Category Archives: College of Nursing Faculty

Airplanes and Game-Shows. Welcome to BYU Denise Cummins!

DeniseBy Corbin Smith

Listen up all you travel-junkies and game show fanatics! New faculty member Denise Cummins (AS ’86) is someone you have to meet!

For the inner adventurer in you, you can go ask Cummins about the more than 10 countries that she has visited in her lifetime! She has gone places like England (where she was born), Belgium, Morocco, the Mediterranean and more! Wherever she goes she loves to kayak and visit historical sites! Go ask her about the tons of experiences she has had all over the world!

For you lovers of games such as Jeopardy and The Price is Right, along with dreamers to one day compete on a program like that, Cummins can be your guide! Years ago, while living in Los Angeles as a newlywed, she competed on three game shows! She played Million Dollar Chance of a Lifetime, Secret Password and The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour and racked up some sweet prizes! For those who want to follow in her footsteps, she is the one to talk too!

Cummins life, however, is more than traveling to exotic places and playing game shows. “It is amazing to make a difference in someone’s life. You truly can make a big impact through being a loving and caring nurse,” she says. Cummins loves being able to serve people and make their lives happier each day!

This semester Cummins is teaching Nursing 320, 351 and 352. She is so excited to work with BYU students and faculty this year!

 

To learn more about Cummins, read her official bio below!

 

When it comes to gaining an education, Denise Cummins (AS ’83) is not hesitant about traveling afar. She came from England after joining the Church to attend BYU, where she earned her first nursing degree. She has lived in California since graduating but has earned additional degrees and credentials from BYU–Idaho, Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky, the University of Sheffield in England and, most recently, from the University of Utah, where she completed a doctoral program in nursing.

The traveling continues! Within weeks of starting her BYU position, she and another nursing professor took a group of nursing students to India, working with a Hindu organization and caring for families affected by leprosy as part of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course.

Cummins’s professional experience is just as unique. After becoming a registered nurse, she cared for women and babies in a variety of settings, including small community hospitals, a large university teaching hospital, a midwife clinic, and even a mobile health van. Later, after becoming a nurse practitioner, she supervised a hospital-based maternal-fetal medicine clinic, serving women with high-risk pregnancies, and coordinated its perinatal research program. Most recently, Cummins was the director of quality and regulatory compliance for a rural hospital district, while concurrently teaching an online nursing research class for BYU–Idaho.

She considers her undergraduate education at BYU to be one of the great privileges of her life. It prepared her not only for a career in nursing but to live a life and raise a family centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a new faculty member, she is excited and honored to help students prepare for these experiences in their own lives. After entering BYU to learn, then going forth to serve, she is pleased to return to teach. Cummins currently instructs the nursing care of women and newborns course and clinical labs, and scholarly inquiry in nursing.

When she is not in the hospital or teaching, you will find her traveling between California and Utah, where much of her family still resides.

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Welcoming New Faculty Member Brandon Thatcher

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Realizing that teaching seminary may not pay the bills but wanting to use spirituality and helping others to make a difference in a career, assistant teaching professor Brandon Thatcher earned a bachelor of art in Spanish from Utah State University as a prerequisite for a fast track nursing program. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in 2009 and a master’s degree in 2013—both in nursing from the University of Utah.

Before becoming a board-certified psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), he worked for five years as the charge nurse for both the child and adolescent inpatient units at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute in Salt Lake City. As a PMHNP, he worked in various settings including a psychiatric crisis center, several substance use disorder treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and at the BYU Student Health Center on an outpatient basis.

Thatcher has also been an adjunct clinical instructor for the BYU College of Nursing since 2014. He recently teamed up with professor emerita Dr. Barbara Heise for a publication on child suicide screening methods.

He currently teaches the stress management course, preview to nursing course, and the psych/mental health nursing class and clinical. During the 2019 spring term, he accompanied another professor and ten nursing students in Ghana, Africa, as part of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course.

Employment at the university lets him include a spiritual side to healthcare when teaching students. He values the religious aspects that can be added to mental health discussion and healing. As a practitioner with the student health center, he saw the Lord’s hand in many things. “When a student required a few or many additional minutes for a session, the subsequent time slots would always cancel, allowing the time we needed. This happened in every instance I needed more time with my patients for three and a half years,” he shares.

