Senior Gets Five-Star Internship in the Lone Star State

Nursing senior Stephen Winert has his future in the palm of his hand. Thanks to a summer internship, not only does he have a solid job with a major hospital awaiting him after graduation in December, but he is already used to the environment there and knows what medical specialty he wants to consider.

At the end of last year, Winert heard from a close family friend about an internship offered by Houston Methodist Hospital, located in Houston, Texas. Not only would it be paid, but he would also get to work in one of the country’s few hospitals awarded the prestigious “Magnet Recognition” for outstanding nursing.

He decided to try his luck and apply, competing with around two hundred other students for twenty available positions.

“It worked out perfectly,” he says. “I went through the interview process—a phone interview, a Skype interview, and then made it past the cuts.”first-photo

Winert stands in his Y gear with Houston Methodist Hospital in the background.

The internship took place in June and July of this year, and Winert was able to fully immerse himself in the typical life of a professional nurse by working alongside nurses in the neurological intensive care unit. For him, the rigorous nature of the program offered a look into the realities of nursing life.

“The great thing about this internship was you are working a full nursing schedule, three days a week, three twelve hour shifts a week, so you’re getting that continuity of care working with the same patients,” he says. “I did many things that nurses do, such as take patients down to get a CT scan or help them with their tubing. There’s so much going on, especially when you see ongoing patient care. There are so many factors that we don’t get to view as student nurses going to the hospital once a week.”

The saying goes that practice makes perfect, and Winert believes that all that practice helped him become a better nurse in many ways.

“I improved a lot through the two months. It felt good to improve, not just with nursing skills, but also with knowledge of the patients’ diagnoses and things like that, but also critical thinking skills, being able to understand how to plan for my patient and better care for them,” he says.second-picture

 Winert (far left) stands with peers at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Winert’s patients were not the only ones benefiting from him working in the neuro ICU. He also discovered that he loved neurology. “I just really became interested in the brain and how it functions,” he says.

The two months offered Winert many opportunities to hone his skills and get used to the hectic nursing profession. Beyond patient treatment, he also worked on a research project and connected with nursing students from all across the nation. Given that Winert and his wife are both from Texas, the food and the proximity to family were bonuses.

However, the biggest benefit was yet to come.

Houston Methodist also uses the internship to identify possible future employees. Because of his performance during the internship, Winert was offered a position in the neuro ICU after graduation. He accepted, happy to reenter the world that he has already come to love.

“So with this internship, now when I start a job as a registered nurse I’m just going to be a step ahead and be able to jump into it a lot easier,” he says.


For all students interested in internships, Winert has some advice.



Convergence: How One Disease Brought Four Lives Together

Representatives from the awareness group Meningitis Angels accompanied by four BYU faculty members, with Beth Luthy and Lacey Eden on the far left, and Janelle Mcintosh and Renea Beckstrand on the far right.

Meningitis. It ebbs and flows in terms of public visibility, and for some people the disease is either unknown or not a concern. For others, however, it is constantly on their minds as they work to combat the risk of another outbreak.

Friday, September 16 will see the awareness group Meningitis Angels at BYU presenting information about the disease. Those in attendance will include Johnny Dantona and Leslie Meigs, two meningitis survivors, as well as Frankie Milley, the group’s founder and national executive director. Also present will be Lacey Eden, an assistant teaching professor whose passion is promoting vaccinations.

Here are their stories.


“I see those kids that are so helpless.”good-8

“I don’t know anything about it.”

That’s the phrase that assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden believes a lot of college students think when asked about meningitis, the infectious disease capable of wreaking havoc on a college campus.

“There’s not many people that know a whole lot about Meningitis B,” Eden says. That, she explains, becomes especially problematic on college campuses, where various factors including proximity of students, poor diets, little sleep, and lack of immunization requirements increase the possibility of an outbreak.

Besides teaching at the Nursing College, Eden also educates the general public about preventing infectious diseases through vaccinations. In fact, her involvement in that cause is what brought the Meningitis Angels, who work in the same cause, to her in the first place.

