Milwaukee nurse reflects on becoming 1st Black dean of nursing in WI

As we enter the final week of Black History Month, we look at the career of a Milwaukee woman who has dedicated her life to caring for others. The accomplished nurse talked with FOX6 News about her 36-year career in health care. 

Dessie Levy is a nurse, an educator and someone involved in her community. "An old negro spiritual song by Mahalia Jackson says that if I could help somebody along the way, my living will not be in vain and that’s a mantra of mine," said Levy. 

And help she has, with 36 years as a nurse, taking care of patients and offering advice to those who follow in her footsteps. 

"I think the work over the years have really set precedence in my life in terms of what it is I set out to accomplish," said Levy.

Growing up in Milwaukee, on 19th Street and Center Street, Levy’s inspiration behind her career came from a Black nurse who helped take care of her while spending years in and out of the hospital. 

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"I was born with a bone defect of my lower extremities of my feet," said Levy.

Nevertheless, she prevailed and graduated with her nursing diploma from Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee, one of only two Black nurses in the class. 

Throughout her career, she worked at the VA Hospital, the Burn Unit at Columbia St. Mary’s and she earned her Ph.D. in education and leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.

"I did not set out to accomplish to be Dr. Levy. I wanted to be a nurse," she said.

In 2005, Milwaukee Area Technical College hired Levy, making her the first Black dean of nursing in Wisconsin. 

"It’s a monumental accomplishment for me personally, but for the profession and itself, it was a little bit taken aback for our state to be so far behind in opening the door," said Levy.

Levy is no stranger to being the first and sometimes only Black nurse in certain circles. She understands the importance of representation and has made it her goal to give back to her community, some of which can be seen through her church, True Love Missionary Baptist.  

"We have an outreach center. I serve as the executive director for the outreach ministry," said Levy.

It’s safe to say the person who’s most proud of Levy is her husband, Garry Levy. 

"The person I did fall in love with had a passion for not only people but a community she that she was somewhat raised in," said Garry Levy.

And after 39 years of marriage, "I’m truly blessed to just be a part of her life," said Garry Levy.

Levy agrees representation matters and thinks more Black nurses are needed in the health care industry. She'd also like to see more people of color on the administrative side and in the decision-making process.