2015-09-23, Donna Wagner, NMSU Dean of Health and Social Services

President Alex Keatts called the meeting to order for Bill Wheeler’s invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.   Janet Green leading the club in singing “Kum Ba Yah.”  After the meet and greet, Patty Groth was the mystery greeter.  

Happy dollars came next.  Blaine Goss thanked Ron Salak for his “help” with Spokes and Cogs.  John Hernandez was happy to be there.  Charles Townley returned from a successful birding trip.  Mary Ellen McKay had been to the Washington State Fair to see one of her volleyball-playing granddaughters show rabbits.  Dave Yaryan traveled to Tucson to watch NMSU volleyball. Gary Ashbacher told us that Theresa has a dislocated hip; his daughter is having a casino night next Thursday at De La Vega’s to support High Heels for High Hopes.  NMSU student Tessa Drinkard was happy to be an ambassador for the College of Health and Social Services (HSS).  Jim Scott reminded us that UTEP’s football team scored 50 points on Saturday. 

Rosemary Crawford, visiting from the Mesilla Valley Club, (pictured right) reminded us of Sunday’s International Student Picnic, 4-6 at Preciado Park on campus, stealing Cornell Menking’s thunder.  Ted Shelton introduced two potential Rotarians who both work at Tresco, CEO Debra Batista and VP Laura Miller.  President Alex also introduced Oñate Student Allina Wallace.  Les Smith introduced HSS ambassadors Tessa Drinkard, Jessie Velasco (both nursing majors) and April Tena (studying social work), and their advisor Courtney Merhege. 

President Alex informed us of a brief board meeting to follow the club meeting. 

The Program

Les Smith introduced our speaker, Donna Wagner, Dean of the NMSU College of Health and Social Services.  Dean Wagner studied and researched in the area of gerontology and is a relative newcomer to Las Cruces, although she had an uncle on the radio in Roswell, doing sports and … classical music.  Copies of the college magazine, Vitality: Reaching Beyond the Horizon, were distributed on the tables. 

Dean Wagner noted that Les Smith and Denton Holmes were each on the college advisory board, and told us about the three units of the college, all accredited: the School of Social Work, the School of Nursing, and the Department of Public Health Sciences.  Students in the college are mostly upperclassmen and graduate students. 

The nursing school is proud to note that 68 of the 73 nursing students from DACC have become nurses.  Social workers are essential parts of the healthcare system, involved in mental health and child welfare issues, among many other tasks.  The public health sciences program prepares students to work in public health settings; many of the students already have advanced degrees in medical fields.  

Public health students and faculty are working on a project with a local man, John Hamilton, who has Parkinson’s disease.  The state department of health has registries to track those diagnosed with Alzheimers’ disease, multiple sclerosis, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); the registry provides for surveillance on persons with these conditions, to track that they are getting appropriate care, medical and personal.  The project is aimed at convincing the state health department to add a registry for Parkinson’s sufferers for a similar purpose.  A graduate student from Egypt, a trained neurological specialist getting a master’s in public health, has taken a leadership role in this project.  

Dean Wagner’s personal goal for the college is to increase community engagement.  Last spring, the college sponsored a conference on end-of-life issues; over 400 people came to the convention center for this program.  This year’s conference, Vitality for Life, will focus on wellness issues.  The conference will be free to the public, and will feature as a keynote speaker a researcher focusing on centenarians. 

Les next introduced the three student ambassadors, nursing students Tessa Drinkard and Jessie Velasco, and social work student April Tena.  They took several questions about the college from Rotarians.  Rosemary Crawford asked about training to serve non-English speakers; the students responded that they were getting some training in that area (social work students have language course requirements), but they’d like to see a course in Spanish for healthcare professionals.  Blaine Goss, retired head of the communications department, noted that doctors are generally lousy communicators (sorry, Bob); the students noted that their curricula were sensitive to this issue and involved role playing for practice.  Jodie asked about their preparation to help patients with insurance issues; April noted that she would like to see more programs focusing on how to help non-English speakers with this. 

Mary Ellen McKay asked about the nursing students about plans for graduate school; both said they were, Jessie wants to follow on with her study abroad program with Peruvian midwives and Tessa is planning for a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP).  James Gerwels related that he preferred to see a nurse practitioner to a doctor and asked “What are doctors getting wrong?”  Both nursing students felt that the nurses holistic approach, focused on a person rather than a disease, made patients more comfortable, before noting that doctors too are essential to the process of getting patients well. 

After the Program

Executive Director Patty Groth reported that can proceeds of $52 will go to La Casa.  The 50/50 drawing was won by Lya Jordan, who donated it to the can.  We closed with the Rotary Four-Way Test.

<prior week   following week>

Guests of Rotarians



Laura Miller

Ted Shelton (club)

Courtney Merhege


Tessa Drinkard


Jessie Velasco


April Tena


Visiting Rotarians


Home Club

Rosemary Crawford

Mesilla Valley

Debra Battista

Rio Grande

Student Guests



Allina Wallace








Submitted by Bill Harty