SUNDAY FEATURE: ICU nurse Lauren Leander, who stood up to mask-mandate protestors, honored in virtual ceremony

In April 2020, Lauren Leander went with two other nurses on her day off down to the Arizona State Capital building where people were protesting to reopen the state’s economy. They went to counterprotest, standing up for their patients in the COVID-19 unit and their health care colleagues./Photo courtesy Sandy Leander

ASU News

All her life Lauren Leander has been told she needs to speak up and participate more.

“I’ve always been the quiet one, I’ve always been more subdued. I have never been one to be loud or draw attention to myself. I’ve been like that since I was a kid,” said Leander.

So it’s not lost on the intensive care unit nurse that she became known globally for a counterprotest in which she stood masked, silent and defiant with two other nurses in the midst of an angry crowd at a protest to reopen Arizona’s economy.

After the protest, a powerful image taken by Arizona Republic photographer Michael Chow of Leander’s silent counterprotest went viral, and she was met with a deluge of interview requests from major media outlets. She was finally ready to use her voice.

“The world just pushed me into this spotlight and pushed me out of my shell. This is the first time in my life that I’ve really come out of it, and it’s done a lot for me in a lot of ways,” she said.

Since that day in April 2020, Leander, an alumna of ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, continued working in the COVID-19 unit of her hospital while also making use of the spotlight to advocate on behalf of her patients and health care colleagues.

She also started a wildly successful GoFundMe campaign that raised $286,000 to buy personal protective equipment, medical supplies and compassion fatigue gifts for Navajo and Hopi front-line nurses. 

Her bravery and continued advocacy were recently recognized by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation as part of its annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, which honors public officials. President Barack Obama and Gabrielle Giffords are previous recipients.  

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