From Star Athletes to Star Nurses

A story in the Summer Bruin Blue, the magazine of UCLA Athletics, featured five former student athletes who have ventured into the world of health care.  Two of the five -- Roosevelt Davis and Brittani Clark -- are standout nursing students.  Here's a bit of their story..






Roosevelt Davis defied the odds as an undersized football player, so it should come as no surprise he’s blazing a unique trail in his professional career. At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds during his days in the Bruins’ back field, Davis never fit the mold of a prototypical running back and kick returner. Now he’s about to become a nurse to help improve health care for underserved communities and, in the process, defy any lingering stereotypes in his profession. “The first day I went to nursing school, I honestly didn’t want to tell people I played football because I wanted to fit in,” he said. “I don’t want to be viewed as a football player who went into nursing. I want to be that great African-American nurse who also happened to play football.” Davis, who graduated from UCLA with a political science degree in 2016, balanced a demanding football schedule while taking classes for nursing outside of his major. He entered UCLA as a walk-on and earned a scholarship for his performance and dedication on and off the field. A career-ending football injury to Davis’ brother influenced his decision to explore a career in medicine, and his mother, aunt and grandmother — who all worked in hospitals — inspired him to become a nurse.“It’s similar to football in that it involves a lot of teamwork,” he said. “Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, everyone, even the people who clean the rooms, all have to work together for the betterment of the patient.” Davis will graduate with a Master of Science degree in Nursing from UCLA in June. He plans to take the state board exam this summer, start working as a nurse at a hospital in the University of California system in the fall and then become a travel nurse to “see the world while I’m young and help people who don’t have access to quality health care.” Brittani Clark’s gymnastics career could have ended in a car accident before her freshman season. Instead, the experience sparked a championship comeback and a challenging professional pursuit. Clark severed a tendon in her big toe in the November 2006 crash. An attentive and caring nurse at the hospital left such an impression on Clark that she decided to become a nurse herself, and the rehabilitation from a sports injury in her right Achilles tendon during her redshirt freshman season further fueled her education.“I was asking questions to everyone, using the stethoscope and learning about anatomy,” she said. “I learned so much about treating patients from the people who were treating me.” Clark was the only student-athlete in her undergraduate nursing program. Finding her footing between a rigorous academic schedule and athletic regimen was a more difficult balancing act than the one she often did on a 4-inch wide beam. All of her time rehabbing and studying paid off in 2010, when she helped the Bruins to the NCAA team title. She won the NCAA floor exercise championship the next day.“When I won, I just cried,” she said. “I had an overflow of emotions because I was able to achieve my goals, especially where I had come from in my rehab.”Clark earned her master’s degree in the Advanced Practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at UCLA and worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for five years. Now she is a nurse at a clinic near her home in Santa Clarita, where she helps treat pediatric patients, from newborns to teenagers.“I’ve always loved kids,” she said. “Kids have have a different outlook on life. They’re very pure, honest and a joy to be around.”