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Augsburg Alumna Joins U of M’s Board of Regents

Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74 (Contributed photo by Mayo Clinic)
Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74
Contributed photo by Mayo Clinic

Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74 has been elected to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, representing the First Congressional District. She credits her time on Augsburg’s board as a major contribution to her being elected to the U of M’s board.

Augsburg University

Ruth had a number of influences that led her to choose Augsburg as an undergraduate. She grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, so she knew of Augsburg. Her family was also active in their large, vibrant Lutheran congregation, where Dr. Ted Hanwick, Augsburg’s first chairman of the Physics Department, was also a member. Ruth sought a college with excellent academics, a Lutheran faith background, with a preference for an urban location. Dr. Hanwick encouraged her to explore Augsburg.

Halfway through her senior year of high school, Ruth’s father passed away. During his illness, she spent time in hospitals with her father. Also, since age 16, she had worked in the hospital pharmacy where her father was Chief of Pharmacy. All these experiences pivoted her interests to pre-med.

“My first love was languages and I planned to pursue a Ph.D. in English or Spanish. But all I saw in hospitals moved me to a career in medicine. There’s so much a person can do in terms of advances in science and in patient care, all of which can make such a difference in people’s lives,” says Ruth.

After graduating summa cum laude with majors in chemistry and biology and a minor in religion, Ruth went on to graduate from Mayo Medical School and completed her internal medicine residency at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.

Ruth was the first woman associate director of the Internal Medicine Residency program at Mayo Clinic and chaired the Bioethics Courses at Mayo Medical School. She later devoted 17 years to the Mayo Clinic MD-PhD Admissions Committee. She founded the Mayo Diagnostic Breast Clinic in 1993. It was shortly after this that then Augsburg President Charles Anderson invited Ruth to join the Board of Regents. Dr. John Holum, an Organic Chemistry professor and one of Ruth’s favorite professors at Augsburg, recommended her.

“I thought, ‘I love Augsburg and this is a great chance to re-engage in a new way and contribute to the college.’ It was a very meaningful experience,” says Ruth.

Early on in her stint as a board member, Ruth was involved in the fundraising and celebration of the Lindell Library, which opened in 1997. By the late 90’s, she was helping with foundational work that would lead to the creation of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Among the work Ruth is proudest of during her time as a Regent is sparking the idea for Augsburg’s Rochester Campus.

“My work with nurses at Mayo Clinic made me aware that many nurses in Rochester were certificate RN’s without a baccalaureate degree. Because of this, their career advancement was limited and there was no readily available way to complete a BSN. Augsburg’s Weekend College had already had years of experience offering degree programs for adults. I went to then President Bill Frame and suggested Augsburg create a degree program in Rochester.”

University of Minnesota

In 2020, Ruth was approached by the alumni and friends of the University of Minnesota to join their Board. Her educational leadership at Mayo Clinic was well known, as was her 16 years on Augsburg’s Board of Regents.

“When you’re on a board, it’s about governance, higher level, big picture thinking. It’s not managing, that’s the administration’s job. My 16 years with three different presidents at Augsburg meant I knew how a board functions, this was a strong background for me,” says Ruth. “Augsburg also has a really excellent reputation among legislators, they know Augsburg has done good work and they know those values are part of my work.”

Ruth was elected in a joint legislative session held on March 15, 2021 for a six-year term.

Augsburg will always be part of Ruth’s life, though. At Augsburg, Ruth loved getting to know fellow regents, alumni, faculty, and students. Ruth is also married to Phil Quanbeck II, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Augsburg University.

“It’s a great place and a privilege to be involved with such an incredible group of people.”

She is now looking forward to her work with the U of M, and to connecting to the people she will work with over the next six years.

Nursing in the Community

David Clark ’18 – Doctor of Nurse Practice Program

Katie and David Clark

David Clark had been in nursing for a few years, working as an intensive care nurse in hospitals. In an ER, nurses and doctors try to medically diagnose people to fix a problem. But David wanted to know more about why people were coming to the ER – especially the “frequent flyers” – and if there was a way to better help them. He’d never seen nursing in the community, never seen how nursing practice was serving marginalized communities.

