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David Crumbley

Assistant clinical professor
School of Nursing

David Crumbley joined the faculty of the School of Nursing in 2012 after a 23-year career in the U.S. military. He served both in the enlisted ranks as an Army medic where he was encouraged to become a nurse by Army Nurse Corps mentors, and later as a Naval officer in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. Crumbley spent 20 years as a Naval officer before retiring with the rank of commander. Soon after arriving on the Plains, the assistant clinical professor received the Meritorious Service Medal from the U.S. Navy for his "exceptional professionalism, personal initiative and loyal devotion to duty" while serving with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery as a liaison to the Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he served as the department head for a surgical unit at National Naval Medical Center, caring for wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. He also established the first integrated Complex Wound and Limb Salvage Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Last fall, the Auburn and Auburn Montgomery Schools of Nursing reached an agreement with Walter Reed which would allow students to spend time working alongside the medical staff in Bethesda, Md., providing care to wounded men and women. Crumbley and associate professor Libba McMillan from the Auburn School of Nursing, and associate professor Marilyn Rhodes from Auburn Montgomery School of Nursing, will accompany the first cohort of students this week.

1. What prompted you to be a medic and make medicine your career?

Divine intervention. I had originally been slated to work on helicopters for the Army.

2. Why did you leave the military and join academia at Auburn?

My intent was to retire from the military in 2012 and move back to the South. I'm originally from Georgia and wanted to be near family. In 2011, my daughter was accepted as a graduate assistant in the chemistry department here at Auburn and my son was accepted to Auburn as an undergraduate. I was looking at positions in the area when my wife saw the announcement for an assistant clinical professor at the Auburn University School of Nursing.

At first I was hesitant; going from a commander in the U.S. Navy to a teacher at a university seemed very dissimilar. However, the more I thought, the more I realized how alike the two really are. As a Navy Nurse Corps officer, your job is to train, mentor and develop corpsmen and junior nurses to care for our wounded. As an assistant clinical professor at the School of Nursing, your role is to educate, train and mentor new nurses to care for the community. Both roles have been very rewarding.

3. Talk about working with your former colleague Commander Michele Kane, the current director of the Centers for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry at Walter Reed and a 1992 alumna of the Auburn Montgomery School of Nursing; Libba McMillan, wife of a former U.S. Air Force pilot; and Marilyn Rhodes, a retired colonel and 30-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, to create the agreement with Walter Reed.

Michele Kane and I met at National Naval Medical Center while working on a project pertaining to care of wounded returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Michele has worked as an assistant to some high-level people in military medicine and possesses the ability to make things happen. She is also an accomplished researcher who understands academia. We knew it would be a challenge to get Project SERVE off the ground, but if anyone could help us make it happen it was Michele. She convinced leadership at Walter Reed that Project SERVE was a valuable program that fostered "Unity of Effort."

When I came to the Auburn School of Nursing, I met Libba McMillan and we began talking of our time in the military and how we both had a strong desire to advance the care of returning service members, veterans and their families. Libba was already engaged in programs at Auburn similar to Project SERVE. She came up with the name Project SERVE (Student's Education Related to the Veteran Experience). As we began to talk and research we saw the need for trained medical personnel in the community who could recognize and effectively manage this population. We sought to develop a program aligned with First Lady Michelle Obama's and Dr. Jill Biden's "Joining Forces" Initiative, which is focused on making connections between the community and returning military members and their families. Most people are unaware that 50 percent of those who get out of the military do not seek care in a military or Veterans Administration facility. They seek care in their community. Furthermore, a soldier, sailor, marine or airman may get out of the military with no appreciable symptoms, but six months to a year later he/she may began to have issues arise related to their time in service.

Marilyn Rhodes is a retired Air Force colonel and knows how to put plans into action. She has a son serving in the military in Afghanistan and is married to a retired Air Force officer. She knows and understands the needs of returning men and women and their families. Marilyn has worked extensively to develop relationships locally with Ft. Benning's Wounded Warrior Battalion, which enables us to provide opportunities for development on a local level. We now have resources in the community who can assist us in our second phase which is community education and awareness.

4. From your perspective – as someone who has spent years working alongside our wounded warriors – what will this experience at Walter Reed do for our nursing students?

As a career military person I thought I knew sacrifice, but I was truly not prepared for what I experienced during my time at Walter Reed. The experiences I had there, caring for these young men and women, and comforting their parents, spouses, sisters and brothers changed my life forever. I believe this experience will change the lives of our nursing students in a positive way. They will be more aware of the problems facing this population and better prepared to manage the issues of our returning military members and their families. Through their clinical experience at Walter Reed the students will better understand the concept of sacrifice and be motivated to give back to these returning veterans and their families.

5. What do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my family, working in the yard, cycling, swimming, motorcycling and reading.

March 10, 2014