Ernest James Grant was born on October 6, 1958, in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains–specifically, the area of the neighborhood that was designated for Black residents–Grant was known and loved by all in the tight-knit community. His mother worked for the post office and his father died when Grant was only five years old.
Grant’s father’s death left his mother in charge of providing for the family on her own. Although family and friends assisted as much as they could, there was no funding for his education. While in high school, a guidance counselor encouraged him to join an LPN program after he expressed interest in a career in healthcare.
In the Fall of 1976, Grant embarked upon his nursing career. He enrolled in classes at the Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, joining their (A-B Tech) Licensed Practical Nursing program. Grant was the first Black man to graduate from this program.
Grant moved to Chapel Hill in the early 1980s after landing a job at the Jaycee Burn Center at North Carolina. In his first month of working as a nurse, Grant encountered a young burn victim who was only a child. The child had been accidentally burned with hot grease. Although he appreciated helping the young burn victim, Grant felt that the burn could have been prevented.
Grant charged himself with assisting people beyond providing the services of an LPN. He returned to school. He ultimately earned his Bachelor’s in nursing from North Carolina Central University in 1985, and his Master’s in nursing from UNC-Greensboro in 1993.
While working as a nurse, Grant became a statewide, nationwide, and international advocate for burn prevention. He has lobbied to have the state legislature sell fireworks to those are 16 and older, instead of anyone despite their age. He also lobbied to have water heaters preset to 120°F and labeled with information so as to prevent scalds.
For the past 20 years, Grant has coordinated the burn prevention outreach programs at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. He is usually on the road, giving speeches and seminars regarding burn prevention safety. He also teaches burn prevention to student nurses and military personnel. Grant has also been a member of the American Association of Men in nursing, providing a positive role model for men of color who enter nursing.
Grant was recently the first man to be elected president of the American Nurses Association. Ernest J. Grant now seeks opportunities for political involvement while working on his Ph.D. at UNC-Greensboro and continuing to teach burn prevention to the masses.
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