“It all started with House Bill 221 last year, which was a bill to require education before parents could get their immunization exemptions,” Eden says. The bill, which did not pass, would have required that parents learn more about immunizations before they could refuse vaccinations for their children. Eden and fellow teacher Beth Luthy worked tirelessly to promote it, meeting with the bill’s sponsor, Utah Representative Carol Moss, to help her write it and also giving interviews to the media.

This all made her a viable partner for the Angels’ upcoming Utah awareness campaign. As a vaccination advocate, she has accomplished much, including creating an app that helps mothers know when to immunize their babies and also heading a special interest group on immunizations for the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. As a teacher, she knows how to work with students and faculty.

In April, the Angels asked for Eden’s help. She agreed; her first assignment was to meet with student body presidents from various Utah colleges to discuss meningitis and how to prevent it. The student body presidents, in turn, would return to their colleges and spread the information.

“So the whole idea behind the Meningitis B Awareness campaign is to educate college students about Meningitis B,” Eden says. “They took it back to the student body officers and talked about how they could do their awareness campaign on campus.”

Getting the correct information out there for students is a key focus for Eden.

“Even if we can educate a very small percentage of those people, hopefully those people will then educate their friends, and then their friends will educate their friends, and hopefully we can see people being more aware of this,” she says.

Another eventual goal of hers is helping develop college vaccination requirements, including at BYU. Utah is one of few states that does not have university vaccination laws.

“I think we should, especially because when you consider the severity of meningitis and how quickly it can be debilitating and even cause death, the fact that there is an immunization to prevent that. Even though it’s a small chance that you could get it, the repercussions are totally worth the requirement to get vaccinated,” Eden says.

One of her biggest motivations is her belief that immunizations are a social responsibility. If one person doesn’t get vaccinated, she explains, they could be putting individuals in their community at risk, especially those with weaker immunization systems.

“I think for me it’s those individuals who are immunocompromised and unable to get immunized, so they depend on everyone else to be immunized to protect them,” Eden says. “As my experience in the pediatric office, I see those kids that are so helpless, and those who can get severely ill from things like that, and to me it’s all about that. Protecting the weakest in our community is really a reflection of how we are as a whole.”

She also understands the wide array of opinions that are spread online, many of which are not backed by substantial medical evidence. Her hope is that this event will help students understand the facts behind the disease, and also that in the future students will rely on dependable sources for information about it.

“I feel like college students are very savvy with social media, and they can very easily get messages on social media about immunizations that are false,” Eden says. “I would just encourage them that while they’re doing their research that they look for credible, reliable research and sources that have a scientific basis and proof about vaccines and their safety.”

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“If you give up, you’re not going to get anywhere.”good-6

Johnny Dantona, 21, of North Carolina is definitely the athletic type. He enjoys baseball and basketball, and every Monday tries to make it to the bowling lane with family or friends.

“It’s a little difficult the way I have to stand and everything, but I do what I like to do,” Dantona says. It’s a little difficult for him because when he was three, he contracted meningitis and lost both legs.

Meningitis is a disease that inflames the area around the back and brain. It comes in many forms, including bacterial meningitis, which can kill a person in less than a day. Other times it leaves its victims with intensive medical issues. Dantona was no exception.

“I don’t remember much because I was so young, but I know that I was fine one minute during the day and then by midnight I was on life support in the hospital. I was in there for six months,” he says. “I ended up losing my fingers, both my legs, and the disease actually hit my whole left side of my body so my left side is weaker than my right.” That includes the left side of his brain, which slowed down his learning ability.

The years following the infection have had their challenges. Learning problems, medical costs, and the effort to obtain special prosthetics that insurance won’t cover have all been obstacles, but Dantona is not a quitter.

“If you give up, you’re not going to get anywhere. For me, this pushes me to do what I want to do, what I think is right,” he says. He walks the talk; Dantona was an ROTC member in high school and for training ran a mile on the track without his prosthetics. Despite the pain, he still goes out to try and walk as much as he can.