He and his wife, Danina, have three children. He enjoys family time most of all, playing guitar, wrestling kids (his own), watercolor painting, and spending time outdoors.

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

Utah Valley Marathon

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

Mary Williams

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.

Professors Were Nurses First: CON Professors Help Woman in Distress

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Faculty and students were excited to visit the National Institute of Health. Photo courtesy of Hunsaker.

By Quincey Taylor

To some students, their professors are simply that, just professors. What they do not realize is that their professors are people, but more than that they are also nurses with years of experience caring for patients. Rarely do students get to observe their professors in a clinical setting.

This changed, however, for the veteran section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course this summer. When an emergency happened, students observed assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker and teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad jump into action.

In May 2019, 18 students and three faculty members were in Alexandria, Virginia on a study abroad. It was Sunday, and the group was attending the local church building. This ward was used to having visitors, welcoming them with open arms.

As they were getting ready to leave, one of the students rushed to Hunsaker and told her that somebody had fallen. Since Hunsaker’s background is in emergency care, she was the perfect person to help. She was accustomed to either significant injuries or minor injuries.

When Hunsaker, Blad, and the students arrived, they saw that a lady, stepping down the ledge while exiting the church, had fallen and twisted her ankle. She was laying on the steps and there was no way for people to enter or exit the church without stepping over her. There was already a small group of people surrounding her, helping her. They had put a pillow under her head and were trying to protect her from the falling rain.

The woman was extremely emotional and was hyperventilating. Her ankle didn’t look deformed, but she was complaining of severe pain. Hunsaker let everyone know that she was an emergency nurse. She asked someone to go get some ice from the kitchen. She could tell the woman was very anxious.

Hunsaker says, “I decided that the number one priority was to talk to her, get some information and get her distracted a little bit. I started talking to her, but she was still really anxious. So I just held her hand and asked her more questions and we talked a little bit about her.” The woman thought her ankle was broken.

This accident turned into a ministering opportunity for all involved. Hunsaker strives to be an example, “even to other nurses or people of how Christ would treat other people in their times of need. He would treat them in a loving, caring way to show them that they have value.”

Hunsaker continued to ask her questions about her life, her friends, her family. This woman, whose name was Margaret, took care of her husband and children. She was the only active church member in her family.

The students observed their professors in this situation. Margaret was given a blessing right there by a ward member, which was sweet to all who witnessed. Hunsaker hopes that, “just taking an extra minute to let her know that we really did care and wanted to help her and make her feel important and valued would help her relax a little bit.”

Margaret said about the experience in a letter to the dean:

What happened to me was a series of miracles and tender mercies. It was no coincidence that your nursing students and instructors just happened to attend that particular ward at that particular time. When I rolled my ankle and heard the crackle and pop, I went into immediate shock. It was no coincidence that the two instructors were former ER nurses. They came immediately to my aid, held my hand and calmed my breathing. They were on the Lord’s mission that morning. Their tender care is something I’ll always remember.

It ended up being a wonderful missionary opportunity as well. Margaret continues:

It goes much further than that. You see, I had a dear friend who lost her father a few days before and the next day lost her mate just before I came to D.C. She’s not a member of the church. When I told her my plight, she said she now has a purpose… helping me and my husband who has Parkinson’s. I’m sharing bits and pieces of the gospel with her now.  Even my husband who isn’t a member calls this a miracle.

She truly feels that, “The Lord is personally involved in our lives and your staff and students were a part of that.”

Hunsaker is glad for this chance to be an example to her students. She says, “There are a lot of opportunities to teach students, but they often don’t get to see us actually interact with patients. I really appreciated that opportunity, because it lets them know that we’re real. We are nurses, and hopefully that gives them a good example of what they hope to aspire to be in the future.”

It would do students well to follow their professors’ examples and minister in the way the Lord would. Hunsaker finishes, “I like to think of nursing as ministering. It really is an amazing opportunity we have in our chosen career to minister every day. I get paid to minister which is pretty cool, because you can put a little extra effort in rather than just following the steps of your job. I love that because I can show patients, even difficult patients, that I’m trying to understand them and I care for them. I really believe that those interactions can show Christ’s love.”