The Flying Nurse
In 1943, at the height of World War II, a young pilot from Tampa, Fla., was accepted into an elite program for female aviators, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. She and the other WASPs ran noncombat missions, doing test flights, ferrying planes from factories to military bases and towing targets so soldiers could practice their gunnery skills. After the war ended, that same young woman—Dorothy Ebersbach—joined another high-flying profession: She became a nurse.
Until her retirement in 1975, Ebersbach worked as a public health nurse in Hillsborough County, Fla., but she never lost her passion for flying. When she died in November, just shy of her 97th birthday, she left $2 million to establish the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing at her alma mater, Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. “The gift allowed her to combine her two lifelong loves: flying and nursing,” says Mary E. Kerr, PhD, RN, dean of the nursing school. “And it’s allowing us to expand our flight program from a center for basic education to one for research and further education.
Kerr met the flying nurse in 2010 after she’d been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest award Congress grants civilians—for her service as a WASP (WASPs were considered civilians and were not granted veteran status until 1977). “She donated the medal to the school, too,” says Kerr. “She was an amazing woman.”
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