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After being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 11 years old, Michael Curtis aspired to become a nurse.

Before he decided to pursue nursing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Curtis had wanted to become a physician. The significant amount of time he spent at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, he said, changed his career aspirations.


“The change was influenced by the compassionate, intentional, patient, and empathetic registered nurses of LeBonheur Children’s Hospital,” said Curtis. “The staff involved in my childhood care made the management, education, and incorporation in lifestyle of such a monumental disease attainable and realistic.”

Curtis began his studies at UT’s College of Nursing in 2014.

“The College of Nursing shaped me into the nurse I am today,” Curtis said. “The faculty and staff of the college are truly concerned with the trajectory of each student and made an intentional effort to ensure our success. They helped instill the necessary characteristics to be an innovative, altruistic, and compassionate registered nurse.”

After arriving on campus, he immediately took on the spirit of a Volunteer and immersed himself into service and leadership. He became actively involved in organizations and held several leadership roles, including serving as vice president of the campus NAACP chapter and becoming a College of Nursing ambassador.

Curtis was dedicated to serving underrepresented students and wanted to provide all students with a transformative and enjoyable collegiate experience.

“I believe in equal opportunity and representation,” said Curtis, “and I took the obligation to intentionally utilize my skills and seat at the table to make a difference.”

Upon graduation, Curtis returned to Memphis to begin his career as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department and Trauma Intensive Care Unit of Regional Medical Center, where he served a diverse patient population with an array of factors affecting their health.

In February 2021, Curtis was named a Tennessee 40 Under 40 Nurse Leader through a recognition program aimed at engaging and empowering young nurses to lead the profession in improving the health of Tennesseans.

Curtis became a critical care registered nurse in April 2021. He hopes to further his education and attend graduate school to become a nurse anesthetist so he can continue to close the gap on health care disparities.

“I have become a successful health care professional because I am inquisitive and intentional,” he said. “I question the status quo to improve outcomes and treat each patient with dignity, respect and love.”


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,

Kara Cardwell (865-974-9498,