift. The fund will support faculty professional development, including funding for professional conference presentations and opportunities to expand teaching, research, and service.

“We must show the faculty that we value them and their work,” she explains. “Professional development is enduring, and we must encourage and support this – it is what helps sustain excellence.”

In 2019, in recognition of her extraordinary service to her alma mater, the state of North Carolina, and the Southeast, Jana was awarded UNCG’s Minerva Award for Distinguished Service. The Minerva Award recognizes alumni who have given devotion, service, and visionary leadership to UNCG, the UNCG Alumni Association, academic colleges, or the Greensboro community at large.

Story by Michelle Danner-Groves, Donor Relations