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Women who shaped the foundation and future of the Tuskegee VA Hospital

Chief Nurse Esther Bullock and nurses at Tuskegee Campus in 1933
Chief Nurse Esther Bullock and nurses at Tuskegee Campus in 1933.

Countless women have served Veterans on the Tuskegee Campus of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) and the care they provide has set the foundation of what is now one of the most historic medical centers in our Nation.

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate the trailblazers who inspire women to achieve their full potential and encourage men to respect the diversity and depth of women’s experiences. One of those women, in particular, is the Associate Director for Patient Care Services, Laundrena LaPradd-Bradley.

"I knew that I wanted to become a nurse my freshman year in college. After considering other professions, I quickly decided that the nursing profession would guarantee me a job and it would also be beneficial to my family members," LaPradd-Bradley said.

LaPradd-Bradley, a 2018 VHA Healthcare Leadership and Development Program graduate, has 27 years of experience and 10 years of nursing leadership practice. Her leadership was instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic as she orchestrated the implementation of a 29-bed inpatient COVID unit.

Equally important, LaPradd-Bradley continues to mentor our nursing staff and guides aspiring leaders. CAVHCS nurses work hard every day to better the lives of our Veterans by improving patient satisfaction and outcomes through providing compassionate care and fiercely advocating for their health and safety.

Nurses have been the driving force on Tuskegee Campus for several decades, dating back to its inception in 1923 –  the world was quite different then.

For many years Black Veterans were in dire need of proper care. Still, it was not until Congress authorized the U.S. Treasury to build a hospital to care for over 300,000 Black Veterans in the South after World War I that the Tuskegee Home was created. Yet there were frustrations as doctors and nurses were not Black in the then-segregated South.

Enter a cadre of educated Black professionals. Tensions were at an all-time high then and it was risky just to enter the campus for nurses like Tuskegee’s first Chief Nurse Esther Bullock. Her chief nurse role was the equivalent of the modern title of Associate Director for Patient Care Services.

There were several instances where adversarial groups would threaten staff and demonstrate right outside the campus.

Bullock and her staff cared for Black Veterans at Tuskegee despite the danger. Their unique experiences throughout history have shaped our Nation and have inspired others to reach higher than they thought possible and to achieve the once unachievable.

Now, times have changed for the better and almost 100 years later, the then-Tuskegee Home is still going strong.

"We have grown significantly over the last 100 years. . . and we have had some challenges over the years, but we are making tremendous strides. We have a committed team and they are engaged and passionate about caring for Veterans," LaPradd-Bradley said.

Today, CAVHCS ensures we foster a diverse workforce and inclusive environment for Veterans and employees with trust, equality and open communication.

VA has worked to make tremendous impacts on the quality of life of our Veterans, no matter their race, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

"CAVHCS is rising into a Veteran-centric, learning organization in a readiness state. We have an eager group of team members with so much creativity and passion. It's about allowing them to grow and perhaps teach you a few things, and you can instill knowledge and wisdom in them. It creates greatness," LaPradd-Bradley said.

Today, we will honor and celebrate the struggle and achievements of American women throughout U.S. history. They have transcended traditional gender roles, broken down barriers and become role models for future generations.

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