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– meeting U.S President, First Lady, Vice President and Second Gentleman
Nurse Patricia Cummings was a guest on the well-sought after White House Invitation List for this year’s 4th July Independence celebration. The invitation offered her an opportunity to be on the lawns and a chance encounter with President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, which she said was an overwhelming experience. But her presence there was not as part of the political or Washington elite but acknowledgement and appreciation for the role she has and continued played in the ongoing nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Patricia sees herself as a Guyanese representative, an ambassador in the United States of America (USA). She was born in Bartica but spent more of her early childhood in Berbice and Georgetown. She attended West Ruimveldt Primary School in Georgetown and was taught by Sir Wilfred Success, whom she referred to as “best elementary school teacher there is.” At age 10 she migrated to St Lucia with her family, where she completed high school education at St Joseph’s Convent. Shortly after, the Cummings family migrated to the USA where she presently resides.
On December 29, 2020 hers was the task to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and incoming second gentleman Doug Emoff. Patricia is the Clinical Nurse Manager of United Medical Centre, Washington D.C, the Centre identified to administer the vaccine to Harris and Emoff. Having done that she now holds the distinction of being a woman of colour to vaccinate the first woman of colour elected to the White House and the second most powerful leader in the world, along with the first second gentleman in U.S’ history. Added to that experience was the opportunity to personally meet both President Biden and Dr. Biden on 4th July. Hers were opportunities many dream of but few have realised. She reiterated how humbled she remains by these experiences.
2005-Associate in Applied Science in Nursing (cum laude) – Medgar Evers College
2008- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (magna cum laude) – Medgar Evers College
2021- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Walden University
COVID-19 and vaccine hesitancy
Last April, appearing in the Nursing Journal in a Question and Answer (Q & A) article, Patricia she was asked, based on her experience, what are the leading factors behind some minority communities’ hesitance toward receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
She responded that hesitancy is due primarily to lack of trust in the U.S. healthcare system. This mistrust she said stemmed from misinformation related to the pandemic, especially during its initial phases; the fear of being used as guinea pigs, citing the Tuskegee Experiment in which African American males were deceived into believing that they were receiving treatment for syphilis.
She further cited the case of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman from Baltimore, whose cells were used in 1951 without her permission to develop drugs for treatment of numerous diseases such as leukemia and Parkinson’s disease. Patricia also noted there exists skepticism about the short timeframe in which the vaccine was developed — about 10 months — when, historically, it has typically taken 2-3 years.
She was posed the follow-up question on what steps are being taken by healthcare leaders to increase trust toward healthcare services within the minority communities. She noted that with first-hand access to scientific information related to the vaccine healthcare leaders are using these as trusted sources to educate patients, colleagues, family members about the vaccine safety and efficacy, and are also sharing their experience having taken the vaccine as a measure of building trust.
Community outreach and future
Last Monday evening, Patricia appeared on the Mark Benschop’s “Straight Up” programme. She announced there that she will be visiting Guyana shortly and has established a relationship with the Ministry of Health and other officials to engage in community outreach and spread information and knowledge on the virus and vaccination and dispel existing fears. She sees her trip, which she said is being sponsored, as doing her part to help in whatever way she can to fight the pandemic.
In the meantime, Patricia has established a website, https://www.nursepatricia.com/ , to provide information on the pandemic and vaccine, and health and wellness in general. Outside of nursing, she is also involved in social justice issues. Patricia said she partners with various organisations, including the JRG Entertainment and New York-based Caribbean Power Jam Radio in a programme called RESET. According to her RESET holds meeting every Friday to talk about the pandemic, health, racial injustice and other issues that affect peoples from the black and brown communities.
Patricia hinted on the Benschop’s programme of her intent to write a book sometime in the future about her experience. And who knows what else may be in store her- a biopic, her role in vaccinating Harris and Emoff in a movie? Who knows? Americans are particular about preserving history and it would be no surprise if the scrubs she wore on December 29 would be part of the artefacts in the Smithsonian Museum.
Nurse Sandra Lindsay- a Jamaican who migrated to the USA at age 18- was the first in America to receive the vaccine, i.e., December 14, 2020. Lindsay will have her hospital scrubs, vaccination card and badge she wore on that day when she received her first dose displayed at the COVID-19 exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.