April 24, 2012

Our Neighbors: From dropout to going for a doctorate

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — David Brown, now an advanced registered nurse practitioner, dropped out of school in the 10th grade because he thought he knew everything.

“I dropped out of Laurel County High in the 10th grade when I had just turned 17,” Brown recalled. “I was a typical teenager who knew everything and didn’t feel school was for me, so I quit.”

Brown’s first job was working at Long John Silver’s. The restaurant had an incentive program at that time for their employees.  “If you got your GED, they’d give you $300 bucks,” Brown said. “I was all over that and I thought that was the best amount of money in the world. I got my GED at the top of where the sheriff’s office is now. As soon as I got that, I got a wild notion to go to college.”

Still 17, Brown enrolled in Eastern Kentucky University, but failed out after the first semester.

“I bombed out,” he said. “I drank a lot. I had a fake I.D. I was drinking quite a bit. What other time in your life are your parents going to pay thousands of dollars to send you to a strange town to get drunk every night, it was an unusual time.”

Brown stayed in Richmond and worked at dead-end jobs for awhile.

“Finally, I thought it was time to do something with my life. I thought I would go to nursing school. Back then, not like now, you could get into college easily but I had to work extra hard because I didn’t have the prerequisites you need from high school.”

Brown wanted to be a nurse because he wanted to help people and had done a lot of research and found out nurses made good money and, as he states, “I was tired of being hungry all the time.

“I was actually 26 when I started in nursing school but, it took a few extra years to complete my associate’s degree having been a high school dropout.” He got a 2-year degree in nursing and went to work for the University of Kentucky Hospital as a kidney, kidney-pancreas and liver transplant specialist. He worked there for about a year and then became a traveling nurse where he cared for critically ill patients throughout the United States.  

“I went from state to state, having lived in 18 and caring for individuals with varying medical conditions in mostly intensive care units and emergency rooms, the experience was great. Travel nurses get paid for traveling, housing, and food, besides making a big salary. It’s a win-win situation.

Brown graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1998 with an associate degree in nursing, and in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree, also from Eastern. In 2011 he graduated from Frontier Nursing University with honors and will be inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, the national honor society for nursing this summer.  

“It’s a great honor to be recognized for my achievements,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of weird for a high school dropout to get it.”

He will continue his education this fall by attending Regis University in Denver, Colo., to obtain his doctorate of nursing practices degree while continuing to see patients on a full-time basis.

 “It’s great in a world where one can receive the education they desire online while continuing to have the ability to work,” he said.

Nurse practitioners being “independent licensed practitioners” perform much of the same procedures as their doctor counterparts, he said, including writing prescriptions, ordering labs, cat scans, MRIs, minor in office surgeries, IV therapy, “and can go as far as opening their own freestanding clinics.”  

Brown said working with Dr. Dennis Ulrich has been invaluable. “Even though I am an independent practitioner, it is always nice to have someone of Dr. Ulrich’s caliber and expertise around if something happens that is out of my scope of practice.  Even though I can do all these things right now, I wanted to finish my education to prove not only to myself but others who had told me it would be impossible for me to succeed in medicine, that given hard work and a desire to succeed, anything is possible.

“I enjoy learning,” he continued. “I actually have two masters. My first one was in political science. I’m a private pilot.  I am an ordained minister.  I have studied lots of different things. Having spent almost 14 years in classrooms in one form or another, I would hope that others will see that anything is possible as long as they set their minds to it.”

Brown lives off Ky. 30 about three miles from the clinic. He has a 19-year-old-daughter, Lindsay, who he hopes will follow in his footsteps.  

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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