City College alum leads top nursing program, paves the way for change

Dometrives Armstrong directs nationally ranked program while fighting to increase diversity


Dometrives Armstrong pulls up a picture of her relatives who inspired her after placing flowers she received as a gift from a student on her desk, May 8, 2023. Photo by Joel Nevarez/City Times Media

Joel Nevarez, Sports Editor

Dometrives Armstrong arrives to work every day greeted by gifts from her students.

The associate dean of nursing education leads one of the country’s top nursing programs, walking the same halls she did as a student over 30 years ago. 

“If it wasn’t for the faculty at San Diego City College giving me that foundation and helping me with leadership as a nurse,” Armstrong said, “I can’t be the person who I am today.”

Armstrong attended City from 1991-93 after moving from Chicago to become a registered nurse. 

Coming from a predominately African American community in Chicago, going to class at City was the first time Armstrong was exposed to different backgrounds and cultures. 

“I was very surprised by all the different nationalities that I will be able to work with and learn from,” Armstrong said. “I was honored because I never saw a lot of diversity.”

After graduating from City, Armstrong started her career in the healthcare industry as a registered nurse working at Sharp while continuing her educational journey. 

Armstrong noticed a lack of diversity among nurses in the professional world, which differed from her experience at City. 

“We need to have more diversity,” Armstrong said. “Hospitals need more diversity, more women of color, men of color.”

Increasing diversity in nursing is something Armstrong is advocating. She is seeing that same desire for change in her students at City. 

Ashley Watson, a nursing student at City, notices the diversity among her classmates and hopes they can make a positive impact in their communities in the future. 

“I’m interested in making sure that my own culture has proper representation within the healthcare setting,” Watson said. “I would want to be an advocate for minorities in general, to make sure that we have proper healthcare.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 5.7 percent of registered nurses are Latino, which Watson hopes to change. 

“When I look among my classmates, I see people who are Black, who are Hispanic, who are Filipino, who are all different,” Watson said. “It is important to be able to have someone who you can almost connect with on more than just a healthcare aspect.” 

Seeing students achieve their goals in nursing is a motivation for Armstrong, who thinks the move to increase diversity in nursing is long overdue.

Armstrong wants City nursing students to know the faculty is there to support them. 

“Dr. Armstrong has been a catalyst among my own positive journey here and the program,” Watson said. “She understands what it’s like to be a student and ultimately her vision and goal for all of us is to be successful.”

Students appreciate the support they receive while in the nursing program at City, which Watson said sets it apart from other programs.

I mean, what more could you ask for,” Watson said. “You want someone like (Armstrong) on your team.”

Armstrong said the success of the program comes from the collaboration between faculty and students. 

“The faculty goes above and beyond for this nursing department,” Armstrong said. “They really care about the students. They work with the students. They want the students to be successful.”

 Reflecting on her career as a nurse and student, Armstrong thanks the people who influenced and supported her to get to where she is today.

Armstrong is appreciative of City for her success as a nurse but credits her family for pushing her to achieve her goals in life. 

Armstrong was the first female in her family to go to college and acknowledged her grandmother for inspiring her. 

“She helped raise me growing up as a kid,” Armstrong said. “She always taught me the value of education.”

Armstrong is now seeing the support of her family come full circle as her niece recently received her master’s degree. 

Armstrong plans to continue to run the nursing program while supporting students and prioritizing their success. 

“We really care about our students,” Armstrong said. “Our No. 1 job (and) No.1 focus is student success and producing safe practitioners to take care of the community that we serve.”