His family was eventually contacted by Frankie Milley and he soon joined the Meningitis Angels. Dantona is a national teen leader within the organization. His passion is helping raise awareness of the vaccination for college students.

“If it helps them, it makes me feel better knowing that they’re not going to go through the same stuff that I went through, or worse,” he says. “That’s what keeps me going.”

Despite the trials he has faced, he appreciates that his experience can have a positive impact on his fellowmen.

“With the college students though, even if they don’t understand what [meningitis] is, they see the side effects of what the disease does, so then most of them will go out and probably look it up and people will learn more about it if they want to,” he says. “I think them seeing us and how we look and how we get around is what helps them out a lot more, too.

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“What’s frustrating is that it’s all preventable.”good-5

Leslie Meigs, 26, doesn’t strike people as someone who came within inches of death from meningitis. However, her story reveals a long and painful journey spanning nearly 20 years.

When she was eight, the Texas native one day began feeling ill. Everyone assumed that it was the flu.

“Long story short, that night I was life-flighted to Texas Children’s Hospital and put on a ventilator,” she says. “They put me into a drug-induced coma for two months. There was a point where my brain function was almost completely gone, and the hospital had voted to go ahead and stop life support.”

Right when the doctors were about to tell her family the hospital’s decision, her right hand stirred. That saved her life and started her path to recovery. Slowly, she says, her brain function returned. However, the disease left her with a long list of health complications.

“I had to learn how to walk again. I have scarring all over my body,” Meigs says. “I had to go on continual dialysis because my kidneys were covered in scars, and so a lot of my scarring is internal. I have a lot of organ damage, a lot of blood issues.” In fact, years after she contracted the disease she had to receive a new kidney, donated by her father, and now has to take many medications to ensure that everything functions.

Meigs says that life for a survivor is difficult, both physically and mentally.

“So one of the big points I like to make when talking to fellow students or talking to the public in general is that with this disease, you don’t just get it and its gone,” she says. “If you’re lucky enough to survive the disease, you are reminded of it every single day, and you suffer every single day because of it.  It’s something that you have to learn to live with.”

“What’s frustrating is that it’s all preventable,” she says.

Meigs was one of the first victims with whom Milley worked. Milley had her help promote a bill designed to educate Texan citizens about the dangers of meningitis. Now, years later, Meigs works as a national teen leader for the group.

“Being able to communicate with people just how horrifying this disease is and how important it is to protect yourself and in doing so you protect others, it gives a purpose to our experiences to know that we can actually help people from experiencing this same sort of suffering and financial costs,” she says. “[Meningitis is] a long word of a long disease slapped onto the news with every other issue that’s going on, so to be able to put a picture, a face to it is what really makes the difference.”

Meigs is a strong advocate for everyone to receive the vaccination, not just to protect themselves but also others.

“The example I like to give for it being a public health issue is that it’s in the same line as traffic laws. You don’t stop a stop sign just to protect yourself,” she says. “You stop at a stop sign for other people. You don’t vaccinate just to protect yourself. You vaccinate to protect your entire community.”

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“Ryan didn’t have to die.”good-7

Frankie Milley is an exuberant Texas native who loves a good laugh. However, when it comes to talking about her work at Meningitis Angels, behind the smile is pain. Her story is one of loss and coping, as well as dedication to preventing further tragedies.

It all started Father’s Day, 1998. Her only child, Ryan, began to have a fever along with an earache.

“He was eighteen, just reached his pro golf status, just graduated high school, and was getting ready to go to college,” she says. Events quickly took a turn for the worst, in the process changing Milley’s life forever.

“Fourteen hours later he was laying on an emergency room table with blood coming from every orifice of his body, and he died,” she says.

Milley could not believe what had happened. In retrospect, she can now see that her situation paralleled that of many who have lost family to meningitis; there was limited information available at the time about the disease and the vaccine to prevent it. Milley became determined to change that.

“First I grieved, then I got angry, and then I got busy,” she says.

Since that day, she has helped write, by her count, almost 42 laws addressing vaccinations and meningitis.

