A gift for patients

Donation to benefit brain injury, PTSD

By Tracy Brown Wright

College of Nursing student Amber Duren and Karen Reed, a clinical assistant professor of nursing, talk with a traumatic brain injury patient and his wife at Shands Rehab Hospital.

A $3 million gift from a UF College of Nursing alumna will fund education and research focused on quality of life for patients and their families dealing with mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorders and related conditions.

The estate commitment is the single largest gift in the college’s history.

Brenda Barton-Wheaton, who received her bachelor’s degree in 1971 and her master’s degree in 1973, both in nursing, and her husband, Richard Wheaton, a 1956 and 1968 UF agricultural graduate, wanted to ensure their gift would have a meaningful impact for both the university and for patient care, now and in the future.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, annually. Care and rehabilitation for individuals with TBI is complex and lengthy. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is also prevalent and follows exposure to extreme stress. Many of those suffering from PTSD fail to seek treatment because they have not identified their symptoms as trauma-related.

Nurses are the front line of the American health care system, and special efforts should be made to ensure all nurses recognize the signs and symptoms of mild to moderate TBI, PTSD and related conditions, said Kathleen Ann Long, Ph.D., R.N., College of Nursing dean. The gift will establish an endowment to fund education and research activities for faculty and students. It will provide scholarships and stipends for undergraduate and graduate students, funding for doctoral students’ research and projects, and support for faculty members.

“Our vision for this gift is to support talented individuals in their efforts to obtain an education and conduct research to discover optimal ways to provide excellent care for individuals and families with mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Barton-Wheaton said. “We hope that education and research leads to better care for patients and that their families are better-educated regarding these conditions and more able to advocate for optimal care.”

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