Local nurse concerned about rising diabetes rates
May 16, 2008
Donna Wahoff-Stice was very concerned when area health-care workers began seeing a dramatic rise in diabetes cases, especially in the growing Hispanic community in Park City. Her response predictably was to volunteer to create a diabetes treatment and education program in conjunction with the People’s Health Clinic.
For Wahoff-Stice, a veteran clinical nurse and nurse practitioner, it was a no-brainer. "I actually believe we should be giving more of ourselves," she says. "When you’re committed to a cause, giving money alone may allow us to say we’re helping, but we’re not really seeing and feeling the issues."
"We live in such an affluent environment, it’s difficult for some of us to see the very real problems of poverty, access to medical care and hunger that don’t affect us directly."
Wahoff-Stice, whose resume of academic and professional accomplishments is astounding, still blushed when this writer attempted to shine light on her impressive record of volunteer work for the Park City community. It was refreshing.
Wahoff-Stice was born in St. Louis, Mo., the oldest of Evelyn and Robert Wahoff’s three children. She has a sister, Janet, and a brother, John. She describes herself as outgoing, says she likes to laugh and likes it best when others laugh along with her.
She attended Catholic schools, graduating from Bishop-DuBourg High School in S. Louis. She loved to read and excelled in earth-science classes. "I went to the guidance counselor, who was a nun, and told her I wanted to go to college and become a geologist," she recalls. "The nun said, ‘I’m sorry honey, girls are nurses and teachers.’ I didn’t want to be a teacher, so I studied nursing."
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She attended the Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing in St. Louis, where she certified as a registered nurse in 1974. Three years later she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing at St. Louis University. She worked as a pediatric and surgical nurse in the St. Louis area before venturing west in 1978 to work in Yellowstone National Park for a summer.
"I’ve loved the outdoors since I was a kid and being able to combine nursing with playing in Yellowstone seemed to be ideal," she explains.
She met her husband, David while working there. "We found an immediate common interest in backpacking, hiking and fly-fishing," she says. "He was from Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and we quickly realized that our homes were only 200 miles apart. Much to our parents’ dismay, we chose to move to Missoula, Mont. and work in Yellowstone for another summer."
The couple married in the fall of 1979 and settled in Salt Lake City "because it was close to Yellowstone, skiing and the desert." Wahoff-Stice took a job as a staff nurse at Primary Children’s Medical Center, while her husband attended the University of Utah.
In 1982 the couple moved to Ft. Collins, Colo., where David pursued a masters degree in civil engineering at Colorado State University. Wahoff-Stice took a job as a staff nurse at a hospital in nearby Longmont.
They scurried back to Salt Lake City soon after he completed his advanced degree in 1987. She quickly found work as a staff nurse at Holy Cross Hospital and began their family. They have twin girls, Leslie and Sarah, both in college. In 1989 they bought a lot in Summit Park, built a home there in 1993, and have lived there ever since.
"We love our home in Summit Park," says Wahoff-Stice. "It’s close to our jobs and we can ski out the back door." She and her husband are avid Nordic and back-country skiers. She competes annually in the Wasatch Citizens Series races and serves on the board of The Utah Nordic Ski Alliance (TUNA).
In 1989, Wahoff-Stice accepted a position as a clinic nurse specialist at the University of Utah Hospital. She was certified as a family nurse-practitioner in 1996. In that capacity, she held a succession of positions at the University of Utah Hospital and clinics, Salt Lake Orthopedics, and the Public Employee Health Program’s Redwood Clinic. She currently holds a position as a nurse practitioner at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology. Her primary focus is the Utah Diabetes Center.
Wahoff-Stice’s list of volunteer activities and awards would take up another page of the paper. In addition to her volunteer work with the People’s Health Clinic and TUNA, she’s active with the Association of Diabetes Educators of Utah, Nurse Practitioners of Utah, the Girl Scouts, the Paralympics, local public radio stations, and more.
She counts among her favorite TUNA volunteer jobs the annual potluck Thanksgiving dinner she helps prepare for 150 hungry Nordic skiers. "We bake 10 turkeys and a couple of hams and they disappear in a hurry," she grins.
In recent years, the fight against diabetes has consumed Wahoff-Stice. "Diabetes is now epidemic in this country and it can have devastating consequences if not properly treated," she cautions. "Many patients are afraid of the complications because they’ve had family members who have gone blind, had kidney failure or lost a foot to the disease.
"I love my job at the Utah Diabetes Center and really enjoy working with the Hispanic community at the People’s Clinic in Park City," she says. It’s so rewarding and the people are so grateful."
Her incredible dedication to this work has not gone unnoticed. In November 2007 she was the recipient of the Utah Diabetes Educator of the Year Award. "I was very honored to be recognized by my peers," she acknowledges.
Wahoff-Stice will soon notch 34 years in the nursing profession. ‘I have to say I have no regrets," she reflects. "I think I’ve had the opportunity to help a lot of people. I really do believe strongly in volunteerism. So many of us in the Park City area lead such privileged lives that we really should get out there and volunteer to do something, to give something back. People here have a lot to give."
Married, two grown children
Favorite things: Skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, camping and sailing
Favorite food: "I haven’t met a food I didn’t like. I love to cook, experiment with many
cuisines and collect cookbooks."
Favorite music: Jazz, bluegrass, folk and a smattering of ’70s rock.
Animal companions: Avery, a yellow Lab, and two cats, Gandalf the Grey and Tequila.