Brad Walker: Helping All, From Coal Miners to Railroad Workers

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With a long and fruitful career, the College of Nursing is grateful for alumni like Brad Walker. Photo courtesy of Bingham Memorial Hospital.

By Quincey Taylor

Pioneers in the nursing field make leaps in the industry every day. We rely on their innovative research and technological developments to help nursing progress. There are also nurses that make social steps forward in the nursing world. One of those people is BYU alum Brad Walker (BS ’75), who joined the nursing community in a time period when male RNs made up only 2.7% of the working force.

When he came to BYU, Walker was one of the first male nursing students ever in the BYU nursing program. He is grateful for his experience at BYU, saying, “I feel that my education and training at BYU directed me and had me ready to begin a lifelong career. As I have practiced as a family nurse practitioner, I have made friends from every walk of life.”

He remembers once during his senior year, he was challenged to “go outside of nursing” and do something new or adventurous. He reflects on the experience, “So I went out to the skydiving school and made 2 jumps out of perfectly good airplanes.  I absolutely loved it.  I have never done it since.” He is grateful for the ways the college stretched and challenged him in all areas of life.

Brad went to college with the aspirations of becoming an electrical engineer, but his career path took a significant turn because of his mother. After the birth of Brad’s first child, she suggested a part-time job at the hospital to help pay for the bill. He started in housekeeping, and worked part time in the operating room. This experience peaked his interest in medicine and later that year, he was accepted into the RN program.

Walker, who is a recent retiree, had a long and fulfilling career after BYU. His first work experience was in East Carbon, Utah. He worked out of Utah Valley Hospital under the guidance of Dr. Keith Hooker. He was responsible for caring for the workers in two coal mines at the East Carbon Clinic. He routinely flew in Hooker’s private plane to rural clinicals. Walker remembers, “One day we were trying to take off from a plateau near Castledale, Utah.  As we started to take off, a gust of wind caught us and slammed the plane into the ground.  We walked away without any injuries of any kind.” He learned a lot with that experience, delving into the medical world as a nurse practitioner for the first time.

Walker and his family then moved to the Pocatello, Idaho area, where he practiced as a nurse practitioner for the past 41 years. His NP license number in the state of Idaho is only 85, illustrating how few NPs there were in Idaho at that time. He worked for several orthopedic surgeons, as well as worked in the ER for almost 20 years. He was one of the original Lifeflight crew members in his community. He not only worked with coal miners in his career, but even helped many railroad workers as well. He then worked at the UP Railroad clinic for 30 years.

He loved working with that population, and says, “I served the needs of many railroaders over the years. These men and women are like family to me. I am in the process of telling my patients goodbye. This is not easy. It’s been a great life and wonderful career starting with my time in the College of Nursing at BYU.”

Lastly, Walker worked for Bingham Memorial Hospital and had his own practice in Pocatello. He also worked for the past 20 years in urgent care clinics around the area. “One thing for sure,” Walker laughs, “I was never without a job or two.” Over the years, he developed a particular skill for suturing, one that served him well.

For a time, Walker would come down to BYU and help teach nurse practitioner students orthopedics and how to apply different casts and splints.  He worked in close connection with Vicki Anderson.  She also graduated with his class as a nurse practitioner in 1975.

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Walker and his wife are excited for their new adventure. Photo courtesy of Walker. 

On April 1st, Walker and his wife left for their new adventure, serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is so grateful for his journey that started at BYU, saying, “BYU and the College of Nursing set me on a path for success and happiness.”

Walker looks back on his time at BYU with fondness, and continues to support the college. He loves to watch BYU sports and had season football tickets for almost 10 years. He concludes, “The Lord has taken care of myself, my wife and my family through a career as a nurse practitioner.  I have always had work, and worked at something that I loved.  Especially in taking care of many patients.  I love taking care of patients and being able to see them improve their health.” None of that would have been possible without BYU.

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The Valor Award: Serving Our Heroes

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Julie Minson is honored to receive this year’s Valor Award for future nurse practitioners. Photo courtesy of Minson.

