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Meet one of USC's first Black BSN graduates

Walking around campus in 1969 wearing yellow scrubs and an afro was the first time Carrie Houser James discovered her impact.

James is one of the first Black students to graduate with a BSN from the University of South Carolina College of Nursing.

She is a native of Orangeburg, S.C., a first-generation college student and the youngest of five siblings. James remembers riding past the university as a young girl and telling her mother and sisters about her desire to attend the College of Nursing and obtain a four-year degree.

Her decision to care for others led her to a career in pediatric nursing, advocacy and nursing leadership.

Caring for the community

“See your doctor and tell the truth,” says James, who advocates for people of color to get the care they need. “Knowing your family history is very important."

James’ eldest daughter passed away from lung cancer at young age. 

College of Nursing Associate Professor Dr. Tisha Felder’s research identifies approaches that address racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in health, with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities diagnosed with cancer.

Her research found that, “African American women with breast cancer perceive support as helpful and acceptable depending on who offers support, what type of support is offered, and when it is offered.”  

Why it matters 

  • African American women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate
  • Black women under 35 get breast cancer at twice the rate of white women
  • Black women account for 15.5% of all breast cancer deaths

James has a support group for African American women breast cancer survivors, that encourages women and men in Orangeburg to get regular screenings. 

“To this day nursing is not a job to me. I enjoy caring for people.” – Carrie Houser James

She retired as a tenured Assistant Professor in nursing with over 36 years of varied nursing experience including Director of Nursing for the Children's Hospital at Palmetto Richland now Prisma Health Children's Hospital, Director of Clinical Experiences at South Carolina State University, and President of the South Carolina Nurses Association. 

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