1. Hunt, Loretta

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A vote for Rosalind Kurita is a vote for nurses-so says the RN of 37 years, who is running for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. Recently endorsed by the ANA, Kurita, age 58, is a two-term state senator and a Democrat who hopes to become the first nurse in the U.S. Senate, which would allow her to bring a nurse's perspective to health care reform and other issues.


She credits her mother with pointing her toward a career in nursing. One of four girls raised in Midland, Texas, she will never forget what her mother-"the strongest woman to ever live"-told her: "Rosalind, sometimes when things are hard for you, the way to change that is you go out and you do something for someone else."

FIGURE. Tennessee st... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Tennessee state senator Rosalind Kurita casts a vote during a state legislative session in Nashville in March 2005.

Kurita took her mother's words to heart and became a candy striper at a local hospital at age 16. "When I experienced the feeling of helping someone else, my world opened up. It became a lifelong addiction."


Graduating from nursing school in 1968, Kurita worked in the operating room, the ICU, and the hemodialysis unit at the Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas-where she met her husband, who was a medical student. When he became a dermatologist, Kurita became a stay-at-home mother. As her children grew, she started her own business as a freelance writer and marketer for medical businesses. But when she discovered that her children didn't have a lunchroom at their school, she lobbied local politicians until one was added.


After her victory, Kurita ran for a seat on the Montgomery County Commission. She served for four years, winning approval for a measure that afforded citizens the opportunity to publicly address the commission.


In 1996 Kurita ran for the Tennessee State Senate and won. Health care was a top priority for the nurse-turned-politician-one of her first efforts focused on requiring bicycle helmets for children.


"I worked in the operating room," Kurita says. "When you've seen a child come in with a head injury and seen the agony of the parents, you'll do what you can to prevent it."


As a state senator, Kurita has supported health care reforms that include more options for managed care consumers, coverage for early testing of prostate cancer, and for diabetes treatment. She has implemented programs to lessen the burden on the health care community, from instituting car seats for children to mandatory tours of hospital EDs for convicted drunk drivers to increasing Tennessee's state cigarette tax to the national level.


"In Tennessee, we have the dubious distinction of having more high school students who smoke cigarettes than any other state in the nation," the senator explains. Through her efforts, Kurita has even been able to ban smoking in the state's capitol building. One of 33 Tennessee state senators, Kurita is considered a health care expert among her peers and is often approached with legislation related to it. If she becomes a U.S. senator, Kurita believes she will have a unique perspective to share with other lawmakers in Washington, DC.


"We know there are so many health care challenges right now," she says. "Many people who have not been in a health care crisis think of health care in terms of a stack of paperwork. Health care is really the hands-on action of helping someone get well or helping them tolerate what they have to do."


Kurita's campaign trail has included all of Tennessee's schools of nursing, where she has solicited suggestions on the national nursing and nursing faculty shortages. She also visited many nursing homes and hospitals, the memories of her experiences as a nurse still fresh in her mind. "I sometimes physically miss it," she explains. "But in my political career, I can affect people's health care in a different way."


Kurita says her agenda will be clear if she is elected. "The first issue is that we must address renewable energy sources. We have to get off the fossil fuels."


Creating incentives for children to pursue the sciences, as a way of countering the increased advantage held by other countries in science education, is also among Kurita's concerns-as is, of course, health care. "In this country, we have to be willing to look at ways to experiment with delivering health care," Kurita argues.


In becoming the only RN in the U.S. Senate, Kurita anticipates that a fair amount of health care reform legislation would come her way.


"There's a basic drive to make a difference. As long as you feel that you can do that, you need to keep walking that path," Kurita says of her political hopes. And although the schedule of a state senator would allow her little time for personal interests like skeet shooting and walking with her husband, she has readied herself for the next phase of her journey.


"Nursing gives you so many building blocks," Kurita says. "People count on you. You have to be accountable and responsible, and people look to nurses as being hard workers. In politics, you really have to know how to do a day's work. That was nursing's gift to me."


To learn more about Kurita's campaign, visit


. . . And in the House?


Maryland state senator Paula Hollinger, a former nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland's third congressional district. The senator is running for the Democratic nomination against several well-connected but less experienced competitors, and her candidacy has also been endorsed by the ANA. A legislator in Maryland for almost three decades, first as a delegate and then as a state senator, Hollinger is chairwoman of the influential Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and is known for her vigorous support of stem cell research and women's right to choose. The senator also sponsored successful bills to allow Medicaid patients to receive health care in their homes, to prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses, and to improve the process of organ and tissue donation, among others.

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