‘Selfless’ MTSU nursing professor wins statewide n...

‘Selfless’ MTSU nursing professor wins statewide nursing award

An MTSU nursing professor is the 2013 recipient of the Tennessee Nurses Association’s Excellence in Nursing Education Award.

Dr. Debra Rose Wilson received the honor at the group’s annual convention in Murfreesboro.

Sharon Adkins, executive director of the Tennessee Nurses Association, presents the 2013 Excellence in Nursing Education Award to MTSU’s Dr. Debra Rose Wilson at the TNA’s 2013 annual convention in Murfreesboro. (Photo submitted)

The statewide award “recognizes outstanding performance in nursing education and nursing leadership, which improves the quality of nursing care, and professional and community service,” according to

On a 2010 trip to the University of Botswana to speak to nurse leaders about stress management and self-care, Wilson originated the “I Am Proud to Be a Nurse” campaign to improve the image of nurses in the African nation.

“There were rumors of nurse-to-patient violence in Botswana and they went viral,” said Wilson, who received the award Oct. 18.

Funding the project with $13,000 of her own money, Wilson designed pins with the message “I Am Proud to Be a Nurse” and distributed the pins to every nurse in the country. Extra pins were sold for $5 each to help recoup costs.

The MTSU Student Nurses Association took up the cause and held bake sales and pin sales on- and off-campus. The project paid for itself by the summer of 2013 and resulted in seven publications in newsletters and journals, two national poster presentations and a national podium presentation. (You can read an archived story about the project here.)

Since 2000, Wilson has volunteered at the Nashville Rape and Sexual Abuse Center, first teaching women’s self-care classes and transitioning into stress management training.

She directs stress management and hypnosis classes for the Renfrew Eating Disorder Clinic, the Tennessee Technology Center and Trigeminal Neuralgia Association in Nashville and the St. Clair Street Senior Center in Murfreesboro.

You can read a 2010 story about the “Buttons for Botswana” project by clicking on the button above.

Wilson also donates her time at the national and Davidson County levels to SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Support, an organization serving people touched by the death of a baby. In addition, she has been managing editor of the International Journal of Childbirth Education for the past three years.

For her development of Psych Pharm, an online tool, she received the MTSU Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Award for 2009-10. Wilson also has received the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award for Faculty in Tennessee from the Tennessee Higher Education and the 2012 Distinguished Educator in Distance Learning Award from MTSU.

An MTSU School of Nursing colleague, Dr. Karen Ward, noted that Wilson “has been recognized by MTSU as faculty that has made a difference in students’ lives every semester for the past several years. She has influenced junior faculty and graduate students as a role model to scholarly activity.”

“Debra is selfless,” added Dr. Shelley Moore, an assistant professor of nursing. “She helps students and colleagues alike to grow professionally. She constantly offers her time to help when you know she does not have any more time than anyone else.”

Wilson seems to be defying the laws of physics by finding the time somehow to pursue a doctoral degree in physics. She said she believes this will help bolster the academic credibility of her belief in holistic therapeutic techniques such as hypnosis, acupuncture and aromatherapy.

“I have to have my foot in the empirical world,” Wilson said. “With a degree in physics, I will test and evaluate and take the next step.”

As if all this isn’t enough, Wilson is a nominee for a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship to work in the White House in the 2014-15 academic year. If she is chosen, she will spend a year conducting health research in Washington, D.C. Wilson said she hopes to work in the U.S. Surgeon General’s office if she is selected.

The short list of nominees is to be announced in January 2014; the top six will be revealed in February 2014. For more information, contact Wilson at 615-898-5841 or

— Gina K. Logue (