By Quincey Taylor

Serving others that have given so much in honor of this country is a privilege that only select nurses get to enjoy. Some of these nurses are alumna Emily Lance Santillan (’19) and current nursing graduate student Julie Minson, both of whom received the Valor Award during their respective times in the nursing program, the first during her bachelor’s and the second during her time as a graduate student.

The Valor Award is a great opportunity for students that want to learn skills in a specialized environment. Given to students at differing times in their education, the Valor Award is modified to best help recipients at their current point of training. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, mimicking a paid internship, while graduate students can use the hours gained at the VA towards becoming a nurse practitioner.

Surrounded by experienced nurses and guided by their preceptors, Santillan and Minson readily cared for a population that is in need of their love and attention.

Emily’s Experience

The Nursing VA Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) Program is for outstanding students who have completed their junior year of an accredited baccalaureate nursing program and may be interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the guidance of a VA registered nurse preceptor, VALOR students have opportunities for clinical practice and competencies in a nursing specialty area. The student will also complete an independent, problem-focused, clinical project.

Santillan was so grateful for the experience she had at the VA. She says, “It was a huge growing and learning experience. My confidence as a nurse just skyrocketed. From the beginning to the end, I feel like I was ready to graduate and be a nurse, like the next day if I could.”

She felt that this chance to learn was different than other opportunities that she’d had. She continues, “Sometimes during clinical, it gets you close, but not quite to that point where you are on your own. At VA, I felt like I could do most things independently for the whole day. I could do charting, meds, interventions, everything. That was invaluable for me to have that confidence.”

Santillan was inspired to apply for the Valor Award after doing clinical at the VA with assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine during her third semester. She loved the experience and decided to apply that next summer. The application process for her was almost like any other job interview, and she was thrilled when she was selected.

That summer, she worked almost full time in order to achieve 400 working hours by the start of fall semester. If she wanted to return to work there now after graduation, it would be a relatively simple process.

Santillan is grateful for her time at BYU and says, “It stretched me a lot and challenged me a lot, but was very rewarding. I feel like if you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and grow… I know I’m a completely different person. I know I’ve improved so much since when I started at BYU.”

Since completion of her Bachelor’s degree, Santillan has had a baby, and hopes to return to nursing in the fall.

Julie’s Experience

The VA funded learning opportunity for nurse practitioner student clinical training is reserved for graduate DNP and MSN students interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their working hours gained at the VA can go towards their clinical hours to become a nurse practitioner.

“This award actually came as a great surprise to me,” she remarks. She had been thinking about where she wanted to work when she was done with school, and the VA came to mind. She applied to their internship program, where she will be doing her capstone. She was thrilled when she was selected to participate.

She says, “I had been talking to associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy about how excited I was about applying and how I was looking forward to how rigorous the training is, and the growth I will have there.  They see lots of complex patients with complex problems and I know that I will learn so much.”

Unbeknownst to Minson, Luthy nominated her for the Valor Award and she was chosen! She says, “I was humbled and also very grateful to receive this award. I have always loved the elderly.  I started out as a CNA in high school and worked at rest homes and doing home health care with the geriatric population to get through my undergraduate. I also love the grandmas of my ward and love sitting with them.  I’ve always loved their deep well of knowledge and life experiences; they have a deep reservoir of love for their fellowmen because of what life has taught them. Taking care of an aging body with such a deep and wonderful heart can be a challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to.”

Coming back to school at 40 years old with three children was not easy for Minson, but she has enjoyed every minute. She says, “I’ve been blown away by how much each professor is individually interested in me and my learning.  This is a topnotch program and if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner then BYU is the best choice!”

She wants to give a special thanks to Luthy and associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters for their confidence in her and nominating her.

CON Online Cheerleader: Alumna Marianna Pugmire

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It really takes a village! Only with the support of alumni can the college continue to thrive. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By Quincey Taylor

Chances are, any College of Nursing Facebook post has a comment from alumna Marianna Pugmire. One of the college’s most vocal supporters, Pugmire (AS ‘67), never misses a chance to vocalize her appreciation for the college as well as remind us of how nursing has changed in the last 55 years. The College of Nursing team wants to thank Pugmire for her continued efforts to remember her alma mater.

