Local doctor knows first-hand importance of good nurses

It seemed only natural for long-time Putnam County physician Dr. James T. DeBerry and his wife, Felix, to make a donation to a Tennessee Tech University campaign to raise $21 million for a new School of Nursing building.

After all, they’ve made various contributions to the university over the years, both as a couple and as individuals — and he knows from first-hand professional experience how important good nurses are to the medical industry.

“It’s surprising just how little a doctor can do without the help of good nurses. You can’t perform work that’s necessary for the wellbeing of your patients nearly as efficiently without them — and TTU graduates good nurses,” he said.

His wife agreed, saying, “We think TTU offers an education that ranks among the best, and it would be marvelous for the university to have a new nursing building.”

It would be the first specifically built to accommodate the 25-year-old academic program, and the project is especially important now, in light of a projected national nursing shortage that could result in a million job vacancies by 2010 and which is already forcing medical facilities in some regions to seek nurses educated in other countries.

Among the new building’s architectural features will be state-of-the-art classrooms, clinical labs and faculty facilities, a 300-seat auditorium and other conference and meeting rooms, an updated Student Health Services facility and a $4 million Rural Health Center of Excellence to serve the special needs of the Upper Cumberland.

The future construction of the facility won’t be the first time the DeBerrys have witnessed the university making innovations in response to national nursing needs. In fact, Dr. DeBerry was a member of Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s board of trustees when the academic program began — but that’s not all.

A TTU graduate himself, he became the university’s first student to earn a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine in 1940. He graduated from medical school in Memphis in 1944 and served as a U.S. Army doctor for two years before returning to Putnam County, where he practiced as a family physician for 40 years. He now works as a psychiatric counselor at Plateau Mental Health Center.

His wife is also a TTU graduate, as are five of their 11 children.

“We are grateful to all the opportunities TTU has provided to our family, so we naturally want to support it to the best of our ability,” Mrs. DeBerry said.

For more information about the nursing campaign, call University Development at 931/372-3055 or check out the “Giving to TTU” link on the university homepage at www.tntech.edu.

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