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Childhood Dream Comes Full Circle
Gretchen Drinkard, PhD, RN

Childhood Dream Comes Full Circle

Posted on 22 Jun 2018 by Goldfarb Team

Written by Gail Appleson

Gretchen Drinkard, PhD, RN, grew up a world away from the comforts many of us enjoy in the United States. Indeed, her formative years were spent in South and Central America, where her father, a United Nations marine biologist, helped governments of poor countries build their fishing industries with hopes of teaching residents how to feed themselves.

Dr. Drinkard’s early experiences in those countries set the stage for her career and the role she plays today: the Jack Taylor Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College.

“There was a lot of poverty and we were very privileged. It was basically the haves and have nots and it was very important to my mother, a social worker, that all of her children give back,” Dr. Drinkard says about her childhood.

Her mother’s encouragement coupled with the fact that Dr. Drinkard had undergone a number of surgeries before she was 15, made her decide at a young age that she wanted to become a nurse. “I guess it was just preordained to be,” she says.

Knowing her daughter’s interest in nursing, Dr. Drinkard’s mother enlisted her in the creation of the first Candy Striper program in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The program provided a way for teenage girls to volunteer at a local pediatric hospital. Also, when Dr. Drinkard was in her early teens, she taught English in a small neighborhood school and served as an English/Spanish translator aboard the SS Hope, which was the world’s first peacetime hospital ship.

Pursuing her dream, Dr. Drinkard went on to study at Southeastern Louisiana University, where she received her BSN followed by her MSN from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her FNP and PhD from University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Dr. Drinkard loved nursing but wanted to take it further. “When I worked at the bedside and I engaged with individuals it was really gratifying but I wanted to extend that somehow. The work was so important to me, I thought if I could influence how others did that work, I could extend my influence,” Dr. Drinkard says.

“I feel like I carry a little piece of the faculty who invested time and energy in me in my practice, and now there are a number of nurses who carry me in their practice.”

As a nurse educator, Dr. Drinkard has more than 35 years of teaching experience, with faculty positions held at University of Texas-Arlington, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Maryville University, and Southwest Missouri State University. Dr. Drinkard, who has also served as Goldfarb’s interim dean, sees administration as a natural growth from her role as an educator. “I enjoy being involved in the development of the direction we will go and enacting the vision and mission of the college,” she says.

But now at age 66, Dr. Drinkard says she is preparing for the next chapter in life that will bring her full-circle back to nursing. She plans to retire from Goldfarb in July and become a volunteer at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

She says Siteman is close to her heart because that’s where she was successfully treated for lymphoma and had undergone extensive chemotherapy and radiation. “I was fortunate to have my husband and son with me for treatments. There were patients who had no one with them. Some had traveled from far away and would stay here for a week and go home on the weekends,” Dr. Drinkard says. “I want to be able to sit with people who want me there. I want to get back to one of my favorite parts of nursing: the emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial support people need when they are going through rough times.

“I will maintain a connection to my nursing self,” she says about her future. “Siteman is world-class medicine. I want to be a part of that.”

Comments (9)Number of views (4518)

9 comments on article "Childhood Dream Comes Full Circle"

Holly Diesel

6/26/2018 9:33 AM

Best wishes Gretchen. The people you touch at Siteman will get to know just how much support you can give. I'm so happy to know I might bump into on campus again.


Teri Boyd

6/26/2018 7:11 PM

It has been an honor to be part of your academic team. We will miss your leadership, vision, and support. Good luck as you adventurenin to the next phase of your life! Keep in touch!! Teri

Bernadette Henrichs

6/28/2018 10:15 AM

Thank you, Gretchen, for all the support you have given to the nurse anesthesia program. It is greatly appreciated. You will be missed!

Terri Montgomery

7/10/2018 12:38 PM

Thank you Dr. Drinkard for your people skills. You always have a calmness about you and a very pleasant demeanor. I have heard you speak of your plans and know you are off to a wonderful retirement. Your presence will be missed here!

Kathi Thimsen

7/10/2018 5:22 PM

Thank you Dr. Drinkard for your kindness and wisdom. You have been one of my most inspiring mentors.

I wish you all the best of health, happiness and fulfillment.

Siteman and the patients will be delighted by the gift of your presence in their healing. be well.

Patricia Bauer

7/10/2018 8:12 PM

You’re a class act and inspiration Dr. Drinkard! Thank you for your kindnesses. Enjoy your new beginnings.

Maria Turner

7/11/2018 11:44 AM

From my time as a student to becoming a member of the faculty, you have been a model of kindness and respect.

Wishing you much happiness in your next chapter

Connie Adcock Reeves

8/19/2018 1:21 PM

I knew Gretchen as a teenager and young adult...she was gorgeous and always had something special about her...loved reading about all of her accomplishments which did not surprise me one bit......

Antonio Palacios Frugone

3/7/2019 8:25 PM

La vida nos puso en caminos diferentes, lo importante es que seamos dignos de ella y tu lo has sido,siempre lo mejor para ti y tu familia. Tony

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