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Being the change

Nursing student pursues caring political path

By Laura Kammerer

While many of his nursing school classmates spent their summer clad in scrubs providing patient care, Bradley Quarles donned a suit and tie, answered phones and met constituents, his MacBook never far from reach.
It’s all in a day’s work at the mayor’s office.

A nurse in politics?

The idea may seem unusual, but for Bradley Quarles, 21, a senior nursing student from Irmo, the concept makes complete sense.

“What I thought is why can’t somebody from a nursing profession that has empathy and compassion for people and who really puts out solutions for people — (nurses) have to, that’s how (we) live — what can I bring to the table in a political environment?” he said.

And when Quarles’s ideas click, he doesn’t let them go.

Relaunching the College of Nursing’s chapter of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing in 2015?

Check.

Mobilizing pre-med and pre-health medical student groups with the USC Men in Nursing chapter to organize and run an annual campus fall blood drive?

Check.

Advocating for a national suicide hotline number on student Carolina Cards?

Check.

“Bradley has become very self-confident and assertive, which is great,” said Patrick Hickey, clinical associate professor at the college and faculty adviser of Carolina’s Men in Nursing chapter. “He’s a team player and a leader. He’s professional and full of exuberance. When you’re around people like that, you always want to do things.”

True to form, when Quarles was itching for a new way to expand his leadership skills, he reached out to a political role model, former S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers, who he’d heard at a Palmetto Boys State convention years ago. Sellers suggested applying for a fellowship with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, Quarles said, an idea echoed by Hickey.

Quarles was accepted into the program, a popular stop for political science and business majors. Throughout the summer, he learned first-hand about the political process and advised the mayor’s team about paid family leave and childcare policies and World Heart Day in September.

“My internship gave me a broader sense of what goes on within the political process of running a city,” he said. “I think the biggest thing (I learned) is that it takes everybody to run something. It’s not just one person doing all the activity. Everything is just bigger than you are.”