Aaron Perry recently got a call from Dr. DeMargaret Noreuil, the dean and professor of the Henry Predolin School of Nursing, Business, and Health Sciences at Edgewood College, notifying him that he was selected as the recipient of the Gloria Jones-Bey Partnership Award for a collaboration developed between his Men’s Health & Education Center and the Edgewood College School of Nursing.
“I was caught off guard, but very, very pleased to hear this news. I was pleased because it was just the confirmation that what you’re doing is working and it’s making a difference — not just in the life of Black men, but we’re building cultural competency in this new group of nurses that are coming out,” Perry, the founder and CEO of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, tells Madison365. “I am 100% confident that any kind of concerns that Black men had with mistrust of the medical system, if they come in contact with one of the nurses that did their internship with us, I believe, in my heart of hearts, that that would be restored. The nursing students are just phenomenal.
“And not only that, they’ve just taken ownership of their internship. In other words, they become very protective of Black men, and that’s what I appreciated about it the most,” he adds. “There’s been many that have said they knew that the data on Black men was what’s bad, but to see it up close and personal, they said it’s it appears to be far worse than what’s reported. And that’s when you start seeing these relationships form and these bonds”
Over the past six years, Edgewood College nursing students have been coming into the facilities where they do anywhere from eight to nine-week internships, Perry says. “We put them in all of our barbershop health centers. We have two students in JP Hair Design, two in Resilient Hair Design, and then two at B. Right Barbershop in Sun Prairie. Part of their internship is doing preventative screenings and blood pressure screenings. They can do glucose testing. They also assist with vaccinations.”
And, Perry says, the men really appreciate the help they get from the students with stress and mental health surveys.
“And that is when you start to see that relationship really bond because, in order for them to implement the survey, guys open up,” Perry says. “You can tell that by the way they opened up and the things that they are sharing, that it’s working. I’m just glad that not only the university appreciates it but I think the community will appreciate it, too. We are actually helping to train the workforce nurses.”
Perry has been helping to facilitate this nursing partnership with Edgewood College for six years.
“We know that we have helped prepare over 40 to 45 RNs that are actively working in medical facilities, whether it’s in Wisconsin or around the country. I am very confident that wherever they land, anytime they come in contact with a person of color, they’re prepared,” he says. “And that’s what I appreciate about this collaboration and partnership the most … they trust us with their students, but they also trust their students with our men.”
In accepting this award, Perry says that he wants to be sure to “highlight that the students are just amazing.”
“I love just watching the students interact with the guys – not just in the barbershop, but they also lead a diabetic foot care clinic for our new Perry Family Free Clinic. And above everything that I’ve seen, I actually literally get to see them in a clinic setting. I get to see them in action,” he says. “The space that they take in this internship that they occupy … they take it very seriously, and I love it. I really believe that we’ve created something that could be scalable around the country.”
Jones-Bey, the late vice president of patient care at Meriter Hospital, passed away in 2016. She was an advocate for nurses and worked diligently for quality nursing care and helped develop Edgewood’s Graduate Nursing Program and was awarded an honorary
Doctorate of Humanities from the college in 2001.
“Gloria Jones-Bey was a person who stood heads and shoulders above everyone in terms of giving back to the community, being grounded in her service and just wanting a better place for all,” Perry says. “As I learn more and more about Gloria Jones-Bey, I’m just more and more impressed with what I’m learning and reading. So it definitely is big.”
Perry has appeared on the Megyn Kelly Show and has been honored as one of Time Magazine’s 2018 “50 Most Influential People in Health Care.” In Men’s Health, the world’s largest men’s magazine brand, Perry was featured as one of five global leaders who are changing the world of health. This most recent award, however, is special to him because it is local.
“This award is very special to me because it’s tied to a local person that everyone loves and respects,” Perry says. “But it’s also a confirmation for me. I was beginning to feel that I’m more popular outside the state of Wisconsin than I am in within the state of Wisconsin and this award was just another confirmation that, you know, people do appreciate your efforts. And that means so much to me.”