• Associate Professor (Clinical), 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 in the Nurse-Midwifery and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner program. She is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado with a BS in nursing (1979) and the University of Colorado with an MS in nursing and midwifery (1990). She also has a Master's in Public Health (specializing in International Health) from Loma Linda University in California (1997). 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 practices at the University of Utah as a certified nurse-midwife and teaches various courses in both the undergraduate and graduate levels of students at the College of Nursing.