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The Catalyst

First male women's health nurse practitioner breaks stereotypes

By Allyson Crowell
Development & Alumni Affairs

Dr. Kahlil Demonbreun is a women’s health nurse practitioner and instructor in MUSC’s College of Nursing. He also holds board certifications as an adult nurse practitioner and inpatient obstetric nurse. photo provided

By the time he was 15 years old, Kahlil Demonbreun, DNP, knew that he wanted to spend his life caring for women.

As he learned more about the nursing profession, he realized the intimate, nurturing work it entailed. Nurses comb hair. Nurses hold hands. Nurses even moisten lips when patients can’t breathe on their own.

“My parents tried to discourage me,” Demonbreun remembered. “They told me, ‘That’s not what men do.’”

But it was the only job he ever wanted. A Detroit native, he enrolled in college at Indiana State University but left after the first year. He took a job as a dialysis technician but a mentor, after watching Demonbreun work at the clinic, told him it was time to go back to school.

Demonbreun enrolled at Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing back home in Detroit and became class president. He went on to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at the University of South Carolina, where he chose his specialty in women’s health, and then his doctorate degree at MUSC.

Upon graduation, Demonbreun became the first male women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) in the country to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He now teaches at MUSC’s College of Nursing and practices at Palmetto Primary Care Physicians. Demonbreun is licensed to provide all health care that a woman might need, at any stage of life, except the final weeks of pregnancy.

“It’s not just Pap smears,” he said. “I didn’t go to graduate school for five years just so I could do screenings. WHNPs provide primary care across the lifespan. Sometimes I am the only provider that a patient has. If you name it, someone has probably told me about it during a visit. You have to make sure they’re comfortable coming back.”

Demonbreun has been a nurse for 26 years, and he always has cared for women. But despite his education and experience, some potential employers have refused to consider him for jobs because of his gender.

“One place handed me a policy against hiring men, so I went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Demonbreun said. “From there, they – let’s just say they don’t have that policy anymore.”

Demonbreun became an advocate for better hiring practices. He developed a policy of his own, stating that nursing is defined by skill set and not gender, for the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.

As a black male nurse, Demonbreun jokes about being “the poster child for diversity.” But Gail Stuart, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the MUSC College of Nursing, said Demonbreun is distinguished less by his appearance than by his energy and commitment to nursing.

“Kahlil breaks a number of stereotypes for the profession, and this is critical as we strive to have a nursing workforce that best represents the population for whom we care,” Stuart said. “We need to attract more men and minorities into nursing, and one of the most important ways to do that is to have strong, positive role models with whom they can identify. Kahlil is just such a stellar role model.”

Demonbreun lives in Orangeburg. His wife is an internal medicine physician at Lexington Medical Center in Columbia, and they have two college–age daughters, both interested in pursuing health care careers.  When he isn’t working, he devotes most of his free time to professional organizations.

As Demonbreun sees it, people will always need nurses – and nurses have an obligation to uphold their profession.

“We laugh with people. We cry with people. We have to tell you when you have cancer or an STD. We have to tell you when you’re 37 weeks pregnant, and your baby has passed inside of you,” Demonbreun said. “That’s what you do as a nurse.”

Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission from Thank You Notes, MUSC Office of Development and Alumni Affairs.

December 7, 2014



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