Rhetaugh Graves Dumas

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Rhetaugh Etheldra Graves Dumas (1928–2007) was an American nurse, professor and health administrator. Dumas was the first black woman to serve as a dean at the University of Michigan. She served as deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, becoming the first nurse, female, or African-American to hold that position. She is said to have been the first nurse to conduct clinical experiments that evaluated nursing practices.


Rhetaugh Etheldra Graves was born in Natchez, Mississippi. She graduated from nursing school at Dillard University in 1951 and became an instructor there for a time. She earned a master's degree in nursing in 1961 from Yale University and joined the school's faculty, ultimately becoming an associate professor and the chair of psychiatric nursing.[1] Beginning in the 1970s, Dumas held leadership positions with the National Institute of Mental Health. She was the chief of the organization's Psychiatric Nursing Education Branch.[2] While at NIMH, Dumas earned a doctoral degree from Union Institute.[1] Between 1979 and 1981, she was the first nurse, female, or African-American to serve as the deputy director of the NIMH.[1][2] Dumas worked for the University of Michigan for over 20 years, and she served three terms there as the nursing school dean. Dumas was the first black female dean at Michigan. She was later named vice provost at Michigan.[2]

Dumas served terms as president of the American Academy of Nursing and the National League for Nursing. She was a member of the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the A.K. Rice Institute. She received a presidential appointment to the National Bioethics Advisory Committee and she was awarded the President's 21st Century Award from the National Women's Hall of Fame. She was a Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and was named a Living Legend by the academy in 2002.[3][4] Dumas received honorary doctorates from the University of Cincinnati, University of San Diego, Yale University and Dillard University.[5] She gave the keynote address at the 1998 conference of the American Association for the History of Nursing in Mississippi.[6]

Dumas died of cancer in a Houston hospice on July 22, 2007.[1]


The University of Michigan Academic Women's Caucus issues the Rhetaugh G. Dumas Progress in Diversifying Award for "notable progress by academic units in achieving concurrent ethnic/racial and gender diversity in the faculty."[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Patricia (July 27, 2007). "Rhetaugh Dumas, 78; Nurse Rose To Become NIMH Deputy Director". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Rhetaugh G. Dumas Award". University of Michigan. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ "African-American History Program: Rhetaugh Graves Dumas". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Living Legends". American Academy of Nursing. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Obituaries". The University Record. August 13, 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ "AAHN Past Conferences". American Association for the History of Nursing. Retrieved May 20, 2013.