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Debra Bailey
Debra Bailey, head of Colorado Mesa University’s Department of Health Sciences

Bailey brings unique expertise to state commission on aging

Debra Bailey, head of Colorado Mesa University’s Department of Health Sciences, is the first nurse to serve on the Colorado Department of Health and Human Service’s Commission on Aging. She was appointed in August.

“[Being the first nurse] surprised me when I interviewed,” Bailey recalled. “We want to see more nurses on boards because they bring a unique perspective on many issues.”

According to the commission, Colorado has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the U.S. By 2021, there will be more than 1,350,000 adults aged 60 years and older in the state, the commission reported.

“On the commission, we bring ideas and concerns that the aging population may have,” Bailey said. “It’s housed under the Department of Human Services, and one of the biggest areas they look at is elder abuse.” Elder abuse can span the physical, emotional and financial realms, including neglect.

One of Bailey’s goals is to bring the commission’s attention to aging in place, a concept that focuses on ensuring that elderly individuals and couples can live at home and have the services they need brought to them.

Aside from specializing in aging, Bailey has worked as a family nurse practitioner, in orthopedics and in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 17 years at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, her hometown. Bailey received her first degree from CMU in 1987 before graduating from the neonatal nurse practitioner program at South Dakota State University. She later obtained a master’s in community health, a post-master’s certificate in family nursing, and a doctorate in physiology, specializing in type 1 diabetes, from the University of Colorado Denver.

Bailey described nursing as an opportunity to wear many hats, and said that being at CMU has enabled her to teach in many different programs, including fundamentals of nursing, pediatrics, leadership, obstetrics, public health and community health.

“The variety has been what I love,” she said, “and every day is different.”

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Dana Nunn, Director of Media Relations

dnunn@coloradomesa.edu

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