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Released December 7, 2004

SOUTHERN MISS CONFERS FIRST NURSING DOCTORATE

HATTIESBURG-The University of Southern Mississippi has granted the first doctorate in nursing to Deborah Bilbrew, whose degree featured a nursing emphasis in nursing ethics. "I enjoy the contact with people and helping them," said Bilbrew, 52, who received her degree through the College of Health's School of Nursing.

Bilbrew is a quality management specials in the Office of Quality Management at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Jackson. She has a total of 24 years in the VA system, working full time while attending school full time. She has served as most every kind of nurse - from a nursing supervisor to a head nurse to staff nurse to research nurse.

She re-entered school in 1995 after 14 years as a military wife. "I wanted to be the best I could be; it's a personal thing. I think people can achieve whatever they set their minds to," said Billbrew, who received an associate's degree in nursing from Hinds Community College, a bachelor's degree in sociology at Jackson State University, a bachelor's degree in nursing from Mississippi College and a master's degree in nursing from Southern Miss.

"The quality of education at Southern Miss is superb," she said. "They have that personal touch to help give us a clear understanding of the subject for us to be an active participant in classroom instruction."

Bilbrew credits Patricia Kurtz, her instructor in her master's program, for being the most positive influence. "She always taught us to go do research and improve our body of knowledge in nursing," Billbrew said. "Just apply yourself. Research for higher dreams encouraged me from my bachelor's to my Ph.D."

Married for 31 years to Mack, 52, Bilbrew and her husband raised two children: Mack Jr., 30, and Tikisha, 24, who is at Southern Miss majoring in kinesiology therapy.

Bilbrew's future plans include doing more research in collaboration with a few doctors at the medical center, working with other nurses and other professionals on ethical issues and one day teaching. "I want to shoot for the highest dreams," she said, wanting to encourage others. "We have to bring along our young because nursing is a marvelous profession. And I personally feel we can better serve our profession with a doctorate."

Others agree. "Her research was an excellent example of how nurse scholars can bridge the research-practice gap," said Anna Brock, coordinator of graduate programs in the School of Nursing.

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January 19, 2005 3:36 PM