With his tousled, sandy-brown hair, bushy mustache and easy smile, Darryl Scarborough would make the perfect model for a recruitment ad.
He's a Vietnam vet, a helicopter pilot and a former truck driver. He's also a nurse.
But Scarborough didn't choose his job to make a statement. He rarely thinks about working in a traditionally female job unless one of his patients at the Brooklyn Park Health Center teases him.
He uses the same comeback to the old-timers who joke, "Where's your dress?": He tells them they're just jealous because he gets to work around all the pretty girls.
Scarborough first considered becoming a nurse in 1970, when he was flying soldiers to the front lines in Vietnam.He often took the wounded back to get medical help. After he helped a soldier whose legs were blown off by a mine, Scarborough discoveredhe "liked helping people" and the "blood and guts didn't bother me."
His experience as an Army pilot with the 101st Airborne Division left a lifetime impression. He enlisted in the National Guard becausehe wanted to continue flying. And two years after he was discharged in July 1971, Scarborough signed up for his first nursing class at Catonsville Community College in Baltimore County.
"I wanted a future at a job I thought was good," he said.
When he graduated from Catonsville with his nursing degree, Scarborough was one of four men who walked down the aisle in the 62-member graduating class.
Three years later, when he received his bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Maryland, Scarborough was one of two men in a 100-member graduating class. But he shrugs off being a trend-setter.
"Myfather had a little trouble with it, I guess, and sometimes patientskid around," he said. "But I was in Vietnam, I fought in a war, I was shot down twice. I don't have any trouble with my masculinity."
Scarborough faced a tough career choice when he graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978. After three years of working weekends and evenings at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore to pay for his tuition, Scarborough wanted to spend a little time with his wife. But moving to the public center would cost him a pay cut.
He weighed the options and then stuck with his wife, Beverly. After all,she was the cute redhead who sat in front of him in typing class at Northeast High School in Pasadena. She was the beautiful bride who married him seven days after he got back from Vietnam. On top of that, she was the accountant who helped support the two through nursing school.
"I took a $5,000 pay cut," said Scarborough, recalling when he took a job as a community health nurse with the Howard County Health Department. "But I wanted to see my wife again."
In 1979, the couple moved back to Pasadena, and Scarborough joined the Anne Arundel Health Department. He's one of 107 community health nurses being recognized by the department this week during National Nurses Week.
Scarborough now works as supervisor of the newly-built health center inBrooklyn Park, where he used to date "all the cute Catholic girls" when he was a teen-ager living in Brooklyn and going to Baltimore's Polytechnic Institute. Community leaders persuaded the County Council to grant the needed $150,000 and enlisted students from the Applied Technological Center North to build the center on Hammonds Lane a year ago.
He feels at home again among the brick row houses and apartments of Brooklyn Park. Many residents remember his name or have come to know him from weekly checkups at their homes.
Asked whether he thinks he's a role model for boys growing up in Brooklyn Park, Scarborough is a little uncertain. "I just try to be a good nurse," he said.
But he's a good example for Alice Murray, who helps recruit nurses for the Health Department. When trying to sell the job to nurses who can earn more in urban hospitals, she likes to point to the good working conditions -- the regular schedule and independence cherished by community health nurses like Scarborough.
"You have great influence with families," said Murray. "You work as a teacher and counselor. You're really the one right out there helping people. It's what nursing is all about."
When he considers that, Scarborough confesses,he's probably a role model for more children than he realizes. But he doesn't plan to model in any posters recruiting male nurses.