Tillman Scholar Voices: Adapting Through a Crisis with LaChiana Hamilton

Blog, Tillman Scholar Voices | 09/18/2020

“Learn some history. A lot of what we’re going through today, that’s because of the decisions that were made in the past. Much of the history that we’ve all learned is very one-sided.”

Our Tillman Scholar Voices blog and video series amplifies the work of Tillman Scholars who actively work toward equity and justice and showing us every day the importance of leading through action. This week we highlight LaChiana Hamilton and her work as a medical provider striving to create safer conditions for others in the wake of COVID-19.

LaChiana Hamilton is a 2014 Tillman Scholar, Army veteran, and nurse practitioner with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of South Florida and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of South Florida.

During her 11 years in the military, LaChiana experienced a tremendous growth. She served in several different branches, including the Chemical Corps, Adjutant General Corps, and the Contracting Office, where each role allowed her to develop the leadership skills she carries with her as a health care provider today.

Leadership Through Service

As a Black woman in the service, LaChiana constantly had to prove herself to make others look past their biases. Over time, those who doubted her because of their limiting beliefs recognized her strengths, and through these encounters, she gained a number of mentors that pushed her to do even more.

“I learned, while I was in the service, a great deal of leadership. I went to several courses during my time in service, and the leadership skills that I learned has transitioned very nicely into corporate America,” she said. “Oftentimes, as I branch out and go into new jobs or start new roles, it’s very easy for me to emerge as a leader because of my military training.”

Finding Her Calling

Although LaChiana went straight to the military after college, she had her heart set on one day working in the medical field. This dream was solidified when her son had to spend time in the ICU after being born with a congenital heart defect and needed open-heart surgery. Seeing the care the medical professionals who cared for her son provided, LaChiana was inspired to pursue a nursing career.

As a nurse practitioner, she has leaned on her leadership abilities to protect others during the pandemic. Seeing the lack of personal protective equipment in the community health center she works in, she took it upon herself to make masks for those she works with to help keep them safe. She also played a pivotal role in helping to set up free COVID-19 testing centers in her community.

“I was fortunate enough to be on the planning team [for the testing centers] because people realized I had some military experience with logistics and planning. They brought me on board to try to help iron out the other way with that we run this testing line,” she said. “I took some of that military readiness that I learned and just kind of transitioned it into medicine.”

Fighting COVID-19 One Step at a Time

Since the emergence of COVID-19, essential workers like LaChiana put themselves at risk to serve others every day. While she is proud to help, she explains it can be discouraging to see many take advantage of workers or think that preventative measures as simple as wearing a mask do not apply to their lives.

The overwhelming feeling brought on by the pandemic has left many to feel hopeless during this time, which has led to inaction instead of people actively thinking about who they can help or make a difference.

However, LaChiana offers three small steps that can make a bit difference:

  • Wear a mask. “Our country took the narrative of, ‘Why should I wear a mask,’ instead of, ‘Why shouldn’t I wear a mask?’ What harm will come if we transitioned to wearing masks to get ahead of this pandemic?” asks LaChiana. During this time, she also makes masks for donations, allowing those who cannot afford one to get one and suggests more people step up and find ways to get masks and hand sanitizer to socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
  • Learn and view history holistically. “My husband often says history is like a prism. There are many angles. It’s not a monologue. It’s been taught as a monologue, which in turn makes people feel very helpless,” says LaChiana. By learning how history and learned behaviors continue to perpetuate certain disadvantages for others, she proposes that we can learn from these mistakes and educate ourselves to move towards a more equitable and just society.
  • Have empathy, and think beyond yourself. “We’re finding that a lot of the personal decisions that people are making today, they don’t understand the consequences for those decisions tomorrow, especially on socioeconomically disadvantaged people. The most vulnerable people seem to be doing the most, and people aren’t even taking consideration for how they’re treating those people’s lives.”