HW: Nursing supervisor wins $100,000 fellowship

Mesa State College nursing professor Debbie Bailey has been awarded a $100,000 scholarship to study rural health issues, in particular diabetes.

Western Colorado might be one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas, but its rural character in many ways still lags behind that of urban centers, an aspect of life that a Mesa State College nursing professor hopes to treat.

Rural people in general tend to run more health risks than city dwellers, said Debbie Bailey, a family nurse practitioner at Primary Care Partners and associate professor of nursing at Mesa State.

Bailey is the recipient of a $100,000 fellowship through the University of Colorado, Denver, aimed at improving nursing education in rural areas.

With the fellowship from the Daniel and Janet Mordecai Rural Health Nursing Endowed Chair, Bailey plans to find ways in particular to deal with diabetes and improve personal health in rural areas.

“Rural people are more at risk of health issues,” and they have fewer weapons against disease at their behest, said Bailey, a Grand Junction native.

Diabetic children, for instance, suffer because of the distance between their homes and the urban centers where diabetic services are more readily available, she said.

“West Slope cities don’t have big endocrine centers” where diseases such as diabetes can be studied and the people dealing with it can be monitored on a regular basis, Bailey said.

“It would be nice to see these kids every two months,” but because of the distance to
centers in Denver, some diabetic children go there every three or four years.

Statewide, the incidence and prevalence of diabetes, especially Type 1, which is usually diagnosed in childhood, is on the rise.

“The statistics are kind of shocking,” said Dr. Nancy Mohler, a chronic-disease specialist and certified diabetes educator with Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

A study by the Colorado School of Public Health found a 60 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes in Colorado, Mohler said.

The same study found the incidence of Type 1 diabetes was growing at a rate of 2.7 percent per year among non-Hispanic white children, ages 17 and under, and 1.6 percent per year among Hispanics, she said.

Those children will need help managing their condition, from recognizing symptoms to obtaining blood-glucose monitors, test strips, insulin and syringes, Mohler said.

Under the fellowship, Bailey will take 72 hours of classes and write a dissertation to obtain a doctorate in nursing. One of the conditions of the fellowship is that she teaches nursing in a rural population for at least three years.

The fellowship is, for Bailey, “a natural fit,” said Kristy Reuss, head of the Health Sciences Department at Mesa State.

Bailey has been a diabetes educator for years, Reuss said, and the college is in need of highly trained faculty in its nursing program, which supplies nurses to hospitals across the Western Slope.

It’s become evident, Reuss said, the way to improve the nursing faculty is not by bringing in new professors, because competing with major universities for qualified instructors is too difficult.

“We know we need to grow our own faculty,” Reuss said.

Working with the University of Colorado, Reuss said she stressed that need in recommending Bailey for the fellowship.


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