University Community

Nurturing compassion, community through nursing

Debbi Smith has finished her degree with the distinction of being named an Outstanding Graduate, and now she’s ready to use what she has learned to make a difference in the community.

Originally from Spanish Fork, Utah, Smith relocated to Kentucky in 2016. When she made a move to Ashland in 2018, she found her educational home at Ohio University Southern. After graduating with an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing, Smith has a desire to make a meaningful impact on community health.

"I plan on finding a place in the community where I can make an impact on the overall health and well-being of our citizens," she said. While she has considered many potential careers, including in public health, school nursing, hospital floors, or hospice care, Smith's dedication to serving is currently being put to work at King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) in her work as a nurse resident.

As with her professional endeavors, Smith's journey through Ohio University Southern was characterized by a commitment to excellence.

"I viewed every class like it was sink or swim," she said. Her determination, reminiscent of Dora's famous mantra from Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming," propelled her forward through the challenges of academia.

The outstanding reputation of OHIO's nursing program, coupled with its consistent accreditation, is what drew Smith to Ohio University Southern.

"I wanted to ensure that I was getting the best education that I could," she said. The program, as well as the proximity of the campus and in-state tuition benefits, solidified her choice. “The decision practically made itself for me,” she said.

Nicole Stumbo was an educator who made an impact on Smith during her time at Ohio University, not only through her clear and concise teaching method, but also her community mindedness. Stumbo's involvement with the Student Nurses Association inspired Smith to engage in community service, participating in blood drives, costume contest judging, serving at an annual pancake breakfast fundraiser, and more.

“She has been a good example on how to incorporate nursing into the community,” said Smith. “I have learned that we can make an impact on our community through small and simple acts of volunteerism, and simple donations to help those around us.”

In addition to her schoolwork and volunteerism, Smith also balances the demands of family and work. As a mother of five and a full-time employee at KDMC, prioritizing school amidst competing responsibilities required unwavering support from her husband.

"He has always been my foundation to success," Smith acknowledged gratefully.

Amidst the challenges, clinical experiences at Vern Riffe School in Portsmouth stand out as a positive and impactful experience for Smith. There she witnessed the school nurse in action, who knew each student and interacted with them compassionately and with positivity.

“It gave me a new perspective on how a nurse can impact the community beyond the walls of a hospital,” said Smith.

For incoming Ohio University students, Smith advocates for participation in the Student Nurses Association.

"It helps establish a sense of pride in not only healthcare, but a sense of responsibility to our community overall," she said.

Nursing is a profession dedicated to caring. As Ohio University Southern prepares to honor its fall 2023 and spring 2024 graduates during the Graduation Recognition Ceremony scheduled for Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m., Smith embodies the values of compassion, dedication, and community engagement celebrated by the nursing program and Ohio University community as a whole.

To qualify as an Outstanding Graduate, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5, actively participate in University activities, engage in community service and demonstrate notable accomplishments such as receiving awards or contributing to research projects. Additionally, candidates are recommended by esteemed faculty members, further validating their exceptional academic and personal qualities.

April 16, 2024
Staff reports