Discrimination drives desire for representation

Tumani Jackson says the DNP is preparing her to serve where change is needed 

May 13, 2024
Brett Stursa


“As a DNP student nurse I learned to be the voice and the advocate for those who do not have a voice,” says Tumani Jackson, who is a student in the health innovation and leadership specialty. 

The discrimination Tumani Jackson, BSN, RN, saw Black patients experience while she was an emergency and cardiac nurse in North Carolina set her on a path to earn a doctoral degree to be able to serve in a leadership role.

“I have always been interested in leadership and advocacy, and, especially being a Black woman, into diversity, equity and inclusion. I had witnessed a few things in the hospital,” says Jackson. “There needed to be more education. People who look like me needed to be advocated for, as a lot of time there aren’t a lot of us who look like me in roles of leadership. That’s the main reason why I decided to go back to school.”

Jackson chose the University of Minnesota — despite a literal allergy to the cold — because of its health innovation and leadership (HIL) specialty within the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

“What I liked about the HIL program is that it’s so diverse. It allows you to do whatever you want. I have colleagues who focus on planetary health. For me I want to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and leadership in that aspect,” says Jackson.

The nerves she had applying to a school in Minnesota, particularly after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, were assuaged as she got to know faculty. “I was nervous coming into the program about what kind of support I would have, would I be in this alone,” says Jackson. “The staff and faculty have been extremely amazing. They are very supportive of what you want to do.”

After Clinical Professor Teddie Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, got to know Jackson and her aspirations, she encouraged her to apply to be a 2023 Health Equity Scholar through the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School. Jackson applied and was named a 2023 Health Equity Scholar. “I had no idea that existed,” says Jackson. “They tailor things to you once they know your interests. Also, they are very supportive about being inclusive of others.”

Currently in her third year in the program, Jackson says a highlight was travelling to Cuba with HIL students and faculty. “Actually going there and meeting the people and seeing what their health care system looks like was amazing to me,” says Jackson. “Just to be able to immerse myself like that. That’s been the highlight.”

Jackson says receiving a Bentson scholarship was crucial to being able to pursue a DNP degree. The Bentson Doctor of Nursing Practice Scholarship was established by the Bentson Foundation to support DNP students, particularly those interested in serving underserved populations.

Jackson spoke of its importance at the Dean’s Scholarship Reception. “Without proper representation from BIPOC health care professionals, BIPOC patients will continue to suffer in a system that was not designed for them,” says Jackson. “As a DNP student nurse I learned to be the voice and the advocate for those who do not have a voice. As a Bentson scholarship recipient, I’ve learned that paying it forward is more than monetary. It’s me giving the power back to those who often feel powerless or hopeless.” 

As she prepares to graduate, Jackson is optimistic about how she’ll utilize her new degree to change and shape health care through diversity, equity, inclusion, and policy.

“The sky is the limit. I know that I’ll be able to not only have the knowledge but the resources. I will have the confidence to be able to step into a place of work or whatever place that I feel there is a change needed and know that, number one, I have the tools.”