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One of the Last Black Angels, Nurses Who Cared for Tuberculosis Patients, Recognized with a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award

Retired nurse Virginia Allen treated patients with tuberculosis from 1947 to 1961

NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem also recognized by the DAISY Foundation and Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. for its role in providing nurses to treat tuberculosis patients

Apr 11, 2024

Former nurse Virginia Allen (third from left), Chief Nursing Executive Natalia Cineas, Harlem Hospital CEO Georges Leconte, and others celebrating the Black Angels

NYC Health + Hospitals, the DAISY Foundation, and the Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. today announced a celebration recognizing the Black Angels, black nurses who treated tuberculosis patients at Sea View Hospital on Staten Island from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. Until the early 1950’s when antibiotics to treat the disease became available, tuberculosis patients had a one in seven chance of dying, and few clinicians were willing to care for them. Virginia Allen, one of the last surviving Black Angels, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the DAISY Foundation, a recognition given to nurses who have devoted their life’s work to the compassionate care of others. Virginia treated patients with tuberculosis from 1947 to 1961. NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem was also recognized by the DAISY Foundation and Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. for its role in providing nurses to treat tuberculosis patients. Signed copies of a new book about this period, The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis by Maria Smilios, were distributed by the author.

“Nurses represent NYC Health + Hospitals’ – and indeed, the nation’s – largest segment of healthcare professionals and are therefore the backbone of our patient care efforts and emergency response, serving patients today just as they did during the deadly tuberculosis outbreaks of the ‘30s and ‘40s,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President, Chief Nursing Executive Natalia Cineas, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “It therefore gives me great pleasure to celebrate a truly exceptional group of nurses, collectively known as the ‘Black Angels,’ who served at NYC Health + Hospitals/Sea View, working diligently to help develop the eventual cure for what was then the leading cause of death in the United States. These brave nurses – many of whom were recruited, educated and trained right here at Harlem Hospital – made a tremendous difference in the health and lives of TB victims all those years ago, and our nurses continue to make a difference every day, ensuring that individuals, families, and communities receive quality patient care and services. We honor these amazing nurses through recognition of one of their two surviving representatives, Miss Virginia Allen, for their dedicated and compassionate public service, their commitment to quality patient care, and their kindness and caring in the face of adversity.”

“It is an honor to meet and celebrate Ms. Virginia Allen, one of the last surviving members of the Black Angels,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem CEO Georges Leconte. “Hearing the remarkable story of how these angelic black nurses bravely assumed the responsibility of caring for marginalized tuberculosis patients, when others turned their backs in fear, is a reminder of the important work we do in caring for patients in our communities. Regardless of how grave the condition may appear, it is the intentional and caring touch of clinical staff that helps patients pull through some of the most difficult illnesses. We salute the extraordinary Black Angels for showing us what true compassion and dedication to humanity looks like in the realm of health care.”

Former nurse Virginia Allen and Harlem Hospital CEO Georges Leconte

“The DAISY Foundation is delighted to play a small part in honoring and shining a light on Virginia Allen and all of the Black Angels,” said Deb Zimmermann, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, CEO of the DAISY Foundation. “Because of their courage, tenacity, and compassionate care, tuberculosis is no longer the scourge it once was. These nurses exemplify all that the DAISY Award recognizes.”   

“Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. is proud to embrace the legacy of Virginia Allen and the ‘Black Angels’ while highlighting their masterful work and contributions in finding a cure for Tuberculosis during the epidemic health crisis,” said Sarah M. Killian, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, 22nd National President of Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Incorporated. “Their service to the healthcare of the community exhibits the role of nurses in disease prevention and health promotion past, present, and future.”

“I am really speechless,” said Retired Nurse Virginia Allen. “Thank you all for your honors, respect, and for the nurses who gave so much of themselves. To work at Sea View Hospital, at the time I went there at the age of 16, I was not sophisticated enough to know the dangers of tuberculosis but due to the fact that I was trained very well by wonderful, well-educated nurses, I am able to stand here in front of you today, germ free. Thank you very much to all who have come to participate here today and those nurses to give them the honor they receive. I am just a vessel here to accept for them.”

“The Black Angels remind us that in the darkest of times, there is always light, and in that light stand people like them whose willingness to work under impossible conditions for the greater good restores the humanity in us all,” said Maria Smilios, Author of The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis.

The former Sea View Hospital is now NYC Health + Hospitals/Sea View, ranked the best nursing home in New York State in 2023 by Newsweek and given a 5-star rating by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In addition, the facility offers short-term rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s and Memory Care, and a Traumatic Brian Injury Center. The Spirit of Sea View, a mural featuring the Black Angels by artist Yana Dimitrova, was installed at Sea View in 2021.




About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

About The DAISY Foundation
The DAISY Foundation is a non-profit organization serving the nursing profession through recognition programs as well as grants for nursing research and evidence-based practice. The DAISY Foundation was created in 1999 in memory of the extraordinary nursing care provided to J. Patrick Barnes during his eight-week hospitalization for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an auto-immune disease. His family’s drive to say “thank you” to nurses for the compassionate and skillful care they provide daily has evolved to play a strategic role in healthcare organizations by providing unique, meaningful, and impactful recognition that benefits nurses and their work organizations. Learn more at https://www.daisyfoundation.org/.

About Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc.
Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. is a professional organization for registered nurses and student nurses, male and female, representing many cultures and diverse ethnic backgrounds. More than 8,000 Registered Nurses and Student Nurses hold membership. Learn more at https://chietaphi.org/.