James Luther Raper, ’79, CRNP, Ph.D., J.D., 2021 Distinguished Citizen Award Recipient
“In providing direct patient care as a nurse practitioner and participating in HIV health services and outcomes research as a senior scientist, I have participated in many scientific advances and their application to improve and extend the lives of people living with HIV.”
James Luther Raper, ’79, CRNP, Ph.D., J.D., embodies the Golden Flash spirit of giving back every day through his work that supports his local community, the nation and the world. For years, James has run the 1917 Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), which provides compassionate and comprehensive healthcare for those living with HIV and AIDS. He is the first-ever non-physician to direct a clinic at UAB. His clinic treats more than 3,600 patients annually, and as a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner and director he serves as a mentor, advisor and educator for the many graduate students who work at the clinic.
“Over the past three decades, it has been incredibly personally and professionally rewarding to lead a team of dedicated professionals,” said James. “In providing direct patient care as a nurse practitioner and participating in HIV health services and outcomes research as a senior scientist, I have participated in many scientific advances and their application to improve and extend the lives of people living with HIV.”
His commitment to the HIV and AIDS population in Birmingham has provided hope, opportunity and life to those battling these conditions. As medicine advanced and treatment options emerged during the AIDS epidemic, his work allowed thousands of people not only to survive but also to go on to lead successful and vibrant lives.
“James and his staff serve as a beacon of hope for this vulnerable population,” said Jeff Young, director of philanthropy.
Jeff nominated James for this award. As a Director of Philanthropy, Jeff helps Kent State alumni, faculty, staff, donors and friends leave their legacy at the university. He had the pleasure of getting to know James through their philanthropic conversations, and in those moments, he learned about the remarkable career James has led thus far.
While his most well-known contributions are to the treatment of HIV and AIDS, James started his nursing career in a much different branch of medicine. From 1979-1982, he served in the United States Army Nurse Corps, rising to the rank of major before retiring in 2003. His service and leadership in the armed forces provided countless nurses the foundation and support needed to thrive in their careers. These nurses have gone on to serve all over the world, providing care to soldiers and civilians alike.
“I was in ROTC when I attended Kent State, and I joined the Army Nurse Corps upon my graduation,” James said. “I knew that I would get great experience while serving my country, and I always admired the selflessness of others who served in the military.”
He is also a fellow for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Nurses and the Infectious Disease Society of America. Through his service to these organizations and many other professional boards, James is continually working to improve the research and education available to clinicians as well as patient care.
“My participation in professional organizations and societies has afforded me with many opportunities to not only grow professionally, but to also develop leadership skills and distinguish myself locally, regionally and nationally in nursing,” James said.
Over the course of his career, he has been published more than 110 times and authored nearly 15 of his own books and chapters. He has also secured more than $75 million in grant funding, which supported research and medical advancements that have touched communities across the globe. Nursing provides the opportunity to interact with and serve others, and James has done just that.
“My grant writing skills and success in garnering and managing much-needed funds have provided me with the opportunity to provide cutting-edge, comprehensive and patient-centered medical and social services in a world-class academic medical center to thousands of people living with HIV in Central Alabama,” said James.
Recently he committed to a principal gift, creating endowed funds in the College of Nursing to support a professorship as well as a research and innovation fund. This year, Kent State students will hear from James himself as a guest lecturer during the leadership component of upper-level nursing courses.
“He impacts so many areas through his talents, service and generosity,” said Jeff. “He truly makes Kent State proud.”