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Career of first African-American graduate spans 50 years

duffel_woodsduffel_woodsAs with many women in her class, recalls Lela Duffel Morris ’49, her career has been "multi-faceted and ever-evolving." She reflects that she is "most proud" of her accomplishments in public health and education. Her career has focused on advocacy and has taken her from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and to the San Francisco Bay area.

Morris was founding director of continuing education for the Northern California Occupational Health Center (NCOHC), which is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. During her tenure she organized an annual summer institute, which continues to this time. She also initiated several conferences on occupational diseases and injuries among minority workers, and served as guest editor of two issues of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Journal. Morris recalls that "this was particularly important to me because it brought attention to an issue that had been ignored far too long and that could be effectively addressed on a national basis."

Upon her retirement in 1989, Morris was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Northern California Public Health Association for "outstanding contributions in the field of public health." Noting that "you can’t keep a good nurse down," Morris continues to remain active, most notably with an annual Health Careers Conference for minority students. She was also invited back as a special guest to the 20th anniversary of the NCOHC, now called the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.

Morris has many fond memories of both Harborview Medical Center, and Harborview Hall. Her close friendships with classmates have continued through the years.

CREDIT:  Lela Duffel Morris ’49, first African-American baccalaureates graduate, with Dean Nancy Woods during a visit to the School this summer.