Nurse anesthesia student Toleka Taylor aims to inspire low-income youth to pursue health care careers
Socioeconomics, discrimination and personal adversity can be major roadblocks to a college education — especially at the graduate level. Helping students overcome those obstacles was one reason past Interim Dean Howard Normile created the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Dean’s Endowed Recruitment Scholarship.
“I am a physical representation of diversity and success despite adversity,” said Toleka Taylor as she rounds the corner toward graduation with her master’s in nurse anesthesia this summer. “Not only am I the only African American in my program, but I am a single mother and a first-generation college student, and the oldest person in my program as well.” The degree opens the door for her to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), an advanced practice within the nursing field.
Taylor is one of seven students awarded this year’s EACPHS Dean’s Endowed Recruitment Scholarship. “Diversity has always been one of Wayne State’s core values and we prioritize it in our college as well,” said Occupational Therapy Program Director Doreen Head, who leads the scholarship’s selection committee. “Toleka impressed us when she said that participating in Community Apple Days was important to her because she wanted to be a role model.”
Indeed, Taylor feels that it’s her responsibility to encourage “students who look like me and come from a rough home environment to believe that education is attainable.”
She returned to Wayne State University 10 years after earning her BSN from the College of Nursing and spending a decade working as an RN in Detroit.
“Despite growing up in the inner city surrounded by drugs, violence and crime, the importance of education was always stressed to me,” she said. Now she intends to pay it forward, with plans to establish a mentorship program that connects middle school and high school students with CRNAs and WSU Applebaum students. “I want to expose low-income students to health sciences careers at a young age to show them a pathway out of poverty.”
Taylor added, “When faced with a wall, you have the option of letting it deter you from accomplishing your goals or you choose to conquer it. Whether you go around it, through it, over it or under it, you must never let adversity stop you from succeeding.”
The WSU Applebaum nurse anesthesia program transitioned from a master’s to a doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP) degree beginning with the class entering in fall 2019.