Spotlight Iowa City: Nursing prof wins prestigious award


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Diane Huber knew she wanted to work in the health-care field.

Though she first wanted to become a doctor, adversity stood in her way.

"It wasn't a realistic career option for women," the 60-year-old said, and it wasn't the norm to educate women in math and science fields when she was in school.

But despite those obstacles, the Cedar Rapids native attended the University of Iowa to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 1975.

Set on entering the health-care field, Huber said "I always sort of knew, so that was a great gift."

She is now a professor and the coordinator of health systems at the UI College of Nursing and the College of Public Health. She is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and is certified by the American Nurses Association.

In October, the American Nurses Credentialing Center awarded Huber the Certified Advanced Nurse Award, saluting her research and experience in nursing education.

Huber began her career working in primary care with a group of pediatricians. She also spent time working in the UIHC neonatal unit of the hospital, where she endured a challenging experience in the late-1970s.

Huber said there was a power outage in the intensive-care unit and the backup generator did not kick in.

"I had to keep 10 babies alive with no power," Huber said.

Huber said workers eventually had to use long drop cords to obtain power from other areas in the hospital. Every baby lived through the ordeal.

"Nothing in my education prepared me for that," she said.

Huber's colleagues spoke highly of the award recipient.

"She's well-known nationally and internationally for her work," said Jill Scott-Cawiezell, a professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the nursing school. "She's certainly a leader in terms of education on our campus."

Huber also earned a master's and Ph.D. at the UI, though not exactly how she had planned.

Huber applied for a spot in the nursing program, but was the first runner-up. Instead, she applied for a master's degree sooner than she had planned. Then, about two to three months later, she received a surprise notification admitting her to the master's program — and tuition and books were free.

"My life plan got radically altered," Huber said. "You never forget something like that."

Another blessing during Huber's education was the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. while still working at the hospital.

Huber said she took classes on Friday evenings and Saturdays so she could continue working.

Nursing is more than bedside care, she said. It's the ability to not only take care of patients but also know how to coordinate an entire hospital environment. Nursing isn't "sexy or glamorous," and a lot of what nurses do is behind the scenes and very complex, she said.

Huber's areas of expertise are nursing leadership and case management, which works to reconfigure and enhance hospital environments.

Katie Gardner, one of Huber's four grandchildren, described her grandmother as "nice and funny."

"She's a good grandma, and she's a good friend," the 10-year-old said, adding she looks up to Huber's career accomplishments.

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