Mrs. Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell's father,
Elijah Brakefield, came to Detroit in the 1920s from
Atlanta, Georgia. Her mother, Glenna Fisher-Brakefield,
migrated to Detroit from Pachuta, Mississippi during
the early 1930s. They married in 1935.
was born on January 14, 1943. She attended Cass Technical
High School and graduated in 1960. She enrolled in Wayne
State University and received her Bachelor of Science
in Nursing degree in 1964.
began her nursing career at Crittenton Hospital, a private
hospital. She moved on to Detroit General Hospital in
1966, where she was a staff nurse-in-charge. She left
Detroit General to go into public health nursing in
1968 and became a supervisor in the Detroit Health Department's
Bruce Douglas satellite office.
Health Department converted their satellite offices
to primary care clinics in 1974, she remained there
as the supervisor until 1976. Mrs. Brakefield-Caldwell
continued her supervisory role within the Health Department,
but transferred to Herman Kiefer Hospital where she
eventually coordinated the provision of services at
seven community sites under the Adolescent Health Services
Project between 1979 and 1983. She became the Public
Health Nursing Clinic Administrator in 1983.
later her responsibilities shifted and expanded again
when she became the Public Health Nursing Administrator
for Community Health Field Services. Mrs.
Brakefield-Caldwell retired in 1998 from her last position
as Health Care Administrator, which she held since 1995.
a former vice president and treasurer of the Detroit
Black Nurses Association, a past board member of the
Wayne State University Alumni Association, and is a
member of the Michigan Public Health Association, and
National Black Nurses Association. She is also a member
of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.
the importance of education for improving community
a public health nurse for Wayne County Health Department
we visited these families. And you know, at that time,
Wayne County was quite rural, like Inkster and Westland.
They were kind of rural and
it looked like farmland.
The houses werent all real close together
And the poor
ones just [were] out there with no shoes on and all
that kind of stuff, but I enjoyed it because I enjoyed
people, I guess. And this [job] took a lot of people
skills, you know, and the interviewing and trying to
help the people to improve their health outcomes.
I thought about it, and as I went on and went to school
[to become a nurse], I felt like the best way to help
black people improve their outcomes was through education
and the best way I could do that was in public health
when I worked in the hospital, these people would come
in so sick. Theyd have like ten and eleven diagnoses.
I remember a ladyshe had congestive heart failure,
she had high blood pressure, she had something wrong
with her liver, she was all bloated up like that. They
had twelve diagnoses on this lady. Now you know that
her health outcome could have been better if, first
of all, she could have had access to health care. Secondly,
if she could have had some knowledge about how to take
care of herself. Thirdly, just somebody who was there
to care about her and say, Well, you know, this is
what you do,. Fourthly, a better diet. All of that
kind of stuff. And I kept seeing that in the hospital
and I said, I dont want to do this. I want to be
out there helping people to understand why they are