Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell
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Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell

Public Health Nurse Administrator    

Detroit Health Department


Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell

Mrs. Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell's father, Elijah Brakefield, came to Detroit in the 1920s from Atlanta, Georgia. Her mother, Glenna Fisher-Brakefield, migrated to Detroit from Pachuta, Mississippi during the early 1930s. They married in 1935.

Mrs. Brakefield-Caldwell was born on January 14, 1943. She attended Cass Technical High School and graduated in 1960. She enrolled in Wayne State University and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1964.

Mrs. Brakefield-Caldwell began her nursing career at Crittenton Hospital, a private hospital. She moved on to Detroit General Hospital in 1966, where she was a staff nurse-in-charge. She left Detroit General to go into public health nursing in 1968 and became a supervisor in the Detroit Health Department's Bruce Douglas satellite office.

When the Health Department converted their satellite offices to primary care clinics in 1974, she remained there as the supervisor until 1976. Mrs. Brakefield-Caldwell continued her supervisory role within the Health Department, but transferred to Herman Kiefer Hospital where she eventually coordinated the provision of services at seven community sites under the Adolescent Health Services Project between 1979 and 1983. She became the Public Health Nursing Clinic Administrator in 1983.

Four years later her responsibilities shifted and expanded again when she became the Public Health Nursing Administrator for Community Health Field Services. Mrs. Brakefield-Caldwell retired in 1998 from her last position as Health Care Administrator, which she held since 1995.

She is a former vice president and treasurer of the Detroit Black Nurses Association, a past board member of the Wayne State University Alumni Association, and is a member of the Michigan Public Health Association, and National Black Nurses Association. She is also a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.

Tape recorded interview;
Detroit, MI
7 July  1998
audio clip

Discusses the importance of education for improving community health

She was a public health nurse for Wayne County Health Department…[and] we visited these families. And you know, at that time, Wayne County was quite rural, like Inkster and Westland. They were kind of rural and…it looked like farmland. The houses weren’t all real close together…And the poor ones just [were] out there with no shoes on and all that kind of stuff, but I enjoyed it because I enjoyed people, I guess. And this [job] took a lot of people skills, you know, and the interviewing and trying to help the people to improve their health outcomes.

So, as I thought about it, and as I went on and went to school [to become a nurse], I felt like the best way to help black people improve their outcomes was through education and the best way I could do that was in public health…Because when I worked in the hospital, these people would come in so sick. They’d have like ten and eleven diagnoses. I remember a lady—she had congestive heart failure, she had high blood pressure, she had something wrong with her liver, she was all bloated up like that. They had twelve diagnoses on this lady. Now you know that her health outcome could have been better if, first of all, she could have had access to health care. Secondly, if she could have had some knowledge about how to take care of herself. Thirdly, just somebody who was there to care about her and say, “Well, you know, this is what you do,.” Fourthly, a better diet. All of that kind of stuff. And I kept seeing that in the hospital and I said, “I don’t want to do this.” I want to be out there helping people to understand why they are sick.


William G. Anderson
Reginald P. Ayala
Arthur W Boddie
Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell
Henry C. Bryant
Alice Burton
Waldo L. Cain
James W. Collins
Claude and Vivienne Cooper
Gladys B. Dillard
George Gaines Jr.
Leon Gant
Herman J. Glass Sr.
Della Goodwin
Joseph B. Harris
Frank P. Iacobell
Horace L. Jefferson
Sidney B. Jenkins
Arthur Johnson
Rachel B. Keith
William E. Lawson
Josephine Love
Hayward Maben Jr.
Berna C. Mason
Suesetta T. McCree
Dorothy Mottley
David C. Northcross Jr.
Ophelia B. Northcross
Marjorie Peebles-Meyers
Frank P. Raiford III
Garther Roberson Jr.
S. L. Roberson
Elsie Smith
Fannie L. Starks
Lionel F. Swan
Natalia M. Tanner
Oretta Mae Todd
I. Clara Webb
Charles F. Whitten
Charles H. Wright
Watson Young



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Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
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