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Inspired to Become Like Them

Post University DNP Graduate Joins the College of Nursing and Health Sciences as Adjunct Professor

At 18-years old, Leona Gamerl went to the University of California, Davis, with the intention of becoming a doctor. But after a challenging chemistry course, she felt intimidated and switched majors to psychology. “I loved it and added a minor in education, and my plan was to go into teaching,” says Leona, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Talked Into an Emergency Medical Technician Course

When Leona’s college roommate enrolled in an Emergency Medical Technician course at a nearby community college, she talked Leona into joining her. “That led me into earning that certificate and joining Davis Ambulance, which became my weekend college job,” she says. By senior year, Leona was rethinking her future. She decided to finish her B.A. in psychology, move home to complete the prerequisites for nursing school, and apply.

The Start of Her Nursing Journey

Leona earned an A.S. in nursing at Sacramento City College in 1991, working as a unit secretary at Sutter Davis Hospital in the emergency department while in school. When she graduated, she started at Sutter General Hospital before getting the call to apply to the emergency department back at Sutter Davis. “That was a great opportunity to work side–by-side with the nurses who were my inspirations when I was in school,” she says.

Over the next several years, Leona expanded her clinical knowledge, moving to southern California and working at Saddleback Medical Center before returning to the Bay Area and working for Stanford Medical Center. Eventually, she took a position at an outpatient surgery center for a change of pace.

A Move to Texas and into Nursing Education

In 2001, Leona had an opportunity to move to Austin, Texas, where she joined the Austin Diagnostic Clinic, a multispecialty outpatient clinic, as an OBGYN nurse. Her 11-year career there broadened her horizons and expanded her knowledge, and along the way, she returned to school online for a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees, completing both by 2011. Her MSN emphasis was in nursing education.

“My family has a lot of teachers, so as my nursing career unfolded, I started feeling like I wanted to marry my love of nursing with my teaching genes,” she says. As she neared the end of the MSN program, Leona completed her teaching practicum at Austin Community College in the licensed vocational nursing program. When she graduated, she joined full time as an associate professor in the associate degree nursing program, starting in January 2012.

Inspired to Earn a Doctorate

At Austin Community College, Leona has enjoyed the college’s commitment to continuous growth. “ACC is a large community college with many resources for students, excellent faculty and high academic standards,” she says. It was the influence of her colleagues that convinced Leona to return to school for a doctorate. “We have a high number of faculty here with doctoral degrees, and I want to be able to teach graduate nursing one day, too.”

In 2020—by then a full professor—Leona started researching programs and found American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University. “I knew I wanted a clinically focused doctoral program rather than one focused on research. The Doctor of Nursing Practice – Educational Leadership Specialization looked great, and the first time I reached out to an admissions advisor l, it felt like I was talking to an old friend.”

A Graduate and Now an Adjunct Professor at American Sentinel

In December 2022, Leona completed the DNP with an educational leadership specialization. “I liked the practice experiences that we did for our courses, and I learned so much about the inner workings of a college, like the funding and the decisions made by leaders and trustees,” Leona says. After 12 years teaching in the ADN program at Austin Community College, she transitioned into the RN to BSN program, which was the first RN to BSN program in Texas to be housed in a community college since 2018.

In another full-circle career moment, Leona was also hired in fall 2023 as an adjunct professor at Post University in the RN to BSN SIMPath® program. One day, she hopes to teach in the MSN and DNP programs, too.

A Wonderful Experience

Even though the idea of returning to school later in her career was initially daunting, Leona says she is glad she took the leap. “I’m thankful for the professional opportunities I’ve had and to the entire American Sentinel team who wanted to help me get here,” she says. “It’s like when I started my career working with the emergency room nurses who inspired me when I was a unit secretary. I am now working side-by-side with the amazing faculty who taught me. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I am still on a cloud.”