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First Black healthcare worker's historic legacy

Dare to dream
Posted at 7:40 PM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 21:02:56-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In the 1950s, it was rare to see a person of color attending to patients in a hospital. However, Mrs. Jewel Singleton-Amey changed all of that at Spohn Hospital.

She was considered one of the first Black nurses to work with doctors on open heart surgery.

Mrs. Amey started her medical training as a surgical nurse in the operating room. But she said she endured challenges throughout her career.

Amey said she would train some of the new nurses on her team. When it was time for them to advance to the next level, she was often paid less than the other nurses.

She added that some of those same nurses would even treat her badly. In addition, she mentions that patients would request a white nurse instead of her, but luckily her superiors had her back.

"Some would say, 'I don't want her in here,' said Amey, "Dr. Williams backed me up and said, 'If you don't want Jewel in here, you don't want me, get yourself another doctor.' Things would happen to me and it would bother me, but all I could do is pray."

As Amey continued working at Spohn hospital, she said that she truly enjoyed working to help patients and learning new techniques in the medical industry.

Mrs. Amey with other nurses at Spohn Hospital

But the challenges didn't stop throughout the years. Amey also mentions that she left on maternity leave, but when she returned back to work, she was forced to retrain.

Not only did she retrain to learn new knowledge and skills, but Amey also said that her superiors advised that she start her learning five years prior, which pushed her back and prevented her from returning to the work she was already doing.

While working at Spohn Hospital, she didn't have a car, but she managed to get to work every day. When it was time to go home, she would take the bus and then walk a few blocks before finally getting there two hours later.

In all of the obstacles that Amey experiences, none of them even mattered because she knew that her purpose was greater.

"It was pretty hard for me," said Amey, "But I tell you, back then, I was 98 pounds and I stood my ground. I stand 10 feet tall and I ain't backing down from nobody."

Amey finally left Spohn Hospital and continued her medical career at Memorial Medical Center before officially leaving in 1980.

Not only has she had a successful career, but she and her husband also raised seven children. And now that she's 89 years old, Amey enjoys gardening and is a devoted collector of fancy hats.

Mrs. Amey tries on one of her many designer hats

When asked what advice she would give to someone looking to find their own path, Amey said, "Ask God to direct you where you need to go. If you have a dream, whatever it takes, you go for it."

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