In 1964, Pugmire was admitted to the BYU nursing program. Thinking back on getting that wonderful news, Pugmire reminisces, “You never forget the joy and relief when that notice is received.” She started out in the Bachelor’s program, but when life shifted and she became engaged, she switched to the two-year program. She like that it was focused more on patient care rather than management. Ironically, even though the plan was to focus more on bedside nursing, she eventually spent most of her career in management.

Many things have changed since Pugmire’s time at BYU. That first year, she received a full-tuition scholarship which totaled to only $220.

Facebook has become Pugmire’s way to continue to engage with the college, feeling the Spirit of the Y. She says, “I love to see the posts of the new students and they bring back so many great memories.”

She continues, “I am always happy to see the Facebook posts from the nursing program and to see the wonderful things they are doing. I am disabled by a very bad back and knees and I don’t get out much, so Facebook has become my window to the world.”

The team at the College of Nursing is so grateful for cheerleaders like Pugmire and want to thank her for her continued support. Pugmire realizes the difficulty of what is asked of the students and adds, “The nursing program isn’t easy and I will continue to encourage the students.” Thank you, Marianna!

Julie Valentine Meets Julie Valentine

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A link. A name. A cause to fight for: eradicating child abuse. Photo courtesy of Valentine.

By Quincey Taylor

Assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine champions causes that defend the defenseless. She is a forensic nurse that has been a leader in advocating for Utah sex assault victims for years. You’d think that nothing could surprise her after all these years of experience, but that’s where you’d be wrong.

What Are the Odds?

A shocking surprise, and a strange coincidence, presented itself to Valentine in 2011. Because of her extensive public research in her field, Valentine had Google alerts set up surrounding her name in case her research was referenced by an organization without her permission or knowledge. One day, Google alerted her to a news story surrounding the opening of ‘The Julie Valentine Center.’

It was a center in South Carolina devoted to ending domestic violence and child abuse. At first, Valentine was shocked and confused by the name of the center. Not only was it her name, one that is not common by any means, but they were also involved in the same cause.

The Same Name? How?

After more research, Dr. Valentine understood the connection. ‘Julie Valentine’ was the name given to an abandoned baby that had been found in a field in Greenville, South Carolina in 1990. She was found dead in a cardboard Sears box for a vacuum cleaner, wrapped in newspapers and a floral bedsheet.

The child was named ‘Julie,’ after one of the wives of the detectives that found her, and ‘Valentine’ because she was found the day before Valentine’s Day. No one knew who her parents could be, and after detectives searched records for mothers that had given birth recently, they couldn’t find anyone.

The case soon went cold, and the child became a symbol to the small community of eradicating domestic violence and child abuse. The community came together and paid for her funeral, coffin, and all other expenses. They made a headstone with the name ‘Julie Valentine’ that is still there today.

Years later in 2011, the Greenville Rape Crisis and Child Abuse Center changed its name to the Julie Valentine Center (JVC) in honor of that helpless little baby that came to mean so much more to the community. They embody her story in the inspirational logo that adorns their facility: an open heart.

Uniting Efforts

One day, Shannon Hansen, JVC’s chair, received a call from a reporter asking for an interview with Julie Valentine. Hansen was confused and explained that Julie Valentine was an infant that had been killed. The reporter was also confused, and told her that, no, Julie Valentine was a professor that studies sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse at Brigham Young University. That was the first clue of the connection that would bring these two people and organizations together.

Hansen and Dr. Valentine started exchanging emails and made a connection. They were amazed to discover their similarities, not only the name but also their passions and beliefs. This fostered a warm friendship that has continued throughout the years.

Hansen invited Valentine to come out to present last year, this time on sexual assault kits, an annual tradition they hoped to continue. The conference was covered by local news stations. Hansen and Valentine hoped that the media attention would help in passing some legislative changes on the topic.

Valentine was inspired to enter this field of work because of a very similar story. She says, “It was many years ago when I was working in a pediatric ICU. I got a patient from a helicopter, a two month old little girl. She had been abused, and ended up dying. When I was taking care of this little girl, I thought, ‘I need to do something in my life to try to prevent this from happening.’ As you know, nursing careers can take you down lots of different paths. But I always felt a strong affinity towards working to try to reduce violence. All of that really started with that little girl that I cared for that was murdered.”

