Congratulations, Dr. Rachelle Burleson!
10 years ago Rachelle and I were in an injury accident on I-35. While recovering in the hospital at Mercy, OKC, Rachelle fell in love with the manner in which the nurses treated her, and she decided to continue the education she had begun at Baylor University, but laid aside when we married and began a family. When Rachelle finished the requirements for her Bachelor's Degree from Northwestern, Alva, in 2006 she was stopped by the dean who handed her the diploma. I saw a conversation between the two take place on the platform. I later asked Rachelle what was said, and I found out that Rachelle was asked to continue her nursing education and return to be on faculty at Northwestern.
Rachelle did decide to pursue her education, but she began working in the medical field, taking on an the incredibly difficult and intense role of ICU heart recovery nurse with a newly begun open-heart surgery program at a local hospital. The chief open heart surgeon specifically chose her for the program, even though others were concerned with her lack of experience. Rachelle performed her job brilliantly. As she worked full-time, she began taking Masters level nursing courses at Oklahoma University. Upon graduating from the University of Oklahoma with her Masters, Rachelle was the recipient of the 'Einstein Award,' given to the graduate student whom graduate peers voted most scholarly. Rachelle was the only graduate student asked to speak at the commencement ceremonies for the University of Oklahoma.
Upon completion of her Masters, Rachelle went into private practice and worked at a local cardiologist's office, providing patient care for many men and women in the northwest Oklahoma area suffering from heart problems. She decided that she would pursue her doctorate in nursing care and considered several universities across the nation, but applied to only one - Vanderbilt University. Rachelle told me, "There's no way, Wade, they will ever accept me. I applied very late in the game, and it is a coveted medical school." When Vanderbilt admitted Rachelle into their prestigious doctoral program, she told me, "There must have been openings that they needed to fill." On our first trip to Nashville, I heard with my own ears the dean of the nursing program say, "We had hundreds of people apply to our doctoral programs in nursing. You are a very select group of people that we have chosen." I just looked at my wife and smiled (actually, I may have said something).
During the two years that Rachelle has been commuting back and forth from Nashville in pursuit of her doctorate, she has worked full-time, and has also provided invaluable support for me in my ministry to the people of Emmanuel Enid. In addition, her transcripts from Northwestern, Oklahoma University, and Vanderbilt have only A's; a pretty remarkable accomplishment, particularly when the courses at Vanderbilt were demanding, taught by the leading specialists in their respective fields, and no professor used curves when giving grades. They have not yet handed out the scholarly awards from Vanderbilt, but I would not be surprised if Rachelle is not, again, the recipient of one. Rachelle has already been asked by the faculty to prepare an abstract in order to present her paper--An Examination of Nurses Knowledge and Attitudes of Palliative Care in an Acute Care Hospital in a Non-Metropolitan Setting--at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine's national assembly in 2015.
This week Rachelle accepted a tenure-track professorship at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. She will be commuting back and forth, and on occasions staying overnight with the many family members we have in the Edmond area. Though the commute is an hour and fifteen minutes, it will be worth it because her contract runs from August until May. Rachelle will be able to travel with me in the summer, and she also has holidays off during the year. Rachelle has loved her job in Enid, and two people, Chief Nursing Officer, Doug Coffey, and Director of Critical Care, Virginia McCall, have been two of the finest people with whom Rachelle has worked.
My nickname for Rachelle is Dr. Thuya (pronounced Twee-a). My friend Col. Andy Haman gave me some thuya wood for my office when he and his family left Enid for Morocco via Washington, D.C. The Thuya tree only grows in Morocco, and is considered very rare and precious. In fact, it is the only wood that the Rolls Royce will use in their consoles. The Romans coveted the wood because they used it for their sacrifices. When thuya wood is on fire, there is a sweet aroma that wafts throughout the air.
My wife has been on fire these last ten years, and the fragrance she exudes is sweeter than ever. She is a rare human being. People sometimes ask me how Rachelle and I are different. Here's the answer: I walk into a room and think I know everything, but don't; Rachelle walks into a room and doesn't think she knows a thing, but knows everything. We make a pretty good team - as long as Rachelle doesn't leave the room!
Congratulations, Dr. Thuya!
I look forward to the years ahead.