Navy Veteran, Tillman Scholar Focuses Doctoral Education on Promoting Women’s Health

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November 8, 2021 – Cassie Bronson (G’22), a U.S. Navy veteran, is in her last year of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the School of Nursing & Health Studies – an experience that has allowed her to grow academically as she pursues her goal of becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner.

Cassie Bronson in her white clinical laboratory coat pictured in an outdoor setting in front of trees.
Cassie Bronson (G’22) is completing her final year in the DNP Program and will become a women’s health nurse practitioner. A Navy veteran, she is a Pat Tillman Foundation scholar and a Graduate Student Nursing Academy Advocacy Leader through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“I appreciate the program for the variety of coursework and experiences that are integrated,” said Bronson, who was selected in 2020 as a Pat Tillman Foundation scholar. “I have been empowered to view health care issues from different angles to identify solutions.”

In particular, she said she values how the program seeks to be more inclusive by looking closely at both the language used and the health inequities impacting communities around the country. 

A Sense of Duty

Bronson spent her childhood and teenage years in Alaska, before heading to Idaho for her bachelor of science in nursing at Lewis-Clark State College. 

“Military service was always a duty I felt drawn to,” she said. “It wasn’t something I directly grew up with even though my father and grandfather both served. After 9/11, serving my country felt like the right thing to do, and I was commissioned into the Navy after I graduated in 2005.” 

Two years later, Bronson was supposed to deploy to Iraq and another two after that to Afghanistan. These deployments did not occur, she said, adding, “It is one of my biggest disappointments.” 

However, she is very proud of the time she spent on the USS Boxer, including receiving a certificate to mark that she had traveled across the equator. The document is now displayed with her grandfather’s from the Second World War. 

‘A More Empathic Provider’

Bronson and her future husband, who also served in the Navy, met in Italy. Their time apart during his deployment to Africa informed their decision to end their military service, a meaningful time in her life that continues to inform Bronson’s lens as a health provider.

“Knowing what military life is like for both servicemembers and their families makes me a more empathic provider for that population,” she said. “If I work for the VA, this will prove invaluable.” 

Carrie Bronson in her Navy uniform in front of the flag of the United States of America.
Bronson, pictured in her United States Navy uniform, was commissioned in 2005.

She noted that the Navy, too, gave her the opportunity to see commonality in diversity. “I met and worked with people from all backgrounds from across the country and world,” she said. “It helped me learn that people aren’t really that different from one another, but each life experience is unique.”

Tillman Scholar and AACN

For the past year and a half, Bronson has – due to COVID – engaged with Tillman Foundation events virtually. The experience, particularly the Pat’s Run Challenge Series, has greatly inspired her. 

“This year, I will have completed Pat’s Run Challenge Series – 4.2 miles, a 10K, and currently 42 miles in 40 days,” she noted. “The 42in40 completes on Veterans Day. I completed the 42in40 last year, and it really inspired me to keep moving and stay active. I’ve lost 25 pounds by participating in the Tillman-sponsored running activities.”

Additionally, Bronson was recently selected to serve as a Graduate Student Nursing Academy (GSNA) Advocacy Leader for Montana through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a role that has increased her awareness of policies, pending legislation, and how to raise issues with members of Congress.

“I applied for this program after the advocacy day session at Georgetown University,” Bronson recalled. “I was inspired by how unrepresented nurses are at the policy-making table and want to add my voice to advocate for issues I think are important. Part of why I am a DNP student is to make changes at the policy level, and this program allows me to be a part of that.”

Looking Ahead

During her final year of studies at Georgetown, Bronson will be focusing on her doctoral project, one that seeks to better understand the phenomenon of substance use among pregnant women with particular attention on identifying them and offering support during and following childbirth.

“This topic identifies gaps in provider knowledge, community resources, and state and national policies,” she said. Bronson hopes to publish her work.

“My anticipated graduation is very timely because my community is building a brand-new VA clinic,” she explained, highlighting how women veterans will have increased services. “I think that it would be a wonderful opportunity to continue my clinical, advocacy, and research interests.”

‘Hard Work and Sacrifices’

With the United States honoring Veterans Day this week and given her own life experiences, Bronson asked to share a message with her Georgetown classmates.

“I have several other classmates who are veterans and/or military spouses and would like to express my gratitude and acknowledge their hard work and sacrifices,” she said.

By Bill Cessato