The 2022 June Awrey Lecture

Locating Nursing’s Radical Imagination:

Paradoxes for Our Times

May 6th, 2022

11 am – 12:00 pm EST

via Zoom (RSVP below)


The June Awrey Lecture, established in 2018 aspires to engage students, faculty, academic and practice partners, alumni and others in ground-breaking ideas that will stimulate excellence in practice, policy, leadership, education, and research. This year we are thrilled to welcome one of the most innovative thinkers in nursing to our school:

Dr. Jessica Dillard-Wright!

Picture of Jessica Dillard-Wright

Abstract: Healthcare under the auspices of late-stage capitalism is a total institution, following the recent work of Jenkins, Burton, and Holmes. This total institution mortifies nurses and patients alike, demanding conformity, obedience, perfection. We see evidence of this reality in the entanglement of nurses within the criminal justice system, as clinicians and as defendants. Sucked up into the gears of healthcare as total institution, nurses either function as intended or are cast aside. The sting of this reality is perhaps sharper, more incredible in the context of the COVID19 pandemic and the burden nurses shouldered through it, worldwide. However, awakening to this reality - as painful as it may be - comes with power and agency. Nursing can - under the right circumstances - be a force for liberation in the world but it requires us to see patterns and possibilities. In this talk, I will outline the ways in which the healthcare industrial complex demands nurse conformity and how that, in turn, operationalizes nurses in service to the institution. This foundation leads me to the assertion that nursing must foster a radical imagination for itself, unbound by reality as it presently exists, in order that we might conjure more just, equitable futures for caregivers and care receivers alike. To tease out what a radical imagination might look like, I dwell in paradox: getting folks the care they need in capitalist healthcare systems; engaging nursing’s deep history to inspire alternative understandings for the future of the discipline; and how nursing might divest from extractive institutional structures. Ultimately, I arrive at abolition as a necessary intervention for nursing and invite folks to engage in radical imaginings of their own.

Bio: Jess Dillard-Wright, PhD, MA, RN, CNM (she/they) lives and works in Augusta, Georgia. Jess is a fat, queer, genderqueer, feminist nurse dissident and activist-scholar. She/they completed her/their PhD at Augusta University College of Nursing. Jess is an Assistant Professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst Elaine Marieb College of Nursing. Her/their vision for health liberation invites nurses and others to embrace the sociopolitical dimensions of nursing, activating a radical imagination for the profession to secure a more just, equitable future for all people. Jess works in collaboration with folks across the US and around the world to first imagine and then build worlds that are just, equitable, sustainable, radical. Examples of this work include Nursing Mutual Aid, Call to Action for Health + Liberation alternate nurses week actions, and an ongoing collaborative project on Nursing Futurities. Her/their scholarship resides in the confluence of healthcare, activism, history, and philosophy.

To preview some of the radical imaginings for nursing Jess will be drawing upon, see their ORCID space:

Click HERE to listen to the recorded lecture