Lead by example: doctoral candidate creates opportunities in rural Northern California

Perry Gee
Doctoral candidate Perry Gee co-teaches an informatics course at the School of Nursing.

Editor's note: This story was first published in winter 2012. As of June 2014, Gee is graduate of the School of Nursing.

As an educator at a Northern California nursing school, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing doctoral candidate Perry Gee recognized his role as a leader within his rural community. He says his experience at the UC Davis nursing school helped him further understand the many ways he can serve his community as a health-care leader to advance health and improve care. 

“The leadership aspect of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing has been the most eye-opening,” Gee said. “The faculty and my peers motivate me to make changes in my community.”

Leadership development is a core element featured throughout the interprofessional Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Group Degree Programs and Gee said he was impressed with how this concept was woven into every facet of the curriculum.

Gee teaches nursing leadership and health-care economics and management courses at Simpson University in Redding, Calif. He also teaches informatics courses at the UC Davis Extension Health Informatics Certificate Program. Informatics is the study and application of information systems in health care. It deals with the resources, devices and methods required to optimize the acquisition, storage, retrieval and use of health information and data.

Redding is a community with no graduate-degree programs in nursing and where there are few opportunities for continuing education for nurses. When he earns his degree, Gee will be one of the only doctorally prepared nurses in the county. Gee said it’s essential that nurses elevate the profession from within, especially in the geographically isolated north state.
“I recognized nurses in Redding don’t have the same opportunities as nurses in other parts of the state. My goal is to open those doors to further their education,” Gee said.

In an effort to increase educational and professional nursing opportunities in his community, Gee and his wife, Julie Gee—also a nurse teaching at Shasta College and Simpson University —founded the Northern California Professional Nurse Network in 2011. As a grassroots effort, Gee uses the connections he made at UC Davis to invite nurse leaders to the area to talk about national health-care issues. He builds partnerships with local hospitals and agencies to provide meeting space and continuing education credits.

“This is a long-term, win-win solution for both area nurses and local employers. These are the types of interprofessional partnerships that result in solutions,” Gee said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the skills I learned at the UC Davis School of Nursing.”

This ability to see a problem and find a creative solution is exactly the type of skills fostered by the school, said Deborah Ward, the associate dean for academics for the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

Students assess the type of leader they want to become and then mentor others and lead projects to enhance these skills at a deeper level. They build leadership skills and learn how to inspire a shared vision and engage others to accomplish goals. Gee said applies these lessons every day to make changes in his profession.

“Our education program is all about active learning, problem solving and partnering with our community—this is what makes the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing innovative,” Ward said.

According to Gee, his strengthened skills as a nurse leader and long history within the health-care management program at Simpson University led to a promotion this year to director of Simpson University’s R.N.-to-B.S.N. program. As a further testament to his leadership, in fall 2012 Gee was also appointed Simpson University’s interim dean of continuing studies, which is responsible for seven academic areas at the university.

In this role, Gee oversees the programs under the university’s ASPIRE program. The program offers courses both online and in a traditional classroom setting. In addition, Gee is developing an online R.N.-to-B.S.N. program to accompany the classroom program the university already offers. He also utilizes the connections made at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing to develop online master’s-degree courses. 

“The School of Nursing helped me create networking opportunities with nurse leaders that would not have been accessible to me. And now I have the confidence and ability to bring those contacts—leaders within nursing—to my region to help give nurses in the area similar exposure,” Gee said. “I owe it all—the creation of the Northern California Professional Nurse Network, my current promotions and my confidence as a leader—to the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.”

This quarter, Gee assists Associate Adjunct Professor Alberto Odor in the classroom at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. Odor teaches Introduction to Health Informatics in Nursing to master’s-degree students. The course is different than others offered through the Health Informatics Certificate Program because it focuses on the ways nurses use informatics.

As a member of the inaugural Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Program doctoral class, Gee believes UC Davis’ innovative approach to nursing education and leadership will open the door for graduates to lead improvements in health care. He is uncertain where his career may unfold after he completes his doctoral degree, but he said the School of Nursing helped him to see solutions and collaborations in his own community that he never previously recognized.

“I wanted to be a part of the transformational change in nursing but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it until I went back to school and gained the skills to give back, doing exactly what I believe in and love,” Gee said.