Marquette nursing professor honored with Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer Award from Milwaukee Common Council

March 27, 2023

Dr. Dora Clayton-Jones and Alderwoman Milele CoggsMILWAUKEE — Dr. Dora Clayton-Jones, assistant professor in Marquette University’s College of Nursing, was awarded the Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer Award from the City of Milwaukee Common Council during the 13th annual Girls Day at City Hall on Thursday, March 23.

The Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer Award is bestowed annually recognizing a female city resident who best exemplifies Vel R. Phillips’ legacy of selfless service and trailblazing work to improve the quality of life for residents in Milwaukee. Clayton-Jones is the immediate past president and a board member of the International Association of Sickle Cell Nurses and Professional Associates and is committed to advancing health and health care equity for adolescents and young adults living with chronic illnesses.

“On behalf of the College of Nursing, I want to congratulate Dr. Clayton-Jones for a much-deserved and tremendous honor,” said Dr. Jill Guttormson, dean of the College of Nursing. “Her research, leadership and advocacy to support those living with sickle cell and chronic illness makes her a true trailblazer and a shining example of a Marquette Nurse. She truly represents the mission of the College of Nursing with her dedication and passion to promote health, healing and social justice for all people.”

Using community-based participatory research and qualitative research methods, Clayton-Jones partners with the community and recipients of interventions to advance health and health care equity for adolescents and young adults living with sickle cell disease. She is an Arthur J. Schmitt Leadership Fellow and received a 2021 Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators from the University of California, Davis nursing school.

As part of the Moore Fellowship, Clayton-Jones received funding for an innovative community engaged research project titled, “Eliminating Sickle Cell Disparities among Youth: The POSSE Intervention.” The POSSE intervention supports engagement with youth who are living with sickle cell disease and other stakeholders to build community and to develop interventions that prepare youth for managing their health and lives as adults.

Clayton-Jones became the first African American pediatric nurse practitioner to receive tenure in Wisconsin when Marquette’s faculty promotions were announced last week. She was also named to the Milwaukee Business Journal’s list of Women of Influence in 2022.

Vel R. Phillips was a Milwaukee native who became a leader in not only the African American community but was a trailblazer and role model for all Milwaukeeans, for Wisconsin, and the nation. Among the many “firsts” achieved in her lifetime were first African American to be elected to the Milwaukee Common Council; first female judge in Milwaukee, and the first African American judge in Wisconsin; and first person of color to be elected Secretary of State in Wisconsin.

Whether serving as an elected official or as a private citizen, Phillips worked tirelessly to better her community with a fearless and pioneering spirit. She will be remembered for her mission to eliminate barriers between disadvantaged people and their goals, clearing the path for educational, occupational, social and political parity.

The Girls’ Day at City Hall event seeks to expose girls of middle school to high school age to possible careers in public service and elected office.

About Marquette University

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. Through the formation of hearts and minds, Marquette prepares our 11,100 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional students to lead, excel and serve as agents of positive change. And, we deliver results. Ranked in the top 20% of national universities, Marquette is recognized for its undergraduate teaching, innovation and career preparation as the sixth-best university in the country for job placement. Our focus on student success and immersive, personalized learning experiences encourages students to think critically and engage with the world around them. When students graduate with a Marquette degree, they are truly prepared and called to Be The Difference.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or