She elaborates about the JVC, “It’s not only our names that we share. Many of the reasons that I went into the work that I do was because of another little infant that was killed by her parents.”

Justice for Julie Valentine

Two weeks before Valentine arrived to present at the conference this year, baby Julie Valentine’s parents were identified through a genealogy DNA database. They linked her to the biological father, who had no idea she had been born, and subsequently to the biological mother. She was soon arrested for the first degree murder of this little girl. This story was quickly linked to the story of another child, a little boy, who had been abandoned in a field in 1989 in a different town, one year before Julie. This mother of both children, Brook Graham, is currently serving her life sentence in jail for the murder of these two children.

Detectives were glad to finally bring justice to these children, as well as support the cause of the JVC as well as assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine.

Julie Lives On

Valentine reflects, “It was really humbling and somewhat eerie to have a shared name with this baby girl that was murdered. But now, [those at the center and I] have this connection together. We’re very good friends and we stay in close contact.”

Valentine had the privilege to present there this April following Graham’s arrest. She is proud to fight for the cause of that little baby girl, with the hope that her story will never repeat itself. Her name lives on in our very own professor, a champion for the voiceless.

Achieving Our Personal Best: Assistant Professor Neil Peterson Runs Half Marathon

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Who wakes up at 5am to run a race? This guy! Photo courtesy of Peterson.

By Quincey Taylor

As a college, faculty and staff love to celebrate in their coworkers’ academic accomplishments. From new research to successful student experiences, there is a lot to be excited about. However, the college as a community loves to celebrate in coworkers’ accomplishments outside of work as well.

Run, Forest, Run

On June 1, 2019, assistant professor Dr. Neil Peterson was a runner in the Utah Valley Half Marathon, truly living his teachings surrounding health and exercise. This was Peterson’s first half marathon he had completed. He had participated in many different triathlons, and decided to try his hand at a half. He trained for ten weeks coming up to it, hoping to get his own personal best time.

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Crossing the finish line was a great feeling for Peterson. Photo courtesy of Peterson.

His goal was to finish in under two hours. During training, he was able to finish the 13.1 miles in one hour, 55 minutes. His goal was to shave off five minutes and finish the race in one hour, 50 minutes. Accompanied by his brother, Peterson kept up with the 1:50 pacemaker for most of the race, eventually slowly passing her near the end.

At the finish line, Peterson got a personal best time of one hour, 47 minutes. He received the ‘Closer Award,’ meaning he ran the second half of the race faster than the first, something few runners can claim.

Student Volunteers Involved

In the recovery tent, BYU nursing student volunteers waited for any injuries that might happen to the participants. They helped runners with minor health problems, like dehydration and foot injuries.

When asked how he felt about knowing that his own students would help him if he were injured, Peterson laughed, “Oh, yeah, they know what they’re doing…They’ve got the knowledge that they need to be able to do what they need to do.”

The students volunteered to help out, giving of their time freely. Races are a great chance for students to get out there and volunteer, using the skills they have learned in class and clinical. Giving back to the community is an integral part of nursing that students should eagerly look to participate in. Peterson explains, “Nursing is not all about just getting paid. It’s about using your skills to help other people.”

Future Races

This Labor Day, Peterson plans to run another triathlon, as well as most likely participate in a marathon next year. This will be his first marathon he has ever run. Even though preparing for these races requires a significant amount of time, Peterson believes the effort is worth the reward.

Opening Mouths and Opening Doors: Assistant Teaching Professor Petr Ruda Interviewed on National Czech News Channel

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Ruda and a well-known Czech journalist discuss city celebrations.

By Quincey Taylor

The Czech Republic might be one of the last places you would expect to be adorned in American flags. However, annually the streets are covered in these flags during a nationwide celebration. Each year in the Czech Republic, the citizens, as well as national leaders, commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

This year, on May 8, 2019, celebrations broke out remembering the 74th anniversary. American flags hang on street corners, and a parade of recreated war vehicles roll down the main street. Participants have the chance to travel back in time, having the opportunity to climb inside a tank or old fashioned jeep.

