Blue Devil of the Week: Leading Diversity at the School of Nursing

Brigit Carter heads a nursing program for underrepresented minorities

Brigit Carter is the Duke University School of Nursing's first associate dean for diversity and inclusion.
Brigit Carter is the Duke University School of Nursing's first associate dean for diversity and inclusion. Photo courtesy of Brigit Carter.

Name: Brigit Carter

Title: Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Duke University School of Nursing

Years at Duke: 24

What she does at Duke: Carter is focused on making the Duke University School of Nursing a welcoming and inclusive place for all employees and students.    

Only a month into her new position at the School of Nursing, Carter is meeting with members of different departments to form strategies that encourage an affirming atmosphere. 

“We want to be known as a place where all people can come together and feel comfortable, at home and supported” she said. “I want us to be proactive in our approach to diversity and inclusion.” 

For the past nine years, Carter has used a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to fund the School of Nursing’s Academy for Academic and Social Enrichment and Leadership Development for Health Equity II, known as the Health Equity Academy

Duke nursing students from underrepresented minority groups take part in the academy to study social determinants of health.

“When people walk into a health system they bring their background and history with them,” Carter said. “We want to understand how to best serve them.”

She also works as a secondary clinical staff nurse in the Duke University Hospital Intensive Care Nursery. Carter cares for infants who were born early, born with a condition or disease at birth that requires immediate attention or born with a pre-existing condition like genetic anomalies.

“I end working side by side with someone who graduated from the School of Nursing,” Carter said. “It’s very rewarding to see them using what they’ve learned in our Duke Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to better serve the patient population.” 

What she loves about Duke: Carter loves Duke’s employee tuition assistance program, which provides up to $5,250 a calendar year for full-time employees with at least two years of continuous service. 

Duke helped pay for Carter to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from North Carolina Central University and her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

“Duke makes education something everybody can achieve,” she said. “It’s not a pipe dream. If people work hard education becomes accessible to them.”

Memorable day at work: The School of Nursing gave Carter the “Honorary Alumnus Award” in the spring of 2017. The award is given to someone who has become an integral part to the School of Nursing through distinguished service but is not an alumnus of the school. 

“That was a day I couldn’t stop smiling,” she said. “Since I never got to attend Duke, I’m very tickled to call myself a Dukie.”

Special object in her office: In one of Carter’s desk drawers sits a hand-made thank you card from one her former students. The card features drawings of Carter’s hobbies and previous jobs as a cook and police officer, and the student’s favorite, Carter cooking them dinner. 

“I always save thank you cards for a rainy day,” she said. “When I need a reminder for why I’m in this career, I just open a thank you card.”

First ever job: At 14 years old, Carter worked as a waitress at a seafood restaurant in Atlanta called Captain Peg’s. 

“I had a blast,” she said. “I got to know so many different people and hear so many different stories on that job.”

Best advice: “Always remember to turn around and lend support to the next person who wants to achieve their goals,” Carter said. “Giving back is so important.”

Something most people don’t know about her: Carter retired this spring as a commander from the Navy after 28 years of service. 

With her parents’ permission, Carter joined the Navy when she was 16 years old. She served on the U.S.S. Yosemite (AD-19) and at Naval Air Station Cecil Field, both in Florida, for nine years. 

Carter joined the reserves 20 years ago and was stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in the neonatal intensive care unit until her retirement. 

“Being part of the United States Navy provided guidance, mentors and discipline which was significant for a 17 year-old who was not quite sure of the direction of her life,” Carter said. “ I continue to live by their core values of honor, courage and commitment.”

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