So when his friend and colleague from ICU at Fairview, Katie Clark, invited him to volunteer at Augsburg’s Health Commons in Minneapolis, he jumped at the chance. And it was here that David learned about Augsburg’s nursing program.

Augsburg’s Health Commons is a nursing-led drop-in center, led and organized by nursing faculty members, nursing volunteers, students, and community members.

Ruth Enestvedt was the director then, and the wonderful nurses volunteering had an amazing connection with the community, with people who had disappeared from society and were homeless,” says David. “These folks came to the commons to be part of a community. This was inspiring to me, to cast a new way nursing could serve a community.”

When talking about the Health Commons, Ruth Enestvedt said, “We assume that people are experts in their own lives. We provide useful, relevant service that respects what the person brings to the situation.” David took this statement to heart and decided to finish his graduate degree at Augsburg because of the program’s emphasis on marginalized people.

“I was working in an intensive care and ER in downtown St. Paul at the larger of the trauma centers for the inner city. It was like being at two ends of the pipe: I saw how community issues from the Health Commons translated into why people ended up in my ER frequently. I saw the connections to the complex story.”

David earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. While he says the U of M is a great school, when looking for a doctoral and nurse practitioner program, he wanted something focused on community outreach. He found this at Augsburg.

“Augsburg is unique in what it’s trying to do with community.”

David is now an emergency room nurse practitioner. He wanted to stay on the ER track, but also wanted to carry on his doctoral work. He works in the St. Croix Falls area, at a smaller medical center with an ER.

“I ended up here in part because of where I live, but also it serves marginalized rural communities. It’s incredibly hard to get health care access in rural communities, and Polk County is near the top of the lists for struggling for health care access.”

This medical center serves a lot of the River Valley in western Wisconsin. They deal with a fair amount of people in poverty – who live in trailers and on farmsteads – so David and his colleagues work closely with the state to increase access.

“I’m still training, I’m kind of a resident right now, still getting on my feet, but I’m able to do graduate work and work with people who experience poverty. It’s a smaller volume than I am used to, but I’m finding a lot of hallmarks between the city and the country, just different kinds of challenges.”

While David appreciates the education he received at Augsburg, he is also thankful for Augsburg because it was his volunteering at the Health Commons where he discovered another great love: his wife, Katie Clark.

“It was great to find Katie!”

Katie is an Assistant Professor at Augsburg and took over as Executive Director of the Health Commons when Ruth retired. After working at the ICU at Fairview together, and then volunteering at the Health Commons together, Katie and David started dating and after a short time got married. Together, David and Katie continue to work with marginalized communities in hopes that they can help others look at a new way to practice and see patients.

Augsburg’s Health Commons

Health Commons tree logoThrough the years, Augsburg nurses have met community members who have welcomed their service. In the relationships that have developed, nurses continue to experience the mutuality of health – when someone grows stronger, that strength helps everyone in the community.

Since its opening, the Health Commons has been supported by donations of both time and supplies from people of many backgrounds who want to help. The original partners continue to support the Commons, and nurses from the wider nursing community also assist in its operation.

Hollenbeck is Nurse of the Year at Children’s

Lani HollenbeckWith two sisters and a mother as strong role models, Lani (Langanki) Hollenbeck ’77, MAN ’11 wasn’t surprised by the rewards of working with fragile newborns and their families. But, drawn into nursing after having already earned her B.S. at Augsburg in Social Work, she discovered that combining the two areas allowed her to expand her worldview practice by looking at new ways of supporting those families at a crucial time—in the midst of challenging healthcare situations.

In her work as a staff nurse at the Minneapolis-based Infant Care Center of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, she supports parents as they nurture their newborn infants. Recently named 2014 Nurse of the Year by March of Dimes neonatal, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, and Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, Hollenbeck knows it is hard for parents when births don’t go as planned or babies arrive too early, and she has always felt drawn to help them and their tiny babies. She believes these little ones deserve nurses who are committed to supporting their little bodies and souls for survival, growth, and development. Continue reading “Hollenbeck is Nurse of the Year at Children’s”