In 2001 she founded the Meningitis Angels as a group dedicated to spreading facts to families. According to her, it was instrumental in convincing the CDC to put up recommendations about meningitis vaccinations. The group also works to educate policymakers about the issues involving the disease so that they make informed decisions.

Beyond those fields, the group serves as a hub for families who have been affected by the disease.

“Meningitis Angels also does a lot of hands-on work with the kids who are victims. We offer scholarships for college and technical training. We provide special equipment for the kids sometimes when the insurance doesn’t cover it,” she says.

The kids affectionately refer to Milley as “momma bear.”

“We’re a national support group. We’re like a big family,” she says. “We have a good time. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried together.”

That support becomes critical for families facing down meningitis. Milley lists several possible results of each case that extend beyond just the physical, including financial ruin, insurance problems, and fracturing of families.

She gives as an example one child within the organization who lost his arms and legs, thus requiring an attendant all day, every day.

To her, the choice becomes clear.

“If you weigh all the costs of all of that—some of it you can’t even put a price on, it’s life—if you put the price on the economics and the cost of the aftercare of meningitis, not to mention the millions that the first initial arrival to the hospital can take, what’s a vaccine?” she says.

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Meningitis Angels Spread the Word about Not Spreading the Disease

On Friday, September 16, Brigham Young University will host the Meningitis Angels, a nonprofit meningitis awareness group.

Several reasons to visit campus are to educate students that this disease is deadly and debilitating and that there are vaccines to prevent it, and that there are two separate vaccines they need to prevent it.

“The thing that people need to understand is that meningitis is not something where you’re going to go to the hospital, come home and be over it. It’s a lifelong disease,” says Frankie Milley, founder and national executive director of Meningitis Angels.



Frankie Milley

As a mother who lost her college-age son to the illness, she has firsthand experience with how devastating it can be. Ryan, a healthy 18-year-old athlete, contracted it and was dead in less than a day.

After his passing, Milley formed the Meningitis Angels organization to help other families who had faced the disease and also to educate the public and policymakers on its effects. One of their main purposes has been to increase the amount of information available to families.

Meningitis, defined by the Mayo Clinic as an “inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord” comes in several forms, one of the most dangerous being bacterial meningitis, which claimed Ryan. The consequences can be devastating, with some dying in less than 24-hours.

Despite not being as prevalent as other diseases, the fact that some forms of meningitis spread rapidly in close quarters means that schools can be hubs for the disease, especially when there are students who are not immunized. The last few years have seen several types of meningitis outbreaks in Colorado, California, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Oregon, and other locations; some of these have been on college campuses.

This week, the Angels are working at Utah colleges to help students know the facts, especially with the need to obtain two different vaccinations to be fully protected—Meningococcal C4 and Meningococcal B.

“One child is too many, especially if it’s your child,” Milley says. “Ryan did not have to die. He could have been vaccinated and I would have my precious son with me today.”




Johnny Dantona

Accompanying her are Leslie Meigs, 26, and Johnny Dantona, 21. Both contracted meningitis at a young age and survived, but not without significant health impacts. Meigs has extensive internal scarring and organ damage and had to receive a kidney transplant several years after the infection. Dantona lost both legs and sustained brain damage. Both are now members of the Angels organization and work to help fellow students get vaccinated.


“You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to where you have to understand the value of life and the value of living a healthy life,” Meigs says. She stressed that each person can protect not only themselves but others in their community by getting immunized.

Assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden and associate professor Beth Luthy have been instrumental in helping the Angels in their recent campaign. They hope that this week’s event will have a good outcome.

“There’s not many people that know a lot about Meningitis B,” Eden says. “Even if we can educate a very small percentage of those people, hopefully those people will then educate their friends, and then their friends will educate their friends, leading to  increased awareness across campus.”

The Meningitis Angels will be in the Wilkinson Student Center on Friday from 10 am to 12 pm presenting information and answering questions.



