50 Years of Excellence with the Military

LEFT: Many of the students enrolled in graduate programs in the 1970s are members of the Armed Forces. RIGHT: Members of the 1987 faculty who were military reservists included (from top, back row) Maj. Don Johnson, Maj. Mary Kathryn Ross, Capt. Carol Ledbetter, Maj. Irene Poplin, and (from top, front row) Maj. Carolyn Gunning, Col. Barbara Lust and Lt. Col. Jean Johnson.

Collaboration with military enriches students, faculty, armed forces

U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Cherita Johnson was photographed in 2015 with then 2-year-old son, Tatum, while she was working on her B.S.N. She earned her degree in 2016.

Since its inception 50 years ago, the School of Nursing has enjoyed a long-standing, close partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces that shapes both the student body and faculty. Located in Military City, U.S.A., the school educates scores of military enlisted personnel and officers who graduate from the B.S.N., M.S.N., Ph.D. and D.N.P. programs. Many of these graduates were funded by the military departments in which they served.

With a shared focus on acute, emergency, mental health, perioperative and critical care, the military and nursing school collaboration was natural and benefitted both interests. Early in the school’s history in 1973, an affiliation agreement between the Army Nurse Corps and the UT System School of Nursing provided education to hundreds of Army nurses. The school provided master’s level education to advance military leaders in these fields. Through these programs, military students became general officers, chief nurse executives, commanders of military medical units, clinical nurse specialists in major trauma centers, and directors of clinical programs, to name a few. Continuing a close partnership, the school relies on preceptors in military, veteran affairs, and civilian clinical facilities to make it possible for students to achieve program objectives.

In 1985, the first nursing cadet was enrolled in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), a program at UT San Antonio with classes offered weekly at the nursing school for nursing ROTC cadets. After completing their nursing education, the cadets become active duty military service members.

Beginning in August 1989, the nurse anesthesia major in the graduate program was offered through a contract with the U.S. Air Force. After completing their first year, students would enroll in training sites at medical centers on Air Force bases in Texas, Ohio and California for residencies. The military services evaluated this unique university/military model for the specialty area of advanced nursing preparation. The program’s excellent reputation spread rapidly when the first two graduating classes achieved a 100 percent passage rate on the CRNA examinations.

Members of the School of Nursing played a role in what was first called the Persian Gulf Crisis that later became Operation Desert Storm. In August 1990, President George Bush issued orders that called up military reservists. By January 1991, 40 students, four faculty, two clinical faculty associates and many alumni were assigned to military hospitals in order to replace active duty personnel who had been sent to field hospitals. Students and faculty were placed on temporary leaves of absence at the school. For five months, other faculty were assigned classes and administrative duties.

In 1991, the unique summer elective of Hyperbaric Therapy was offered through the School of Aerospace Medicine at the then Brooks AFB on the southeast side of San Antonio.

The School of Nursing greatly benefits from faculty members with prior military service. Many continue to teach in specialty areas at San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Defense Medical Research and Training Institute at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Likewise, military emergency and critical care nurses and physicians brought their expertise into courses. As an outstanding example, in 2017, retired Col. Clarice Golightly-Jenkins, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor/clinical of nursing, was inducted into the Tuskegee University ROTC Military Hall of Fame after 26 years active duty with valor and distinction.

The military impact is further strengthened through UT Health’s Military Health Institute (MHI). Established in 2014, MHI has an interprofessional focus that includes nursing, expanding the existing collaboration between UT Health and the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since its first week of operation, MHI has invited broad interprofessional groups to contribute to quality improvement and grant development teams.

The military impact is also experienced through guidance from military nurse leaders. For more than 10 years, military nurse representatives participated in conference program planning and presentation of the national conferences on evidence-based quality improvement. In spring 2018 while serving as acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, spoke at the school’s Fourth Annual Cultural Inclusion Institute Conference, which was sponsored by the School of Nursing’s Cultural Inclusion Institute and its Department of Lifelong Learning.

Today, active duty military personnel are sent to the School of Nursing to earn their B.S.N. in order to receive their commission as nurse corps officers. Numerous military veterans seek their B.S.N. or graduate degrees at UT Health as they pursue a civilian nursing career.

The ongoing presence of students and faculty members—who are either active military or retired servicemen and women—enriches the learning environment at the School of Nursing for everyone.

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In the 2019 issue of Tribute

Tribute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

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