Becoming full-time nurses turns into a family affair

Pomona, Calif. - 08/23/2005 -- Sherry Gregory, her son Daniel and his wife Bethany want to give of themselves and lend assistance to the neediest people of the world where ever they may be. To do that they will first train to become registered nurses. Last week, all three began their education at Western University of Health Sciences with the goal of earning master's degrees in nursing. "It feels like the next step in the fulfillment of a total dream," Daniel said. All three family members have enrolled in the master of science nursing entry program which is designed for people who have already earned a bachelors degree in another field. Karen Hanford, dean of the College of Graduate Nursing, said school officials believe this is the first time three members of one family are starting school there together. Sherry's interest in nursing came about as she and her husband Rick were exploring social justice issues, and she was preparing to return to college about 3 1/2 years ago, she said. She and her husband, a flooring contractor for more than 28 years, raised three children and instilled in them the importance of education. Then she determined she should take her own advice and return to college which she left when she married, she said. In the course of working on a degree in social justice and criminal justice at Cal State Fullerton, she thought of the opportunities she's been afforded by being born in the United States, opportunities people in other places haven't had. She concluded "that there was a purpose to being born here," Sherry said. "We want to spend time doing something with our life and helping the poor," she said. For Daniel, nursing was an interest along with football but an injury caused him to begin exploring other options. Eventually, that took him to Biola University where he earned a degree in intercultural studies with an emphasis in journalism. After graduating he worked for World Vision International and was sent to Thailand to gather information on work with AIDS. Then he spent seven weeks in Afghanistan where the organization was doing emergency relief work, he said. The trips showed him a need he wanted to help address. "I really enjoy writing," he said. "But I decided I need to do something else. ... I wanted to be on the ground with people." For as long as Bethany could remember she'd wanted to work overseas. Since high school she'd been interested in nursing, but the idea of taking on a curriculum loaded with math and science courses was intimidating, she said. She attended community college and then made a year-long visit to Guatemala before enrolling at Biola where she met Daniel and earned a degree in intercultural studies. While Daniel was off in Thailand and Afghanistan, Bethany headed to Uganda for a six-week internship with Dr. Scott Kellermann, who provides medical care to the Batwa pygmies. Bethany tended to patients, and helped deliver a baby who didn't survive. There, she decided she wanted to be a nurse. When Daniel and Bethany returned to California they concluded health care was clearly their calling. Medical school was a long-term, expensive commitment. On the other hand, a well-trained nurse practitioner could do a great deal for patients, Bethany said. As Sherry and her husband where in the middle of evaluating their goals in life Bethany returned from her trip. After seeing pictures of Bethany tending to an ill child, Sherry thought of her experiences caring for her children. "I had the thought in my mind I can do that," she said. She didn't have the nursing background but she had her experience as a mother, Sherry said. She wrote to the doctor and two years later Sherry was working with sick Ugandan children and adults and her husband split his time between working with a local veterinarian and providing medical care. "A pair of hands makes a difference between saving five children's lives and 10 children's lives," Sherry said. Although nothing is set yet, Sherry said she and her husband would like to work in Africa. Bethany said she can see herself and Daniel working with a non-governmental organization and going to areas in crisis such as Niger, Sudan or back to Uganda.

By Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

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