Hope Ferguson, DNP, MBA, CRNA, CDR (Sel), NC, USN, became the first African American president of the Tennessee Association of Nurse Anesthetists when she took office on Oct. 7 during the association’s annual meeting. Ferguson, who also was recently selected for promotion as a commander in the U.S. Navy, specializes in anesthesia for major vascular, cardiovascular, and open-heart procedures at the Memphis VA Medical Center.

“Being the ‘first’ is always an honor and a blessing, but there are times when being the first seems more important than at other times,” said Ferguson, who admits that being TANA president one day was a goal she set for herself when she became a CRNA in 2015. “Becoming the first African American president of TANA is not only incredibly meaningful to me, it is important for the growth of our profession as a whole. I want to say thank you to the TANA membership for trusting me to guide the association this coming year.”

Ironically, a career in nurse anesthesia wasn’t Ferguson’s first choice, simply because she wasn’t familiar with the profession. “Initially I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I changed my mind in high school and set my sights on nursing instead,” she said. “Then while I was studying to become a nurse I shadowed a CRNA named Mary Johnson, who is also African American. My experience watching Mary provide anesthesia really changed the trajectory of what I wanted to do, and I remain grateful to her to this day”.

Ferguson earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in Memphis in 2015. Prior to that she had received both her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She added an MBA in Healthcare Management from the University of North Alabama in Florence, Ala., to her list of academic achievements in 2022.

While working on her MSN, Ferguson was direct commissioned as a Nurse Corps Officer in the U.S. Navy, presenting her with the challenge of balancing the exhausting time-demands of her nurse anesthesia education with serving as a U.S. Navy reservist.

“Military service runs in my blood,” she explained. “My dad is a 20-plus year retired U.S. Navy veteran. I wanted to make him proud by following in his footsteps.” Ferguson plans to continue in her dad’s footsteps by serving for 20 years herself before retiring from the Navy.

Prior to receiving the gavel as TANA president, Ferguson served as the state association’s president-elect. In 2021, she became the initial chair of TANA’s new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, a role she will continue to fulfill while serving as president.

“This is a pivotal year for TANA,” said Ferguson. “First, we will be continuing our ongoing efforts to educate the public about the role and value of CRNAs in our state’s healthcare system. Tennesseans, especially those who live in rural and other medically underserved areas, rely on CRNAs for their health and well-being. Second, through exhaustive, ongoing advocacy efforts we will continue striving to preserve and advance CRNA scope of practice, which is essential to ensuring all Tennesseans access to quality anesthesia care.

“Of course, I am also passionate about finding ways to engage our members, work with student nurse anesthetists, and encourage more African American nurses and other nurses of color to go into the nurse anesthesia profession,” she added. “I look forward to devoting my time and energy in these important areas.”

Ferguson resides in Memphis.

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