By Quincey Taylor
Changes to the staff of the BYU College of Nursing were made this fall semester, bringing new insights to the established positions. Associate teaching professor Dr. Peggy Anderson has replaced associate teaching professor Debra Mills as the undergraduate program director, and associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy has replaced associate professor Dr. Donna Freeborn as the graduate program director. We want to introduce Anderson and Luthy as well as thank Mills and Freeborn for their years of devoted service in these positions.
In an office adorned with photos of the Savior and family members, Dr. Peggy Anderson keeps her priorities in mind every day. Anderson is one of the tenured members of the faculty, having worked in the College of Nursing for a total of 14 years. She loves working with the students, and when she was invited to take the position as the new undergraduate program director, she happily accepted. Although it sometimes seems overwhelming, Anderson is ready and willing to bring new insights into the important position.
When asked about her 35-year career in the healthcare industry, Anderson laughs, “I’ve been around the block a few times.” She did not originally consider going into nursing when she was a student at BYU; her dream was to work with special ed children. However, she was influenced by her father, with whom she had a close relationship, to consider nursing. Anderson’s mother, sister and grandmother had all been nurses and her father saw the work ethic required for the field. He knew that Anderson had that same work ethic and that she could excel as a nurse if she wanted to. She ended up following his advice and graduated from BYU with a nursing degree. She fulfilled her dream of working with children and went into pediatrics. Anderson’s true passion for nursing lies with patient care. She loves to serve those that are suffering as well as their families.
This love for serving others has translated perfectly into her educational career. In many ways, teaching is a form of service to the younger generations. Recently, Anderson ran into one of her past students with whom she did clinicals. It was fun for them to reconnect because of the personal relationship sparked in their time working together. While Anderson strives to have a professional attitude during clinicals, she comments, “You can’t help but get to know each other really well.” Anderson expresses excitement to continue working with the bright students in the program and mentions, “they are always in my prayers.”
Debra Mills is stepping down as the undergraduate program director, but that does not mean that you won’t be seeing her around. She is reassuming her full-time faculty position and will be solely teaching once more. When asked how she feels about handing the position over to Anderson, she says, “I know I am leaving it in capable hands.”
Mills first considered going into nursing when she was talking with a neighbor who was a nurse in the Navy. This neighbor liked her and thought she had the characteristics needed for the medical field. Mills applied to the nursing program at Rick’s, got in, and came to work in Salt Lake City after graduation. After three years working, she achieved her goal of getting a job at Primary Children’s Hospital in 1978.
Her first experience teaching was at the Salt Lake Community College, where she was the program coordinator. She helped to write the associate degree RN program for accreditation there. After all that experience, Mills had a lot to offer once she was hired at BYU. She has been teaching and working here for 17 years. Her favorite part has been being so closely involved with the curriculum used in every course. She truly knows all the ins and outs of every nursing class. She also has loved working with students and putting them at ease if they were ever worried about something.
When asked about how it has been working with such a fantastic team of faculty, she says, “I appreciate them. I appreciate their support, when they let me know if they need something or if I can be of help. I just appreciate them.” There is no doubt that faculty feel the same way for her, and want to thank her for all her years of dedicated service.
Barefoot and cozy in her office, Dr. Beth Luthy helps master’s students feel at ease as the newly appointed graduate coordinator. Although she is heartbroken that Donna is retiring, Luthy is excited to get to work with the students and feels that she has something unique to offer in this position.
Luthy did not plan to become a nurse at first; however, she was inspired to start learning the Healer’s art when her first son was born with a liver abnormality. He ended up getting a liver transplant early on and was very sick for the first five years of his life. Luthy sometimes felt frustrated because she would listen to the medical staff discuss her son’s condition, and she did not understand what they were saying. “It was like another language,” she says. It was then that she decided to go to nursing school to become a better advocate for her suffering child. She wanted to give a voice to the voiceless and be her son’s informed supporter.
This pattern of advocating for the weak has continued throughout her career. Luthy became a school nurse for a number of years. She fell in love with the job and enjoyed interacting with the children. However, she became a little exasperated when she realized that for many she was the only line of defense in their healthcare. They did not have insurance and therefore did not receive the care they needed. This inspired her to go back to school in order to treat these kids herself. She decided to go to Nurse Practitioner School at BYU in 2005. There she got a Bachelor’s in Community Health Education.
Her heart always remained in the education system, and she applied for a position teaching in the undergraduate program at BYU. Before applying, Luthy was uncertain if this job was the path she should follow. However, one day while she was taking her kids to soccer practice, she received an undeniable prompting that she was meant to teach at BYU. “It was so strong,” she says, “I just kind of sat there dumbfounded, taking in that moment. It was a revelatory moment.” Luthy got the job and began teaching.
Luthy learned about the position opening as the graduate coordinator from Dr. Donna Freeborn, who in many ways was her mentor. When asked about how she feels as the new graduate coordinator, Luthy replied, “If I could look 13 years into the future, I never would have thought that I would be here.” She knows the students are capable of amazing things and looks forward to holding them to that standard.
Dr. Donna Freeborn is retiring after a full 20 years working in the College of Nursing. Freeborn has even taught multiple current faculty members when they were students, therefore influencing the future of the nursing program. We will miss her and are grateful for the legacy of service she has left. She truly has left a mark on the nursing program and the students who have passed through it.
Freeborn started her nursing career in Med/Surge, eventually going on a service mission to Hong Kong. Her passion was with labor and delivery, inspiring her to get a master’s degree and become a midwife. After a few years of experience, Freeborn saw an ad in the church news for someone to come to BYU and teach labor and delivery. She applied on a whim, uncertain if they would be interested in having her. She was hired, however, and began teaching in the undergraduate program for the following three years. After that, she taught in the nurse practitioner program for 17 years. When asked about how she felt leaving the field to come teach at BYU, she says, “I really liked the patients, that was my biggest thing, and I thought I would miss that when I came to teach. But the students filled that gap.”
Freeborn has absolutely loved teaching and focusing on the Savior, commenting, “Teaching and nursing are very similar in a lot of ways. In nursing, we talk about learning the Healer’s art and in education, we focus on becoming like the Master Teacher. Well, we’re talking about the same person.” She has learned to see people how the Savior would. She says, “You have to look at people like human beings. They have all aspects of their lives intertwined and we need to be understanding.”
Freeborn expresses her gratitude to all her coworkers and students, but at the same time she is excited for a relaxing retirement. When asked about her future plans, she says, “I’m building a cabin in Mount Pleasant.” The faculty wants to wish her luck in retirement and hopes she visits often.