Understanding Forensic Nursing Principles: Providing Trauma-Informed Care

Julie Valentine, Assistant Professor, PhD, RN, CNE, SANE-A; Linda Mabey, Assistant Teaching Professor, DNP, APRN, PMHCNS; Leslie Miles, Assistant Teaching Professor, DNP, APRN-BC

Nurses work with many individuals who have suffered trauma. BYU College of Nursing faculty—Dr. Julie Valentine and Dr. Linda Mabey (along with Dr. Leslie Willden Miles and several undergraduate nursing students)—are researching the neurobiology of trauma, the repercussions of experiencing trauma, and interventions to improve the lives and functioning of traumatized individuals. They are specifically focusing on the impact of sexual assault trauma.

The most frequently encountered traumas involve a life-threatening accident, a natural disaster, or witnessing a traumatic event. A nurse who is caring for a patient who has experienced significant trauma should remember that it is not the event that determines whether something is traumatic to someone but the individual’s experience of the event and the meaning they make of it. Those who feel supported after the event (through family, friends, spiritual connections, etc.) and who had a chance to talk about and process the traumatic event are often able to integrate the experience into their lives, like any other experience.


Dr. Leslie Miles

It is important for nurses to understand and remember that there are no right or wrong reactions to trauma, as there is significant variability in behaviors. Some patients cry uncontrollably while others may become nonresponsive or emotionally displaced. During trauma, a hormonal flood is released, triggering a fight, flight, or freeze response. While some individuals fight or flee during trauma, others freeze—a response known as tonic immobility. Sexual-assault victims often experience tonic immobility, which makes them unable to run, fight, or yell.1

In addition to meeting basic needs and physical care, it is vitally important to address the psychological needs of the traumatized patient. During and after a traumatic event, individuals feel a loss of control. Nurses can help patients regain a feeling of control by informing them of what will happen next and providing choices in their care. Research supports that when nurses express compassion, believe victims, explain care, and provide choices to victims of sexual assault trauma, the victims report that the nurses’ actions help in their emotional recovery from the trauma.2


Dr. Linda Mabey

The influence of these professors’ studies is reaching outside of the nursing community. Last year Valentine, Mabey, and Miles co-authored a chapter on the neurobiology of trauma in a textbook published by Sigma Theta Tau.

Mabey recently completed and published a literature review on the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in patients with severe mental illness. Her mental-illness materials suggest that nurses should be part of the efforts to develop, test, and implement treatment models.

For the past two years, Valentine worked with the police department of West Valley City (WVC), Utah, and with the Utah Prosecution Council (UPC) to train officers on the impact trauma has on sexual-assault victims. This collaboration led to implementing new protocols that aim to ensure compassionate treatment and support for sexual-assault victims.


Dr. Julie Valentine

After reviewing the cases of 2014, the results of Valentine’s work with WVC showed that sexual-assault prosecution jumped from 6 percent to 24 percent. Her work helped validate the importance of the Trauma Informed Victim Interview, which takes into account the effect of trauma on a victim’s memory and behavior. With that impact in mind, investigators conducting the interviews were more successful and comprehensive when compared to interviews gathered with previous investigative techniques. Valentine conducted a survey of the victims and found high levels of satisfaction. She also analyzed the data regarding screening and prosecution rates.

There are plans to expand the study to other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices, depending on funding.

  Before Study During Study
Screening of Adult Sexual-Assault Cases 33% 68%
Declination Rate 75% 56%
Charges Filed 9% 32%
Prosecuted 6% 24%


  1. Campbell, R. (2012). The neurobiology of sexual assault. An NIJ Research for the Real World Seminar. Retrieved from


  1. Bryant, R. A., Friedman, M. J., Spiegel, D., Ursano, R., & Strain, J. (2011). A review of acute stress disorder in DSM‐5. Depression and anxiety, 28(9), 802–817.


Life Project documentary defies harsh stereotypes of foster care age-outs


“Life Project” a documentary film project by Barry Thornburg (former college videographer)

Life Project is an observational documentary project that follows a young man who has aged out of foster care and works to secure a stable future. It is directed and produced by Barry Thornburg—a former College of Nursing student videographer; he is now working on a masters degree in film at the University of North Texas.