There are only a handful of veterans from that time period that are still alive, but these days their sons and grandsons and granddaughters dress the part and participate in the parade. They represent the American, Belgian, and French military that liberated that particular area.

For years during the communist reign of the Czech Republic, citizens were not permitted to know that Americans helped liberate a portion of the country. That changed, however, after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, which was a non-violent transition of power ending the one party rule in Czechoslovakia. Now the country celebrates those brave individuals that freed them from oppression.

In the middle of these festivities, a small group of American students, members of the Czech Republic section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course, marvel at the sight. Nursing students from Brigham Young University watch the manifestation of this people’s love and respect for America. It was then that assistant teaching professor Petr Ruda, who was born in the Czech Republic, was approached by a reporter for the national evening news channel.

This woman came up to Ruda, intrigued by their group, and asked if she could have a short interview with him. He was nervous when he found out what a big platform she reported for. She asked him about his group, why they were in the Czech Republic, and his general thoughts on the celebration. It was a wonderful opportunity for Ruda to share information about the university and build trust with the Czech people.

When asked how it was being on national television, Ruda says, “The students were just so excited…I was getting phone calls from all my family. I got phone calls from all the clinical instructors in the hospital where we were at, not to mention we were invited to deliver newborn kits to this public hospital.”

This was not the first time BYU students have gained attention in the Czech Republic, however. Two years ago, Ruda was interviewed by a journalist for a local newspaper about the organization he worked for. He never found out what happened with the interview, until a woman told them she remembered them from the article.

In the end, the experience ended up opening doors to Ruda and his students. Their house keeper prepared them a special breakfast in honor of the occasion and everyone recognized the name Brigham Young University.

The best outcome occurred when the students were participating in a health fair in a village with little Austrian-style cottages. They were openly welcomed to participate in the health fair after the officer remembered them from TV. He said, “I saw you on TV and I read about you in a newspaper! I know quite a bit about you. We will be so honored to do the health fair with you. Tell us what you need, and I will arrange it for you.”

Ruda remarks, “Everything fell into place. We were super blessed.”

Establishing “Learning the Healer’s Art:” Dr. Mary William’s Retirement

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After 41 years of heartfelt service to the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University, associate professor Dr. Mary Williams (BS ’71) retired July 1, 2019.

As a student in 1967, caring faculty taught Williams the power of her potential, the love of nursing, and how to care for patients in the Savior’s way. After she failed bedmaking, faculty member Chloe D. Tillery (BS ’58) gave her private lessons (Williams can still make the tightest bed and the best square corner). She graduated in 1971 and went to work for LDS Hospital in the plastic/burn unit as a staff nurse, assistant head nurse, and head nurse.

In 1978, she accepted a teaching position at the College of Nursing and began teaching introductory and advanced medical/surgery and ICU courses. Realizing the national trend was for faculty to have advanced degrees, Williams returned to school and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Utah and a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Arizona.

Williams became the associate dean for the graduate program in 1990 and served in that capacity with five different college deans for 27 years (until June 2017). She was the chair of the college’s 40th, 50th, and 60th-anniversary celebrations and was instrumental in establishing “learning the Healer’s art” as the mantra for the program, which was the theme of the 40-year gala. On the university level, among many roles, she was part of the graduate council, the student ratings evaluation taskforce, and the BYU Women’s Conference committee.

Professional and community service have enriched her life as she served as the chair of the Utah Board of Nursing, on the trustee council of the Utah Hospital Association, and, for the past 20 years, as chair of the Mountain View Hospital.

In 2009, Williams was honored with the university’s Wesley P. Lloyd Award for Distinction in Graduate Education. Her influence in student research has kept the students and their theses strong. She has chaired over 44 master’s projects or theses, served as a committee member for an additional 42, and coauthored or written more than 30 publications focusing on timely issues and trends in the nursing industry.

What’s next? Williams, who raised four of her deceased sister’s six children, plans to spend more time with them and her 17 grandchildren. She will find time for church service and take time to travel or visit new places. Mostly she will frequently ponder how blessed she is to have such good friends associated with her time at the university.

Mary Williams Spotlight Video

Watch a faculty spotlight video of Mary Williams.