AMARILLO (KAMR/KCIT) — To keep up with Remarkable Women Finalist Dr. Valerie Kiper, you practically need a running start.
Dr. Kiper is an inspiring leader, whose passion for nursing since she graduated from nursing school in 1979, and her dedication to her community made her instrumental in creating needed service lines, new nursing care models, and nursing leadership infrastructure on the High Plains and beyond.
“Some of the highlights of my career began even as a new nurse when I became one of the original members of the dedicated neonatal transport team at Northwest Texas hospital,” said Dr. Kiper. “I eventually rose to become the nurse manager for the neonatal ICU. Hearing my tenure in that role, I was instrumental in pioneering several clinical practice innovations that laid the foundation in the Texas Panhandle that natal care continues to build on today”
In 2016, Dr. Kiper founded the Panhandle Great 25 Nurses, a collaboration between several panhandle health care facilities, nursing organizations, local nursing schools, and school districts, that raises awareness of the contributions of the more than 4000 nurses practicing in the Panhandle.
Dr. Kiper says they have recognized 150 professional nurses and provided $75,000 in scholarships.
“As a result of our success,” she said, “Other areas in Texas have replicated a similar event using the Panhandle Great 25 as a model.”
In 2021, she was named the first Regional Dean for the School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.
Her first goal for it is to educate excellent healthcare professionals.
“As far as goals for the School of Nursing, the first and foremost goal is to produce graduates that will provide the highest quality care they can to the patients they serve,” Dr. Kiper said.
Secondly, she’s tackling a bigger problem; growing the numbers of pre-licensure graduates to help alleviate what she calls the significant nursing shortage. The most recent Texas Health and Human Services Report affirms that thousands of nursing positions are open across the state.
She says she recognizes that she can’t do it alone–and ending the nursing shortage will take a collaborative effort. Luckily, her infectious passion for her profession means that she has many willing collaborators, including TTUHSC, which has been able to show support by providing scholarship money through their annual fundraiser the Power of the Purse.
“We were able to give her a substantial award to get that scholarship program started,” said Angela Knapp Eggers, Senior Director for the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at TTUHSC, “We’ve been at work trying to get some matching funds so that she can help not only get people to the school of nursing but retain them hopefully in the long run, get them to stay in Amarillo area in the Panhandle area and that’s part of her goal.”
Doctor Kiper recognizes that time is not on her side in accomplishing these goals.
In 2020, she was diagnosed with ALS. The terminal disease has taken her ability to speak, but thanks to technology from Team Gleason, she is still able to communicate using an iPad which reads what she types on a speaker, using her own voice.
“After initiating the request for communication assistive devices on the Team Gleason website I received a call within 48 hours. I began working with a contact from Bridging Postures to recreate my own voice. The representative from Bridging Postures who Team Gleason uses to help with prospecting worked tirelessly with me to use footage from voicemails, presentations and videos to recreate my own voice,” Dr. Kiper said.
Even with her diagnosis and communication barrier, Knapp-Eggers says her dedication to her profession is inspiring.
“I know she’s dealing with an adversity that that most of us don’t understand,” said Knapp-Eggers, “but you would never know it. In her everyday operations or in her everyday relationships, the rest of us are just enjoying her just as much as we ever have.”
Dr. Kiper is also a dedicated volunteer whose nominator says she has served on the Texas Organization of Nurse Leadership Board of Nursing’s Eligibility and Disciplinary Advisory Committee, the American Organization of Nursing Leadership Legislative committee, and the Texas Board of Nursing Differentiated Essential Competencies. She is also a Board member of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health and a volunteer of many years on the committee for the Power of the Purse.
She says ALS has given her the opportunity to advocate for others who have been diagnosed with the disease and has given her the chance to combine two of her passions, volunteering and playing golf.
Last year she organized the inaugural Team Gleason golf tournament in Amarillo and raised more than $70,000 for them.
She said a quote that resonates with her is about the swiftness of time’s passing, “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. So enjoy every moment of your life and don’t ever waste an opportunity to make a difference.”
For the latest Amarillo news and regional updates, check with MyHighPlains.com and tune in to KAMR Local 4 News at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. and Fox 14 News at 9:00 p.m. CST.