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
"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
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