Nurse Anesthetist & Co-Founder of Harlem Hospital School of Anesthesia
Goldie D. Brangman-Dumpson was born in Maryland in 1917. After being a volunteer with the Red Cross, she enrolled in Harlem Hospital Center’s nursing program. She graduated in 1943 and accepted her first job at Harlem Hospital. When many male doctors in the City Hospital of New York were away during World War II, nurses began to be asked to give anesthesia. According to Brangman-Dumpson:
“The surgical residents taught us anesthesia, so we learned everything. At the end of the year I decided I liked anesthesia. Anesthesia was a real challenge. I decided to go to a formal school of anesthesia, Getting into school in 1946 was more than just a notion. In New York City, there was the New York Hospital School of Anesthesia for nurses — forget it. They were not taking any black people at that point. Kings County and Bellevue, which were city hospitals, would take black people but had a waiting list, like forever.”
Eventually, just as she and a colleague decided to attend a HBCU in Tennessee, Dr. Helen Mayer, who worked at Harlem Hospital as the head of the anesthesia department, offered them a chance to learn directly from her if they stayed and helped her start an anesthesia school at Harlem Hospital. They worked overnight and attended classes during the day. In 1949, they passed their exam from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and the mayor of New York agreed for them to open the school, so long as it didn’t require additional funding. The first class of 16 were comprised of nurses that were excluded from other anesthesia schools (Irish Catholic, Jewish, African, Filipino, Korean, etc). She also went on to receive her Master’s of Business Administration and a Master’s of Nursing Education.
Brangman-Dumpson had worked at Harlem Hospital twenty years when, on September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem for the signing of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. During the event he was stabbed in his chest with a letter opener by Izola Ware Curry, who was later deemed mentally unstable. When Dr. King was brought to Harlem Hospital, Brangman-Dumpson was the nurse anesthetist that was part of his surgery team and was the one bagging him to keep him oxygenated. After a period where there was concern to transfer Dr. King to another hospital by the New York governor at that time, the surgery proceeded in Harlem. As she recalled:
“Harlem Hospital, at that time, was considered the “adopted child of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. However, Columbia — Presbyterian’s residents came to us to learn trauma surgery.” Every breath would move the blade. The time saved by doing the surgery then and there at Harlem Hospital really did save King’s life.”
Surgeons removed two ribs and a portion of King’s sternum that day and Brangman-Dumpson completed his anesthetic. After caring for Dr. King, she worked at Harlem Hospital another 45 years and remained the director of the Harlem Hospital School of Nurse Anesthesia for over 30 years. She estimates that she educated at least 700–750 students. She also went on to become the first — and so far, only — African American president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), serving from 1973 to 1974.
“I was the first woman of color in a leadership position in the AANA, and as a result, I had to run for every AANA office at least twice.”
Brangman-Dumpson retired form nursing in 1987 and moved to Hawaii. There she continued to volunteer with the Red Cross, including at the shelter for storm victims during the 1992 hurricanes. She received the Ann Magnussen Award for over 60 years of service in the Red Cross. She died last year in Kailua, Hawaii, at the age of 102.
View video of Goldie Brangman-Dumpson here.
The information above was sourced from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Wikipedia, Minority Nurse, Diversity CRNA, and Stanford’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s Research and Education Institute.
To learn more about inclusion in nursing and be part of the national discussion to address racism in nursing, check out and share the following resources:
Know Your History
- Nursing CLIO to engage with historians and scholars committed to deep work around historical accuracy in healthcare and nursing.
- American Association for the History of Nursing to attend monthly webinars on topics of nursing history, view the calendar here.
- NurseManifest to attend live zoom sessions with fellow nurses on nursing’s overdue reckoning on racism or to sign their pledge.
- Breaking Bias in Healthcare, an online course created by scientist Anu Gupta, to learn how bias is related to our brain’s neurobiology and can be mitigated with mindfulness.
- Revolutionary Love Learning Hub provides free tools for learners and educators to use love as fuel towards ourselves, our opponents, and to others so that we can embody a world where we see no strangers.
Support & Advocate
- National Coalition for Ethnic Minority Nurse Association to stay engaged with topics relevant to nurses of color.
Help us paint the internet with nursing’s diverse origin stories. Follow this Medium publication, NursesYouShouldKnow on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook, or @KnowNurses on Twitter to share and re-post our articles far and wide.