Women’s History Spotlight – Marsha D. Thomas is a trailblazer

Marsha D. Thomas is a trailblazer

Alumna Marsha D. Thomas was the first African-American parish nurse in Cincinnati. In that role, she has been a trailblazer and influencer.

“Parish nursing, sometimes referred to as faith community nursing, focuses on holistic health. We work to prevent illness and sickness while addressing the whole person – the physical, mental, and spiritual components of health,” explained Thomas. “My first job was with the New Jerusalem Baptist Church with Rev. Damon Lynch Jr. Through him, I met Dr. Charles Dillard, who introduced me to overseas mission work.”

That introduction led her to take her nursing skills to West Africa.

“With the assistance of my church, Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, I have been fortunate to work with The Methodist Health Training Institute – Afosu Campus in Ghana and Benin Nature in Benin Republic.”

The energetic retired nurse is traveling to Africa for “World Hepatitis Day,” which takes place July 28, 2023.

“I am taking a contingent of nurses with me. We will work with Okyeame Kwame, the UN Ambassador for Hepatitis, to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change.”

Hepatitis is defined by the World Health Organization as, “An inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.”

“Hepatitis can affect anyone, but unfortunately, it adversely affects people underserved by health systems,” Thomas said. “The good news is prevention, testing, and treatment services prevent death. We just have to get the word out.”

Thomas is the recipient of many awards including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Cincinnati State, where she earned her nursing degree. She is also the past president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, a position she held for four terms.

She graduated from Union in ’85 with a BS in Healthcare Administration and Planning and remembers it being influential in her career.

“I remember my time at Union as very significant not only in my studies but in Union’s commitment to social justice. Union reinforced my desire to be a servant-leader,” Thomas said. “I have had an amazing career. I feel blessed to have worked with wonderful people that allowed me to give back in so many ways. Even though I am retired, I am still making a difference in people’s health. I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding life.”