Cynthia Broze and the History of L.A. Nurses

Profiles in Nursing

Cynthia Broze and the History of L.A. Nurses

Bringing the story to life with words and photographs

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Although she has been writing for years, the idea of a book was not foremost in Cynthia Broze’s mind. Rather, she had a question that no one seemed able to answer: “What was the first nursing school in Los Angeles?” Several schools or affiliated hospitals claimed the honor, but could anyone prove it?

That question sent Broze on her quest, a search that resulted in a detailed pictorial history of nursing in Los Angeles. Written entirely in her spare time and during vacations, Nurses of Los Angeles: Uncapping the Mystery details how the profession here reflected many similar developments nationwide.

However, the focus is local and includes many area nursing heroes: Anne Williams of California Hospital; Callista Roy and Rebecca Doan, both sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet and prominent faculty members at Mount St. Mary’s; Sally Bixby, who will preside as the president of the Tournament of Roses in 2013; and of course the nurses who organized the first Los Angeles hospital. Not all of the emphasis is on the well-known, either. Many ordinary nurses like Eduardo Barreto, Ellen Kane and Aimie Pak are also included, because no nurse is really just ordinary.

Illustrating the Narrative

Broze used two criteria to define the parameters of the book. Every photograph (there are over 400) needed to have specific people, locations or events that were clearly identifiable, and each piece of narrative needed to have an accompanying photograph. Broze took that approach because, as she mentioned during a recent interview, she has an avid interest in photography, as well as history.

Broze’s photographic avocation served her well, because many sources were very reluctant to release photos and because photographs were simply not available for many of the ideas she wanted to present pictorially. For instance, for the chapter on the evolution of the nursing school pin, she had to purchase and photograph almost all of the pins herself in order to get a clear, publishable image.

Her Own Nursing Story

The sort of slogging dedication that produces a comprehensive book like this is nothing new for Broze, who began her career as a nurse’s aide at age 16. Like many successful members of the profession, she does not remember any burning desire to be a nurse, but soon after high school, she became an LVN and spent time in the Peace Corps. Her assignment was in the Philippines, where she worked on community and leprosy education. While there, she used donations from around the world to organize a 10,000-volume town library.

By 1985, Broze had become a registered nurse, later earning a master’s degree from Cal State Long Beach and certification as a nurse practitioner in women’s health from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. She has practiced as a clinical instructor, a clinical nurse practitioner, a case manager and a clinical coordinator. Currently, she works as a program coordinator, specializing in colon-rectal cancer for an area hospital.

More to Come

Does she plan another book? There will be a second edition of Nurses of Los Angeles in the future, which, like the first, will be directed not just at nurses, but also at general readers who might be interested in learning about a group of people who did much to tame our town and help it grow. Much of the subject material still needs organizing and sifting, but count on Broze, with her laptop and portable scanner, to bring the story to life.  

 Visit Cynthia Broze's website, where you can read reviews of the book and watch vintage nursing films.

Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN is a Working Nurse staff writer with extensive hospital and community-based nursing experience.

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