Ep 117: A Hand Up! How Dr. Lena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN is Improving Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia

When you look at areas of the nurse anesthesia profession that need improvement, diversity would be near the top of that list. Thanks to Dr. Lena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN, there’s a mentorship program in place that is helping facilitate entry into the profession for people of color. Today we’ll spotlight that work that’s being done, share Dr. Gould’s incredible journey to this point, and discuss ways to keep increasing diversity in the operating room.

Click the timestamps below to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

On This Episode:

On a recent podcast, we discussed the benefits of mentorship and how it’s helping develop young nurse anesthetists. Today we want to take that conversation a step further and learn about the work that’s being done to mentor people of color who are working hard to join the profession.

To help us with this conversation, we spent some time with Dr. Wallena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN, who is the founder of the non-profit organization, Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program. This grassroots organization program has successfully mentored over 577 diverse critical care nurses into 82 out of 124 graduate nurse anesthesia programs over the past 15 years.

All you have to do is look at the demographics of our profession to understand why this program is so important. There are 54,000 CRNAs across the country but only 11% are professionals of color in our nation’s operating rooms.

But it’s not just a story about a wonderful organization, it’s also a personal success story for Gould. She was a young mother struggling to find a permanent home and pulled herself up through self-education. Now she’s providing a hand up for people in a similar position through this mentorship program.

So as you get started, keep an ear out for these topics:

  • Her first interaction with the AANA while she was a student.
  • How her first trip to the AANA annual meeting helped her find her purpose.
  • Her remarkable story about climbing out of homelessness.
  • The story on receiving a HRSA grant
  • How the program got its start
  • Who mentored her when she first became a nurse anesthetist
  • The reasons why there aren’t more CRNAs of color
  • It’s also about an equity issue in the profession

Check it out in the interview at the top of the page and use the timestamps to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

[2:17] – Welcome our guest today, Lena Gould. 

[6:47] – Her first trip to an AANA annual meeting 

[9:26] – How education saved her during homelessness 

[14:54] – HRSA grant

[18:58] – The beginning of the diversity and mentorship program

[23:49] – How she found out about nurse anesthesia

[27:47] – Stats on nurses of color

[31:38] – Financial barrier to entry

[38:33] – An equity issue 

[40:18] – Lightning Round


“My background is something that is very humbling. It’s something that I will never forget. During the darkest time of my life, someone was able to help me so that’s what I’m doing right now.”

-Dr. Lena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN

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