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Commentary: Nursing and military history intertwine at Weber State

By Weber State University - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Nov 5, 2022

EMILY ANDERSON, Standard-Examiner file photo

Graduates of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Weber State University pose for pictures prior to their convocation at the school on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

People who choose careers in nursing or the military are choosing a life of service -- and sometimes those worlds intertwine. With Veterans Day approaching, the Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing at Weber State University is reflecting on those who devoted themselves to saving and bettering lives.

WSU's school of nursing has a long history with the military, not only because of its proximity to Hill Air Force Base, but because many faculty and students have served in the U.S. armed forces themselves.

As one example among many, Geraldine "Gerry" Hansen served as chair of Weber State's nursing program for two decades. But she also had a second and simultaneous career in the U.S Army Reserve, serving many years as a military nurse with the 328th General Hospital at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City. She achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel and was deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s. Many other WSU faculty and staff served across various military branches during that time: sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines.

But it's not just faculty and staff who have found their path in the armed forces. In the mid-'90s, Weber State began to recruit students more rigorously from the military realm into the nursing program, including Army and Air Force ROTC cadets from multiple college campuses across Northern Utah. In the years since, hundreds of military members have graduated from our nursing school with their associate and bachelor's degrees, and over 70 ROTC cadets have graduated and been commissioned into various military positions and leadership roles across the globe.

Not only that, scores of WSU nursing students have also served in Guard and Reserve units across Utah. It's not unusual to have retired military veterans enrolled among new cohorts in the nursing programs, some of whom have already deployed multiple times worldwide. These outstanding women and men bring great insight and experience to the nursing program. Two exceptional examples include Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul Glade, a Korean linguist, and Marine Staff Sgt. Mathew Cunningham, who served four combat tours in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Both nursing and military training are intense and require huge amounts of time and effort physically, mentally and emotionally. Alone, each is demanding; combined, they require every ounce of dedication, determination and grit. Our faculty and staff are extremely proud when a student completes both their military and nursing degree requirements, and it's always an honor when WSU has a presence at a military pinning ceremony, when months and years of hard work culminate in service members receiving their insignia, setting them on a path of continued service.

Weber State has also done its part in ensuring our veterans are taken care of, including discussions with leaders at the Medical Education & Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston to explore ways to award combat medics and other similar military positions credit toward a nursing degree, and other pathways to advance their education. Conversations remain ongoing, but points are now given in the admission process for veterans and medical experience.

Because of our deep roots and shared history with our military community, the Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing often participates in local events honoring service members, and contributes annually to programs that donate volunteer time, financial support and gifts to veterans. Many of the clinical rotations for our first-semester nursing students are conducted at the George E. Wahlen Veterans Home right here in Ogden.

This Veterans Day, the school of nursing wants to continue to work alongside men and women in uniform, strengthening our community and building relationships with those who serve our nation.

Provided by faculty and staff at Weber State University, whose Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year.


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