• Associate Professor (Clinical), College Of Nursing
  • Associate (Clinical) Professor, College Of Nursing

Research Summary

Research areas include qualitative research of refugees (Somali, Bantu, Iraqi) perceptions of health and illness and the health care encounter. Water birth is a current research focus as well.


  • PhD, Nursing, University of Utah. Project: Experiences and Perceptions of Iraqi Muslim Refugee Women and Primary Health Care Providers in the Health Care Encounter
  • MPH, Public Health, International Health, Loma Linda University
  • MS CNM, Nursing Midwifery, University of Colorado
  • BS Nursing, Nursing, University of Northern Colorado


Debra Penney is Associate Clinical Professor and teaches in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and in the undergraduate program. Since coming to the University in 2001, she has worked as a nurse-midwife in the Birthcare Healthcare faculty practice and taught intrapartum classes and newborn/postpartum until 2017. Since then, she has taught core courses in the DNP program including Social Determinants of Health, Health and Systems  I and II. She also teaches Global Health in the undergraduate programs. Her extensive background in Maternal-child health from a global perspective informs her teaching Debra spent a decade living in the Middle East, learning Arabic, practicing midwifery and teaching primary health care workers and midwives. She has been involved with many projects upgrading clinical and teaching skills of health workers in Yemen, and has been an external evaluator for a Maternal Child Health project in Afghanistan. She has presented nationally and locally on topics related to cultural responsiveness, refugees and women's health. Her dissertation research (2015) was a qualitative study that explored the patient-provider health encounter and the intersection of race, ethnicity, religion and language. Currently she serves on several University Commmittees to advance global learning and global learning opportunities for students. She loves engaging students to think broadly and consider others' perspectives in their care.