Children and youth that enter the foster care system struggle with the effects of trauma stemming from the abuse, neglect, or abandonment they experienced at home, as well as the trauma of being separated from their families. They fail to thrive when they are not given the resources necessary to cope with the trauma they have experienced. Many people treat foster children as problem children, at fault for their behavior and/or circumstances. However, they rarely do anything to put themselves there and the trauma cultivated from their challenging circumstances often manifest themselves through medical and behavioral symptoms. Too often, adults who interact with these youth and children fail to develop healthy relationships with these youth and children because they don’t know how to handle these medical and behavioral challenges.

However, the adults who have the resources and education on trauma-informed care, are more equipped to develop long-lasting and healing relationships with this population. Most often, the distinguishing factor between foster youth who thrive and those that don’t is a dedicated, responsible adult who mentors the youth throughout his or her development.

Everyone needs guidance and support at the major crossroads of life. Youth who age out of foster care is no exception. This documentary is designed to show what kind of influence mentors can have on youth and young adults as they work to negotiate the decisions made at these crossroads.


Donovan recently turned 18 and aged out of the foster-care system.

Donovan, the film’s primary participant, is confronting many of these major decisions after recently aging out of the foster-care system and facing the responsibilities of adulthood. The audience will intimately observe the intricacies of these decisions and how adults from different parts of his life get involved, for better or for worse.

What makes this film unique is that it draws upon his personal perspective. In addition to observational footage of him (gathered by a film crew), he is also given a camera in which he can record things that he thinks should be included in the film and giving him an opportunity to explain his decisions in his own words. This behind-the-scenes perspective can empower those in a position to mentor with empathy and understanding when interacting with people in Donovan’s shoes.

Whether it is finances, health care, transportation, employment or education choices, Donovan does not have the luxury of a traditional family support structure to guide him every step of the way or catch him when he falls. Social workers, medical professionals, educators and volunteers all have exceptional opportunities to mentor and guide youth and young adults in situations like Donovan’s because of their frequent exposure to them. This documentary will show us how they work with Donovan and how he responds to each.

This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training, and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.

This project has the potential to change perspectives about foster care and especially those that age out. There needs to be greater understanding and education about this vulnerable population.


Barry Thornburg

Because of many substantial donations of equipment, man-hours, and other resources, Thornburg’s production and post-production costs are very low. He is raising $3,000 to cover the remaining portion of his production budget, including transportation expenses, media storage, and obtaining needed equipment.



Click here if you would like to contribute to this Kickstarter project or to watch an introduction to Thornburg’s documentary. 



A New Culture, a New Perspective

Each year, students in their junior year of the nursing program complete their public and global health clinical. Many travel to foreign countries, some stay in Utah Valley, but all get a feel for a new kind of culture and living situation.

This year, students traveled to Ghana, Ecuador, Taiwan, Finland, Czech Republic, and those staying in Utah had unique experiences working with refugees or individuals in at-risk situations. The 12 students involved with the at-risk program spent their time working with communities and people who have lifestyles that are more prone to complications. They went into schools, medical clinics, the Children’s Justice Center, mental health units, and the prison or jail. They administered to the needs of their patients by starting IVs, assisting with dressing changes, and performing all the clinical skills they have previously learned.

Events throughout the term included teaching kids at Heritage School about STDs, helping with fishing day and a dance festival at Dan Peterson School. Another highlight was the prison fireside, an anticipated event by all. To prepare, the students first researched and analyzed data to find out what some of the at-risk health issues are for these populations. They took that evidence to find out how they can facilitate change and learned that music, hope and religion had a huge impact. They used that information to create a special fireside with music and speakers that brought the spirit and touched lives. Testimonies were shared and strengthened through this event, and all look forward to it next year.


Peggy Anderson and Mike Thomas with the nursing students 


We teach them that we are all God’s children and we all need to be provided health care. The students just stepped up to the plate a provided it.” Peggy Anderson



Although many of the students did go through a bit of culture shock at the beginning, they came out with a new perspective and understanding for those they serve. They administered to their needs without judgment, and provided the best care they could.