January 20, 2019

Nurse Lauren Underwood Is The Youngest Black Congresswoman - Ever

Nurse Lauren Underwood Is The Youngest Black Congresswoman - Ever

By Chaunie Brusie

Image source: Facebook 

At only 32 years old, Lauren Underwood is making history. Why?

Well, because she just so happens to be the youngest black woman in Congress ever. And even better? Underwood, who represents the Democrat Party, is also a Registered Nurse, proving that once again, nurses are some of the most inspiring people on the planet. 

Who is Lauren Underwood? 

Congresswoman-Elect Lauren Underwood is the representative of Illinois' 14th district, sworn in earlier this month among a record-breaking 127 other women in Congress. The Ohio-born politician was inspired to go into healthcare after being diagnosed with a pre-existing condition at only the age of eight and seeing the wonderful care she had by her own team of doctors and nurses. 

Despite her young age, Underwood’s background and resume are incredibly impressive. According to her official website, after achieving her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of Michigan, she worked as a research nurse while pursuing her Master's program at Johns Hopkins University. Following her graduation, she began her career in public service with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While there, Underwood worked on important initiatives such as implementing the Affordable Care Act and the Flint Water Crisis. In addition to her public health work, Underwood also served as an instructor at Georgetown University School to teach advanced practice nursing. 

Now a Naperville, IL resident, Underwood decided to get involved in politics after attending an event in 2017 with her opponent Randy Hultgren and realizing that he was actively working to repeal portions of Obamacare that protected individuals with pre-existing conditions. 

For Underwood, that moment wasn’t just about politics; it was personal. 

As one of the 300,000 individuals in IL-14 with a pre-existing condition whose healthcare could be influenced by the Affordable Care Act, Underwood decided it was time to get involved, both for the sake of her own health—and everyone like her. She decided to run for Congress and is focusing on some key issues that include:

  • Reducing gun violence through universal background checks and limited sales
  • Increased federal funding for higher education
  • Allowing DACA recipients a path to citizenship
  • Expanded investment in renewable energy projects and more funding for the EPA, as well as a focus on climate change
  • Full access to abortion

Why Her Victory Matters

Underwood’s victory over her opponent cemented her place in history as the youngest black woman ever to be sworn into Congress and started her career in politics, where she has already made significant moves such as reinstating pay for furloughed federal workers. And her place in the House has been celebrated by both parties as a move that demonstrates a move for a more inclusive future. 

“Bursting with excitement to be represented by #LaurenUnderwood,” tweeted one supporter. “It even transcends party for me. Accomplished, driven, strategic, genuine, insightful and a nurse so you know she has the heart and gumption to get it done. And policy and plans? Love feeling this inspired!”  

As CNBC reports, Underwood’s historic swearing-in came alongside of other momentous wins, including Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both of who became the first Muslim women in Congress; Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first Native American women in Congress; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman in Congress at 29; and Jahana Hayes, Connecticut’s first black woman in Congress.

She also joins other nurses in Congress, such as Karen Bass, the U.S. Representative for California's 33rd congressional district, former ER and outpatient surgical nurse Diane Black, and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who was once the Chief Psychiatric Nurse VA Hospital in Dallas as well the first-ever nurse to be elected to Congress. 

See what I mean? Nurses = awesome. 

Are You a Nurse Who Wants to Get Involved in Politics? Here Are Some Tips

If you’re a nurse who is inspired by Underwood or any of the other incredible nurses in politics, you may be wondering what you should do next. Maybe you won’t be giving up your night shifts anytime soon to run for President, but you can still get involved in the political scene in big ways, from local to federal movements, such as:

1. Volunteer with a candidate you support. If you’re a fan of Underwood’s work, for example, you can sign up on her website to be a volunteer to help support her and her efforts. Most candidates welcome volunteers to assist them in their campaigns. 

2. Register to vote. It’s a simple step, sure, but it’s one of the most important. If you’re not registered to vote yet, learn how to sign up today. And of course, once you’re registered, don’t forget to actually vote! 

3. Get involved with ANA. The American Nurses Association offers an easy way for nurses to get involved in politics that can make an immediate difference through their advocacy program. You can get educated on the local and federal government initiatives they are currently working on and sign up to stay informed or help advocate for the causes you believe in through the ANA Political Action Committee. 

4. Consider becoming a healthcare lobbyist. If you’re wanting to turn politics into a career, consider becoming a healthcare lobbyist. Nurses are considered trustworthy and valuable lobbyists with their experience, professional, and background in the healthcare field. 

5. Start small. Don’t underestimate the power of getting involved locally. You can begin getting involved in politics by running for local boards at your town or city level, through local non-profits, or healthcare facilities like nursing homes. Start small to make a big difference!

Next Up: 12 Historical African American Leaders In Nursing And Medicine

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