Each year, February marks Black History Month: a time of celebration, recognition, and awareness of the countless accomplishments and achievements of black leaders and trailblazers throughout history. In the oncology nursing community, it’s no different. ONS’s African American leaders have made a lasting difference to patients with cancer and the professional community, paving the way for future generations and championing excellence in oncology nursing.

“For Black History Month, we salute these tremendous oncology nursing leaders, many of whom paved the way for future generations. Their contributions have made and continue to make a lasting impact on patients with cancer, the nursing profession, and the greater healthcare community as whole,” ONS Chief Executive Officer Brenda Nevidjon, MSN, RN, FAAN, said. “ONS—and oncology nursing—would not be the same without their passion and professional expertise.”

Learn more about the leaders who have driven the oncology nursing profession forward through their commitment and dedication to research, nursing advocacy, leadership development, and patient-centered care.

Diane Barber, PhD, ANP-BC, AOCNP®, is the 2015 Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation’s Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse of the Year and past director-at-large on the ONS Board of Directors. Barber’s contributions to the field of oncology nursing and cancer care have been vast, and in 2018 she was honored by the National Black Nurses Association meeting for her trailblazing efforts in the healthcare community.  

Ashley Leak Bryant, PhD, RN-BC, OCN®, has served as the chair of ONS’s Leadership Development Committee, working to create new opportunities to advance the voice of the oncology nursing profession. A dedicated oncology nurse researcher, Bryant’s studies have sought to understand cancer-related fatigue and physical activity interventions and ways to successful care for older adults with cancer.

Bertie Fields, RN, MS, is an active advocate for the oncology nursing community, ONS Leadership Development Committee member, and former director-at-large for the ONS Board of Directors. Fields has been a constant champion to tackle cancer disparities, speaking in many cases to the lack of participation and inclusion of minority groups in clinical trials and highlighting the need to narrow the gaps in patient-centered research.

Danya Garner, MSN, RN-BC, OCN®, CCRN, is an active ONS member and the 45th Annual ONS CongressTM Planning Team chair—the first African American leader to hold the role—where he coordinates a team of dedicated oncology nursing experts to define the scope and focus of Congress. In November 2019, Garner was also recognized as one of the Texas Nursing Association’s Best and Brightest for his work in oncology nursing education and effecting health policy change at his institution.

Mary M. Gullatte, PhD, RN, ANP-BC, AOCN®, FAAN, was the first African American leader to serve as ONS president, guiding the Society to address hazardous drug disposal and the dangers for healthcare professionals and overseeing ONS’s universal chapter membership model implementation. Currently the corporate director of Nursing Innovation and Research for Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, GA, Gullatte has more than 30 years of clinical nursing experience in hematology, oncology, and blood and marrow stem cell transplantation.

Maggie A. Smith, DNP, MSN/Ed, RN, OCN®, is finishing her term as director-at-large on ONS’s Board of Directors from 2017–2020, working to promote oncology nursing leadership and excellence in patient-centered care. Smith’s clinical and research work has focused on addressing underrepresented and underserved populations, as well as community outreach and breast health education.

Delois Weekes, RN, PhD, was a past director-at-large on the ONS Board of Directors and the first African American leader in the role. As an active member of the oncology nursing community in Missouri, Weekes pushed for the advancement in the oncology nursing workforce and specialty training for nurses to care for patients with cancer.

ONS salutes all its African American oncology nursing leaders who have worked to transform care for the betterment of patients everywhere. Their contributions have helped shape the face of oncology nursing and will continue to define the profession for years to come.